Top 4 opportunities at FAA

In all of the Department of Transportation, no agency gets more budget for IT purchases in a year than the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Out of $3.3 billion requested by the department overall, $2.9 billion is directed to the FAA, essentially because it has the largest IT mission – namely, NextGen, FAA’s initiative to modernize the way in which the United States manages air travel.

NextGen - FAANextGen has been around for more than 10 years, with the aim to revamp the National Airspace System. The goal is to replace the current air traffic system – which relies on radar to track aircraft in flight – with a system that uses satellite and GPS technology, to get a more accurate, real-time view of air traffic in the United States.

Ultimately, the FAA is looking to make better air traffic routing decisions to cut down on travel time, improve responses to potential in-flight emergencies caused by things like bad weather, and reduce the risk of mid-air collisions or other accidents.

It’s a complex initiative that requires considerable investment. Almost 88 percent of the Transportation’s IT budget is projected to fund FAA initiatives. This leaves 6 percent of the IT budget to the office of the secretary and 6 percent to be divided among the other DOT administrations. This is the most skewed share of IT funding for any subcomponent agency in government – all because of NextGen.

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White House wants agencies to prioritize emerging tech in next year’s budget

The White House plans to prioritize emerging technology and big data in the fiscal year 2017 budget, according to a memorandum published last week.

ombWhen submitting budget requests to the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies should “prioritize investments in enabling technologies that benefit multiple sectors of the economy, such as nanotechnology, robotics, the Materials Genome Initiative, and cyber-physical systems and their application to smart cities,” the memo said.

General topics mentioned in the memo include “advanced manufacturing and industries of the future,” and “information technology and high-performance computing,” in addition to other science-related subjects such as climate change.

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How this venture capital firm wants to help start-ups, with no government experience, navigate Washington

Yanev Suissa, a venture capitalist formerly with New Enterprise Associates, wants to invest in startups that could eventually snap up government contracts.

His approach, he admits, is unorthodox: to invest in startups who have so far had nothing to do with the public sector.

A former senior investment officer under the Bush and Obama administrations, Suissa recently founded SineWave Ventures, an early-stage investment fund aiming to back commercial startups and help guide them through marketing to local, state and federal governments.

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Illustration courtesy Harvard Business Review -
Illustration courtesy Harvard Business Review –

Why are government contractors cutting their cybersecurity budgets?

Government contractors reduced their spending on cybersecurity in the past year, despite several high-profile data breaches, a new survey shows.

American Flag 2About 52 percent of businesses reported a slight decrease in cyber spending in the past year. About 17 percent said their cyber spending increased dramatically, while 31 percent said it increased slightly, according to a new survey from contracting analysis firm Deltek.

“We’re surprised that over half of the companies . . . had experienced decreased spending in cybersecurity,” Deltek Vice President Kevin Plexico said during a call discussing the results. “Our best guess is that the ones that are decreasing are probably not the ones that have had breaches.”

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Yes, there will be a federal spending spree this fall

Federal agencies typically squeeze much of their contract spending in at the end of the federal fiscal year, and that trend is expected to continue this fall, analysts and agency officials said Wednesday.

Federal BudgetSince 2009, agencies have spent an average of 32 percent of their annual contract dollars in the last three months of the fiscal year, which ends in September, Bloomberg Government analysts said at an event sponsored by the company. The event, called “The Race to the Finish,” was aimed at companies seeking to increase their government contracting opportunities.

Much of the late-stage spending is on large multiple-award contracts, especially for information technology purchases. For example, about half of the spending under NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-wide Procurement vehicle — which is available to all federal agencies for purchasing IT products — occurs in the the fourth quarter.

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To see the top 100 federal contractors in FY14, click here: Top 100 Contractors Report_FY14

Fast acquisition and fair competition tough to balance

As agencies face a changing threat environment and any number of crisis and emergencies, federal managers must strike a balance between how they respond with rapid contract awards while adhering to regulations for full and open competition.

Rapid acquisition should be the norm in government for both emergencies and routine procurements, given the rapid pace of technological change. With that model, agency officials have to anticipate emergencies, putting in place competitively awarded contracts that can be used in the event that a crisis occurs.

“You have some cases during a natural disaster or terrorist attack where you don’t have the time to go out to the marketplace to do a full competition. The most important thing is to provide relief for the situation,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, an advocacy group for the government contracting community.

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DoD CIO to industry: Do your homework

Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen said that a recent trip to Silicon Valley reinforced the fact that the department will be looking to industry to drive innovation for the nation’s military. Not only will a closer partnership require DoD to move more quickly, it will require vendors to better understand DoD’s needs, he said.

US DoD logoHalvorsen said DoD will have to speed up acquisitions if it wants to work with some of the up-and-coming companies that work in a venture capital environment.

“Six months is a really long time for them,” said Halvorsen July 9 at the DoD CIO Mobility Industry Day, hosted by AFCEA’s Washington, D.C. chapter

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Can small, innovative companies break into D.C. contracting scene?

Sharath Mekala’s two-person tech startup isn’t a textbook government contractor.

Village Defense, spawned through a startup incubator called 1776, develops a free app that lets neighbors send real-time alerts to one another if they notice suspicious activity. A premium version, which costs $125 a month, is designed for homeowners associations.

technologyA Washington area native, Mekala recently uprooted from Atlanta and returned to D.C., in part to market Village Defense to behemoth potential customers: the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Education Department. He says President Obama’s public safety initiative, which includes a blueprint for improved community policing, creates an opportunity for apps like Village Defense.

“I think the government is trying to keep up with [technology]… earlier on you’d have to push your way in,” Mekala says.

Federal procurement, once largely unapproachable by startups, could be transforming to let small, creative tech companies in.

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This story appears in the July-August issue of Government Executive magazine. 

Federal contract spending fell 3.1 percent in 2014, study finds

Despite an overall hike in government spending in 2014, federal contract spending last year fell by $14.5 billion or 3.1 percent, according to the latest annual federal industry leaders study from Bloomberg Government, released on Friday.

Budget Versus Contract Obligations

But the good news for industry is that last year “may have represented the dawn of a new normal in the federal marketplace: contract spending was down following the drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq, but greater budget certainties allowed greater planning and projections,” the analysts noted.

The drop in Pentagon spending was partially offset by a $1 billion hike in spending by the Health and Human Services Department. HHS spent about a billion more last year on services to medical providers.

Technology Spending Increases

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For federal IT vendors, a lot to like in House, Senate Defense bills

From the perspective of federal technology companies, there’s a lot to like in this year’s House and Senate Defense authorization bills. Indeed, a leading industry group’s main complaint is that the acquisition reforms in the legislation only apply to DoD — not the rest of the government.

House Armed Services CommitteeWhile the leaders of both the House and Senate armed services committees say they’re taking an incremental approach to acquisition reform in their respective versions of this year’s Defense authorization bill, the Senate version, released last week, appears to try to achieve more change within a single year.

The measure tackles everything from the role of the military service chiefs in procurement decisions to the acquisition workforce and establishing new “alternative” pathways to buy goods and services and pressing the Defense Department to make more use of commercial technology.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, May 27, the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS), a lobbying group and association for federal IT contractors, said it had no substantive disagreements with any provisions in either of the Defense bills — an extremely rare occurrence for any advocacy group with interests in the huge, annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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