6 Ways FITARA Could Make a Dramatic Impact on COTS Sales

Christopher Wiedemann_headshot-65 x 85by Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

On FridayUS Capital Building of last week, among all the furor around the FY15 “cromnibus” passing, another long-awaited bill passed; the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) made it through both the House and Senate as part of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). All indications point to FITARA becoming law shortly.

Here are 6 ways FITARA could dramatically impact sales in the COTS community:

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GSA RFI Requires O&M, Middleware & Hosting Support

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

GSA recently extended the response date for the Pegasys Hosting and Operations and Maintenance contract to August 5, 2014. GSA’s primary goal is to find application and support models that will lower the overall hosting and O&M costs of Pegasys, GSA’s version of Momentum Financials and core financial system. Pegasys supports funds management (budget execution and purchasing), credit cards, accounts payable, disbursements, standard general ledger, and reporting at the GSA.

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Task Order 2 for CDM Approaching

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

Industry has been waiting on more news about the next set of contracts for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) $6B Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) initiative, and we’re finally starting to get some concrete details about what that’s going to entail. DHS, with the aid of the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Federal Systems Integration and Management (FEDSIM) group, is still focusing on phase 1 of the CDM initiative, which is aimed at tackling end point integrity and identifying network vulnerability. There will be additional phases of CDM over the coming years. But we’re now starting to get more details on Task Order 2, which is the next step in the current phase.

However, a bit of recap before we proceed. Back in January of this year, DHS awarded the Task Order 1 to four Continuous Monitoring-as-a-Service (CMaaS) BPA holders for some network and endpoint protection products. In March, DHS and GSA awarded a contract to develop a federal-wide cybersecurity dashboard that departments will submit CDM information to. Ideally, this dashboard will ease the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) reporting requirements on departments, meaning CISOs can spend more of their time protecting networks and less time filling out paperwork.

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RFI Released for Networx Contracts Replacement

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

The General Services Administration is looking to replace and improve upon its’ Networx contract vehicle. GSA released an RFI for the Network Services 2020 Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (NS2020 EIS) initiative asking for input on its’ acquisition strategy and comments on the proposed strategy, responses are due by May 8, 2014.

Networx is a set of contracts for civilian telecommunications and is split up into two vehicles: Networx Universal and Networx Enterprise. The primary difference between the two is the program ceiling, which is $48.1 billion for Networx Universal and just $20.1 billion for Networx Enterprise. Networx saved American taxpayers $678 million in 2013 alone, with agencies saving between 30% and 60% on services when compared to commercial rates.

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CDM Task Order Draft RFPs are Being Released

Ray Miles_65x85by Ray Miles, PMP, Alliance Manager

Agencies have already begun implementing the initial phase of the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program under blanket purchase agreements (BPA) that were awarded in August 2013. The General Services Administration (GSA) is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) partner in offering CDM products across government. DHS oversees development of overall agency requirements while GSA oversees procurement, operation, and maintenance.

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Will New Travel Per Diems Further Erode Event Attendance?

woman sleeping

by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

It’s time for your federal customers to dust off their backpacks, can openers, and camping tents. If they want to attend any trade shows or conferences next year, those “roughing-it” items will probably come in handy. The General Services Administration (GSA) just released its fiscal year 2014 travel per diem rates, and the news for federal marketers is not so good.

The Washington Post reported today that GSA “will raise its travel-reimbursement rates for federal employees this year but plans to end its conference-lodging allowance.” The standard lodging rate “for employees who travel for work will increase from $77 to $83 per day at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, while the allowance for meals and other expenses will remain unchanged at $46 per day.”

The paper cited an August 30 memo by Anne Rung, GSA Associate Administrator of Government-Wide Policy, in which Rung says the government plans to “save an estimated $10 million by eliminating the Conference Lodging Allowance, which allowed federal travelers to spend 25 percent above per diem rates for conferences.”

How these changes will impact attendance at conferences and trade shows remains to be seen, but I don’t think the extra $6 per day increase will drive much in the way of positive change. Rung states that federal per diem rates were already five percent below average daily market rates. Without the Conference Lodging Allowance, travelers might have to choose between sleeping in their (sub-compact) rental cars and not going at all. Based upon recent history, the latter is probably more likely.

On the positive side, GSA does recognize that some travel is necessary. It recently announced the award of its cost-saving FY 2014 City Pair Program, which offers discounted and pre-negotiated commercial airfare pricing and an increase in the number of available routes for federal travelers. So getting there may be easier, but eating and sleeping are another story.

Rung cites savings of approximately $2 billion since the Administration took aggressive steps to cut travel and conference spending in recent years.

At immixGroup, we’re continuing to do our part to bring information directly to the government instead of asking government employees to travel. Our newest initiative is FedCity, a virtual conference platform we just announced in partnership with Federal Business Council. I encourage you to check it out as a new avenue to reach your customers, as I expect they’ll continue to look for new ways to avoid the campout scenario.

OMB Clarifies Travel and Conference Attendance Policies

Photo of Allan Rubinby Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

The GSA conference scandal has crept back into the news as the IRS has encountered its own high-profile spending scrutiny. So I found it noteworthy when this item crossed my desk today.

The Office of Management and Budget just issued a “Controller Alert” to all Federal agencies, acknowledging the need for Federal employees to attend mission-related conferences and outlining recommendations, including best practices for approving travel and conference expenses. The document adopts many of the measures suggested in a meetings protocol provided by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, which met with OMB in March. You can find the entire document on the ASAE Web site.

To be clear, the Alert states it does NOT “constitute official guidance or include specific tasks for agencies beyond consideration of appropriate steps to address the issue” of travel and conference spending. It certainly reinforces many of the restrictions we’ve seen over the past 18 months, but it also provides what may be some wiggle room for the post-Sequestration world. That’s how I read statements like this:

“As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, it is critical for each agency to continue to recognize the important role that mission-related travel and conferences can often play in Government operations. Given the unique travel and conference needs of each agency, there are circumstances in which physical collocation is necessary to complete the mission.”

And this:

“…bringing together Federal employees at a single location—such as for program reviews or technical evaluations, presentation of scientific findings, oversight boards or advisory group meetings, …may be the most efficient and cost-effective means for reviewing Government-sponsored efforts, issues, or challenges. Several agencies rely on meetings with industry and academic colleagues to drive innovation and ensure continued advancement in related fields.”

There is, of course this reality: while an agency should not interpret the recent guidance “as a moratorium on all conference events, agencies and related stakeholders should anticipate a continued reduction in conference and travel activity for the duration of the sequestration order.” And to make sure nobody’s having any fun at taxpayer expense, the Alert reminds readers that “events should not include excessive or lavish social components.”

The Alert makes clear that each agency is responsible for implementing its own internal travel and conference policies, and each agency needs to achieve the right balance between reducing spending and meeting mission-critical needs. It encourages agencies to start conference planning by examining whether “physical collocation of Federal employees in a conference setting is a necessary and cost-effective means to carry out the agency’s mission (and that other, lower-cost options, such as videoconferencing, have been explored).” To me, this points to a likely boost in future attendance at, and acceptance of, virtual engagements both within and outside of the agency environment.

Similarly, it makes a distinction between conferences and training events, stating that conferences “should not be considered training events absent a written justification by an appropriate official that specifies the learning objectives and mission or job performance outcomes.”  It further clarifies that “professional training may include Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or Professional Development Units (PDUs) for areas that are relevant and valuable to the job function of the individual employee and that contribute to maintaining professional accreditation or certification.” Takeaway: don’t expect to slap the word “training” on your marketing event and think you’ve covered your bases.

A lot of this is old news, and it remains to be seen whether the IRS spending scandal (as opposed to the IRS political scandal) will result in even tighter restrictions or if there’s not much left to tighten. I’m already hearing that government employees are starving for information and interactions that will help them do their jobs. So what should you do next?

  1. Consider whether virtual events have a place in your marketing arsenal. Try something new.
  2. Align your marketing activities with events that offer real training for government attendees.
  3. Keep an eye on what happens next based on the IRS fallout.

Maybe I’m optimistic, but we may be seeing some cracks in the armor. As always, I welcome your comments.

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