The budget and acquisition process is poised to fail both the Defense Department and the intelligence community just as they face major geopolitical challenges. China’s push to world domination requires better and faster technologies to maintain U.S. force and intelligence superiority, but the current system is ill-structured to meet that challenge.
Residential real estate isn’t the only hot market these days. While the pandemic has negatively affected hundreds of industry sectors, it has had little to no effect on mergers and acquisitions in the government contractor arena.
Experts in the fields of business strategy, transaction due diligence, finances and investments discussed the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) topic during a member-only AFCEA webinar presented in an “ask the expert” format. Lisa Shea Mundt, co-founder of The Pulse of GovCon, moderated the discussion about topics based on questions collected from registrants prior to the event.
The Defense Department’s new cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC) coincidentally took effect on the first day of TechNet Cyber, AFCEA’s virtual event being held December 1-3. Leading officials with the Defense Department, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and industry discussed what its implementation will mean to the defense industrial base (DIB) and the community as a whole.
I take no joy in writing this article, but it is a desperate plea for improvement.
From 1995-2001, I worked for the Department of the Army as a contract specialist procuring advanced communications and electronics systems, equipment and services.
The U.S. Army today announced the selection of 20 small business and technology firms to advance to Phase III of the xTechSearch 4.0 technology prize competition. xTechSearch is an Army-sponsored competition focused on finding technologies with both defense and commercial applications that have been developed by American technology entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“The 20 selected entrepreneurs and companies presented incredible capabilities and systems that we would have not otherwise seen or been able to support had it not been for Army xTechSearch,” Bruce D. Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, says in the written announcement.
ShadowObjects LLC, Leonardtown, Maryland, is awarded a $34,060,886 cost-plus-fixed-fee, labor hour, cost-reimbursable indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. This contract provides support services to include acquisition management, acquisition planning, acquisition execution and administration, program management, systems engineering, process automation and financial management in support of the Naval Air Systems Command Logistics and Industrial Operations group; Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, Corporate Business Office and other Department of Defense commands and activities. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, Maryland (74%); and Lexington Park, Maryland (26%), and is expected to be completed in August 2024.
The Defense Security Service (DSS) and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have awarded nearly $75 million to Perspecta Enterprise Solutions LLC of Herndon, Virginia, to help reform and modernize the security clearance personnel vetting processes and develop the National Background Investigation Service (NBIS) information technology system.
Months after initiating a project to research and rapidly field information warfare-related technologies, the U.S. Navy has expanded the effort servicewide and expects to field the first system by the end of fiscal year 2019.
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Systems Center Atlantic announced last summer the formation of an industry consortium for the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP). The intent is to leverage the flexible contracting platform known as other transaction authority (OTA) to rapidly develop and deploy technologies.
The response to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson’s repeated request to “pick up the pace” of developing and implementing breakthrough technologies for our warfighters has gone, in my opinion, largely unheeded.
This is not the result of a lack of innovative solutions. A myriad of research and development programs exists to support the development of new technologies or to adapt existing commercial technologies to defense applications. Rather, it’s the result of an arcane acquisition process that is burdensome, expensive and lacking vision. Acquisition reform is where we need to pick up the pace!
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has reorganized its research and development (R&D) structure to more rapidly transition technology capabilities into operations and respond to emerging threats.
William N. Bryan, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for science and technology, DHS, explains the revitalized configuration enhances the focus on the needs of the DHS operational components and homeland security operators across all levels of government.
As part of its effort to modernize, the U.S. Army is developing a new policy regarding intellectual property. The new procedure, to be released in a few months, will resemble rights commonly used by the commercial industry, said Bruce Jetty, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)).
Today’s battlefield is highly technical and dynamic. We are not only fighting people and weapons but also defending and attacking information at light speed. For mission success, the American warrior in the field and commanders up the chain need the support of highly adaptive systems that can quickly and securely establish reliable communications and deliver real-time intelligence anytime and anywhere.
McKinsey and Company Inc., Washington, has been awarded an $8,447,163 modification (P00002) to contract FA8807-18-F-0010 for the space acquisition transformation. The contract modification is for the implementation of the Space Acquisition Transformation Plan. Work will be performed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California, and is expected to be completed by March 29, 2019. Fiscal year 2018 funds are being obligated at the time of award. Total cumulative face value of the contract is $8,447,163. The Space and Missile Systems Center, Global Positioning Systems Directorate Contracting Division, Los Angeles AFB, El Segundo, California, is the contracting activity.
Small businesses often lead the pack in innovation and agility, but cumbersome acquisition processes can stall the way forward when working with government agencies. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) hopes to grease the skids between ingenuity and warfighters by offering a streamlined method for carrying out prototype projects and transitioning successes into follow-on production.
Despite some challenges, the U.S. Air Force’s culture is changing in favor of small businesses, according to Valerie Muck, the service’s new director of small business programs.
"The main thing we’re trying to do in the Air Force is create that culture where we’re looking to small businesses first to maximize opportunities. Right now, the culture in the Air Force is in a really good place for that,” said Muck, who has been in the position nearly a year. She made the comments while addressing the AFCEA Small Business Committee at AFCEA’s headquarters building in Fairfax, Virginia.
The U.S. Army is making some long-needed changes to the way it’s configuring the networks required to prepare for, conduct and win wars. With the promise of increased resources, the service plans to do more than just upgrade its information technology. Instead, it has designed a strategy that incorporates the successes of the past, adjusts where needed in the present and sets the stage for a future that takes advantage of innovative solutions.
U.S. Army officials are applying a streamlined acquisition process known as an IT box to offensive cyber technologies.
The IT box acquisition concept includes four sides: developing the capabilities requirement, determining development costs, analyzing sustainment and operations costs, and providing oversight and management of the product.
Maj. Gen. John George, USA, force development director, Office of the Army Chief of Staff G-8, told the the AFCEA Army Signal Conference in Springfield, Virginia, that the Army is focusing on the IT box concept pretty heavily.
In a $350 million deal, San Francisco, California-based Splunk Inc. will purchase Phantom Cyber Corporation, a Palo Alto, California-based cyber security firm specializing in security orchestration, automation and response, known as SOAR. Splunk will acquire Phantom using a combination of cash and stock. The transaction is expected to close during the first half of 2018, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory reviews. Oliver Friedrichs, Founder and CEO, Phantom will report to Haiyan Song, senior vice president and general manager of security markets, Splunk.
The U.S. military is exploring ways to make virtually everything—from the uniform on a soldier’s body to the engine contained within a vehicle—connected and mission ready. Troop movements are being monitored, as are soldiers’ health statuses. Aircraft and other assets are providing real-time insight into enemy movements and other potential threats. Decisions are being made based on this information, which has the ability to flow in an unerring stream. Indeed, the Internet of Things (IoT) has further elevated the military’s reputation as a well-oiled machine.
But, what if the machines that power that machine break down? What if heavy transport machinery stops running, or advanced weapons systems fail?
With an view of becoming a premier provider of high-tech information technology solutions to government technology services market, Geneal Dynamics announced on Feb. 12 that it is purchasing CSRA. "With approximately $9.9 billion in revenue and strong double-digit EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amoritization] margins, the combined General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and CSRA is well-positioned to serve its customers’ current and evolving mission requirements," General Dynamics stated.
Defense computing systems need to operate in a highly disparate range of environments. Depending on the program’s requirements, ruggedness is a function of the environment each system will be deployed in. A system that operates just fine in a pressurized aerospace application, such as a wide-bodied aircraft, may have issues in a marine application, and may be completely unacceptable in a vehicle being driven through a hot and sandy desert. Even within airborne applications, the environment might be a wing-mounted pod that is completely unpressurized. Computing systems for each of these environments must be ruggedized to match requirements.
When rugged ... isn’t
The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has awarded a $163 million task order to SRA International, a subsidiary of CSRA Inc. The award directs CSRA to support DISA’s endpoint security solution integrator support effort under the General Services Administration’s Alliant Government-wide Acquisition Contract, the company announced.
Faced with aging equipment and vehicles from a bygone era, the Army is set to modernize by standing up a new command to transform its acquisition processes, among other things. It is one of the Army’s most significant restructuring efforts in the last 40 years. The need for modernization is coming from an "eroding" competitive advantage, and the evolving needs of a modern—and future—battlefield.
“We do not have time to waste,” implored Gen. Mark Milley, USA, U.S. Army chief of staff, at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 9. “Our challenges are growing in scale and are in every domain of warfare: land, maritime, air, cyber and space.”
It’s that time of year. With the government fiscal year ending, agency leaders are pushing through their last-minute budget wish lists. A core part of those wishes either does or should relate to cybersecurity.
Many U.S. government sectors, including defense, intelligence, public safety, cybersecurity and space, have seen a recent shift toward embracing new technologies and methodologies for delivering capabilities in a more responsive, agile manner.
The ecosystem of technologies that is driving this innovation is diverse to say the least. The foundation of this ecosystem is the underlying IT infrastructure. The evolution of hyperconverged infrastructure is maximizing the density of computing power, random-access memory and storage in these modern data centers, making it easier and more cost effective for providers to leverage and deploy applications and solutions.
U.S. Army leaders have not consistently evaluated the efficiency and effectiveness of the department’s contracting operations, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded. To amend the situation, the office recommends developing metrics to assess contracting operations for timeliness, cost savings and contract quality; documenting rationales for key decisions; and establishing measurable objectives to assess the effects of organizational changes on contracting operations.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is working to streamline its acquisition processes by using a mixture of efficiency and expertise. In some cases, the agency is adopting methods to free it from onerous Federal Acquisition Regulations. But mostly, its approaches leverage existing skills to condense traditionally drawn-out procedures.
The very qualities that define small businesses—agility, flexibility, inherent innovation—are driving the Defense Information Systems Agency to increase its efforts to bring their capabilities under the big tent of defense network services.
With the agency, known as DISA, tasked with providing warfighters and decision makers with the best in information technology, it must incorporate capabilities faster than is possible through normal acquisition processes involving large contractors. Ongoing efforts such as regular outreach and prime contract set-asides are being supplanted with new segmented contracts and drives to bring in nontraditional firms.
In 2010, the Defense Department began accelerating toward its information technology future by putting the brakes on data center growth. That year, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative laid the groundwork for government investment in more efficient and modern computing platforms, which led to deployment of disruptive technologies such as the cloud as a key element of the DOD’s IT infrastructure.
Sixth in an ongoing series of articles
The intelligence community recently has directed activity toward creating common resources to increase collaboration and speed up the delivery of information technology tools for the government. The need for modern and cost-effective information technology solutions is paramount. However, complex, paper-heavy, time-consuming information-assurance processes steal capital required to modernize. This unproductive cycle affects both U.S. government systems and the industrial base that develops mission systems for the government.
Fifth in an ongoing series of articles
The U.S. government must bring its key software providers into the secure environment and use them as trusted partners in delivering and supporting their products. In many cases, these providers are not only the best sources of trusted software but also the only sources. Holding them contractually liable for certifying their products and delivering them directly to the end system may be the only way to reduce the time to furnish baseline systems, streamline costs and maintain product integrity and security.
Fourth in an ongoing series of articles
One technique for speeding up the acquisition process is the use of open systems architecture. Employing open systems architecture (OSA) capabilities is the intelligent way to create next-generation solutions for warfighters in all services. OSA-based solutions can optimize scarce financial and engineering resources and enable the United States and its coalition partners to extend their strategic military advantages over global adversaries.
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, USA, has been assigned as director of operations; and director, rapid equipment fielding, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Washington, D.C.
Third in an ongoing series of articles
Improving the speed and efficiency of the federal acquisition process will involve leveraging innovation to benefit end users. But as speed challenges are addressed, the integrity of the process must be maintained to preserve well-established requirements for full and open competition. These qualities are not mutually exclusive—in fact, they are complementary. Full and open competition helps improve the speed of acquisition and provides access to a range of innovative solutions and reduced total cost of ownership.
Sweeping changes are on the horizon for one NATO agency as it reshapes its software acquisition processes and embarks on a task to create what officials call an in-house “software factory.”
The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency wants to overhaul the way it buys software after inspections revealed acute shortcomings that led to several program cost overruns and delays, says Paul Howland, chief of command and control services for NCI Agency, which serves as NATO’s information technology and command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) provider, including cyber and missile defense.
The second in a series of articles
Among the latest steps the federal government has taken to reform the acquisition process, the U.S. Defense Department initiatives Better Buying Power 2.0 and 3.0 aim to improve the affordability of weapon system development and reduce the bureaucracy of program acquisition. In addition, Congress recently passed H.R. 1232, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which seeks better ways to obtain and manage federal information technology systems.
Weapon system acquisition costs and schedules are trending exponentially, and unsustainably, up and to the right. The Air Force can move down the cost/schedule curve to benefit value delivered to the warfighter, and the key is communications and dialog, according to Lt. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., USAF, military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
Industry must keep the Air Force honest for starters, the general explained. “If we are asking for something industry cannot do, they need to tell me that from the beginning,” he stated during his address to the AFCEA International/GMU Critical Issues in C4I Symposium.
Acquisition reform has been a topic of discussion among individuals in government, industry and academia for several decades. A regular outpouring of well-written studies has occurred year after year, such as the 1986 Packard Commission report, the 1992 U.S. General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report on weapons acquisition, the 1993 report of the Defense Department Acquisition Law Advisory Panel and the more recent Center for Strategic and International Studies report “Measuring the Outcomes of Acquisition Reform by Major DoD Components.” These studies have made recommendations and measured progress. In some cases, the same recommendations are repeated from study to study.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now accepting proposals for its upcoming Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for fiscal year 2016. The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) jointly issued the solicitation. S&T and DNDO are seeking technical solutions from small businesses in 13 topic areas. The pre-solicitation is available online.
This blog is a followup to an article in the October issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Operation Cooperation: U.S. Defense Officials Intend to Expand Asia-Pacific Partnerships.
Although tighter budgets motivate governments to cooperate on technology development, sequestration and the budget uncertainties in the United States have negatively impacted international partnerships, says Keith Webster, director of international cooperation, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
The Defense Department’s much-anticipated capability solution to access classified voice and email up to the secret level from mobile devices finally migrated from the pilot stage and now is operational within the department and several federal agencies, says Kimberly Rice, program manger for the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA's) Mobility Program Management Office.
It will not be long before adversaries narrow the superiority gap the United States holds over others in satellite technology—rivals who are unencumbered by bureaucratic stagnation and who can rapidly leverage commercial technology for military use, according to one panelist speaking at the Satellite 2015 symposium in Washington D.C.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Hughes, USA, program executive officer, command, control and communications-tactical (PEO-C3T), cops to being an impatient man. Patience is one of the first things to go as you age, he says.
That impatience showed during an interview for my March PEO Spotlight column, "Shaking Up the Radio Marketplace." It was a hard-charging zigzag from one topic to the next with a fair number of self-deprecating jokes scattered along the way. He spoke in a rapid-fire manner, as if concerned each word will consume too much time.
While cybersecurity is getting big play in the news these days—as it well should—three topics require just as much attention but have not yet hit the big time. Acquisition, spectrum and interoperability may not have the headline-grabbing charm of the hack into the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account, but they are issues that need the same serious attention.
For years, industry and government personnel have agreed that the system for purchasing information technology systems needs change—serious change. The complicated acquisition process not only puts out-of-date technology in warfighters’ hands, it puts lives in danger.
The U.S. Army’s Project Manager of Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, Warren, Michigan, is conducting market research to see what companies can provide a lightweight common robotic system (CRS) for dismounted soldiers.
Kent Schneider, AFCEA’s president and chief executive officer, has called the 2013 U.S. Defense Department’s budget woes “the perfect storm.” Budget cuts, travel restrictions and sequestration converged to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and indecision. For the services, this meant a bit of scrambling to determine how reduced funding could have the least impact on national security. For the defense industry, it became a time of reaction and cutbacks, or at least flat budgets.
The inertial navigation system (INS) market size is estimated to be $2.75 billion in 2014 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.98 percent to reach $4.63 billion by 2019, according to Research and Markets, a Dublin-based market analysis firm. Though North America and Europe have the largest market for INS in terms of commercial and defense aviation, military and naval applications, a lot of INS development programs have been launched in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
U.S. Defense Department data will be invading the commercial world as the department moves its unclassified information out of its own hands. Terry Halvorsen, acting Defense Department chief information officer, described the upcoming move at the Wednesday luncheon of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium, being held June 24-25 in Baltimore.
U.S. Defense Department networks will need to operate with the minimum security available as connectivity and the threat picture evolve, said a top defense official. Terry Halvorsen, acting Defense Department chief information officer, minced no words as he described how tight budgets are limiting options across the board.
“I want for all these networks, the minimum level of security to get the mission done,” Halvorsen declared. “If we try to do the best security everywhere, we will not get to what we want. We don’t have the money; we don’t have the time.”
The U.S. Army has released a draft request for proposals to procure additional Rifleman Radios, moving the system toward full rate production. The Rifleman Radio is part of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit program. Under the full and open competition approach, the Army will award contracts, and qualified vendors will compete for delivery orders as needed.