Word of the Day: Partnership

March 12, 2014
By George I. Seffers
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The Homeland Security Department discusses the need for stronger relationships.

Officials from across the Homeland Security Department (DHS) stressed the need for strong partnerships during the third and final day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference, Washington, D.C.

Luke McCormack, DHS chief information officer, and Nick Nayak, DHS chief procurement officer, set the tone for the day while sharing the morning’s welcome message. McCormack related that when he first started his job, Nayak phoned him up, called him “Cool Hand Luke,” and offered to help in any way he could. “It was at that moment we formed a partnership, and it has been growing stronger every day,” McCormack recalled.

He added that industry partners often deal with government information technology officials and then with the procurement community and that it probably often seems the two government communities don’t communicate with one another. “We realize that many of our partners out here in the audience deal with us in two dimensions. I know there have been times when you wonder if the two shall ever meet,” McCormack said. “Our role is to continue to make that better with you. If it works better for you, it works better for us.”

Nayak stressed the need for DHS to communicate more effectively with industry, saying companies can expect more requests for information. He also reported that industry is being included in the training for the acquisition workforce. “This is something we want to start, but it takes time for it to get that into the bloodstream and DNA of what we do,” Nayak said.

The department’s procurement officers participated together on a single panel and outlined a number of upcoming contracting opportunities with DHS. Nayak reported that the department awarded about $18 billion in contracts last year, a number of which went to small businesses.

“Nobody does better at connecting with small business than DHS,” Nayak said.

Dennis Smiley, executive director, Office of Procurement Operations, DHS, highlighted the Next Generation Enterprise Computing Services program as “a new way of doing business” and a “great opportunity within the area of computing services.”

David Dasher, director of the DHS Office of Selective Acquisition, mentioned the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program as a collaborative effort with Smiley. Dasher also highlighted the DOMino contract. The department should release a request for proposal later this month or early next.

Latetia Henderson, assistant administrator, Office of Acquisition, Transportation Security Administration, said the organization is attempting to move away from time and material contracts and more toward outcome based awards. She cited Integrated Hiring Opportunities and Personnel and IT Infrastructure II as major programs.

Rick Gunderson, director for procurement, Customs and Border Protection, listed the Integrated Fixed Tower contract, which was awarded just last week, as an important program.

Dave Grant, acting chief procurement officer, Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he has heard of companies that will not compete for a contract unless the company already has a relationship with the government agency involved. Grant pointed out that out of 14,000 contracts his agency awarded last year, 3,000 were to first-time contractors. It is after the contract is awarded that the relationship becomes most important, he said. “When you’re doing something as important as protecting America, you develop relationships over time,” Grant added.

The discussion of partnerships and relationships continued with the chief information officer panel, the final panel of the conference. Margie Graves, DHS deputy chief information officer, said cybersecurity cannot happen without partnerships. “The advanced, persistent threat we’re facing will not be addressed unless we’re all in it together,” she declared.

RADM Robert Day, USCG, Coast Guard assistant commandant for C4IT, revealed that he and Jeff Eisensmith, DHS chief information security officer, will co-locate their security operations centers (SOCs) for a powerful partnership between .mil and .gov organizations. “Think about the power of that in terms of the vision of bringing the federal government together from a security standpoint,” he said.

Adm. Day also reported that the Coast Guard will be adopting some elements of the Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment. “We’re looking at defense enterprise email. We will move to email as a service,” the admiral stated. He added that the Coast Guard is moving over the classified email accounts “as we speak, and in 12 months, we’ll start moving our unclassified email.”

Charlie Armstrong, assistant commissioner and chief information officer, Customs and Border Protection, said the agency needs to better share information and partner with other law enforcement agencies. Sandy Peavy, chief information officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, said that by working with DHS, the training center is able to provide virtual worlds in which law enforcement agencies can train together.



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