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Working Hard to Improve Security, Safety, and Quality of Life for Americans

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Telecommunications Services. Gavino is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements.)

ITC’s Office of Telecommunications Services provides a wide variety of offerings to federal, state and local governments which includes voice, video, data, managed network services, call center services, mobile and wireless, satellite services, last mile connections and much more. Because of our partnership with industry and our robust solution sets, we are able to provide government agencies seamless access and support, thus achieving shared value and expanding the benefits of modern technology. We’re continually transforming and enabling improvement to the security, safety, and quality of life for our nation and its citizens.

We enhance security by providing the communications services that connect law enforcement resources with information locally and worldwide to counter crime and terrorism. We also support the safety of our men and women in uniform, humanitarian relief, disaster-response, and counterterrorism efforts through satellites. And the telecommunications service we provide also improves government’s ability to respond  anywhere and anytime through mobile devices (i.e., tablets and wireless smartphones); enhances patient health care for veterans and aging population; supports farmers and ranchers; tracks wildlife and diseases; and ensures food safety and inspections.

A Look Back at 2016

We’re always trying to improve, and here are a few ways:

Simplifying, Standardizing, and Buying in Volume

The Category Management (CM) approach to simplify, standardize, and make use of volume to streamline enterprise-wide telecom is the focus of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). CM helps us adapt our solutions as the industry changes and as agency needs change. For example, we’re being less local and more global to ensure agencies adopt security and unified communication technologies that comply with best practices.

Managing Telecom as a Subcategory

We are managing Telecom and all of our offerings in IT as a comprehensive portfolio and have technical, functional and acquisition experts to help agencies buy in a more efficient way and improve mission delivery.

Engaging Agencies and Industry

In 2016, GSA continued to engage agency and industry partners to shape the upcoming EIS, which will replace Networx and local and regional telecom services. We formed the EIS Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) to define priorities share best practices, plan for transition and ensure the final EIS solution meets government’s needs.

Optimizing Telecom Use and Spend

Because of our strong partnerships with agencies, GSA’s telecommunications program is recognized as “the government’s telecommunications program,” and as a result, we are able to aggregate and leverage more than $2 billion in annual spend and document over $675 million in savings.

Providing a Range of Purchasing Options

We recognize that ease of use is critical for our agency customers so we offer a range of purchasing solutions across our IT and telecommunications contracts — everything from self service through delegated procurement authority … to monitoring contract service level agreement achievement … to providing advice and consulting to providing fully assisted services.

Enhancing Agencies’ Understanding of Telecom Purchases

Telecom has been managed as a category for a while. Because of standard service definitions and contract terms in contracts like Networx, agencies can make “apples to apples” comparisons around services. This makes it easier for GSA and other agencies to make comparisons between suppliers and to get the best value for their purchases. And, because of the data we collect on purchasing, GSA can clearly see purchasing trends which shape future contracts (e.g., EIS, etc.) and our discussions with agencies and suppliers. We continually refine this data driven approach to supplier management to get better value for agencies and taxpayers.

Here is what we have seen over the past 10 years. Demand for bandwidth has increased at a compound annual growth rate that exceeds 30 percent, but our normalized costs for the bandwidth has decreased. Part of this is simply an industry phenomenon. Bandwidth is getting cheaper; however, part of this is due to our data driven approach to our interactions with suppliers. We expect bandwidth to be “cheaper by the dozen” and we have an approach to ensure this is the case. Further, most agencies are modernizing their networks through increased bandwidth demand, especially via Ethernet services. For instance, enterprise network services are migrating towards 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; our Networx extensions focused on this migration and Ethernet is an EIS required service.

The increased demand for these services drove purchasing up 10 percent on Networx in 2016, which further lowers telecom costs, especially for Ethernet services. The availability, performance, and price of Ethernet services will remain important for years to come. In 2017 and beyond, EIS is on target to continue lowering costs for government.

2017 Telecom Priorities

Our biggest priority in 2017 is to continue to collaborate across government and industry, and begin the transition to EIS.

The EIS Transition Challenge Government-wide

GSA and agency partners are preparing for the EIS awards so transition can begin and be completed by 2020. All agencies using Networx were required to submit Agency Transition Plans, which were due in fall 2016. We are excited to continue to work with industry and agency partners to take advantage of new solutions and new technology.

Mobility Savings and Enhanced Management

Mobile services are also in the spotlight in 2017. Five wireless service plans — three data and two voice plans — represent more than 90 percent of federal government’s purchases of mobile services. Standardized buying forces competition to focus on price and quality since many features and requirements are the same (Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) customers paid 26%  less in 2016 than in 2012 because of this simple standardized strategy). In 2017, the government-wide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) will drive further savings as FSSI-W growth continues and the MSCT defines the next-generation mobility program.

Demands for Bandwidth, Security, and Satellites

Bandwidth demands and security capabilities will continue to grow in 2017, and we’ll also launch a new Commercial Satellite Custom Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) contract.

In all these areas, we partner with agencies to find the best telecom infrastructure solutions to meet mission needs.

Learn More about Telecom Solutions

To find out more about available tools, best practices, and telecom solutions, select Telecommunications and Network Services on GSA’s website and visit the Telecommunications Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit all the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.

 

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IT Security Subcategory: Helping Agencies Protect Privacy and Health Data

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This blog is authored by Shon Lyublanovits, IT Security Subcategory Manager and Director of the Security Services Division for ITC, in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. In this capacity, she oversees activities and challenges of infusing Ccbersecurity into contract acquisitions.)

In October 2016, we announced that we were able to complete the first phase of the oral technical evaluations and expedite the modification/award processes to get 15 vendors on the new IT Schedule 70’s “Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS)” Special Item Numbers (SINs).

I am happy to report that we have launched the four new HACS SINs that feature high-quality cybersecurity vendors offering federal, state, and local governments the following services:

  • 132-45A: Penetration Testing – security testing in which assessors mimic real-world attacks to identify methods for circumventing the security features of an application, system, or network.
  • 132-45B: Incident Response – services help organizations impacted by a cybersecurity compromise determine the extent of the incident, remove the adversary from their systems, and restore their networks to a more secure state.
  • 132-45C: Cyber Hunt – responds to crisis or urgent situations within the pertinent domain to mitigate immediate and potential threats. Cyber Hunt activities start with the premise that threat actors known to target some organizations in a specific industry, or specific systems, are likely to also target other organizations in the same industry or with the same systems.
  • 132-45D: Risk and Vulnerability Assessment – conduct assessments of threats and vulnerabilities; determines deviations from acceptable configurations, enterprise, or local policy; assesses the level of risk; and develops and/or recommends appropriate mitigation countermeasures in operational and non-operational situations.

While the HACS SINs will allow agencies quicker and more reliable access to key pre-vetted support services that will expand agencies’ capacity to test their high-priority IT systems, rapidly address potential vulnerabilities, and stop adversaries before they impact our networks, we will continually look for more options to enhance these services and integrate with the national security community to ensure we have top-notch expertise in cybersecurity.

Ongoing Enhancement to HACS SINs

When we established the SINs in September 2016, we focused on providing the necessary tools to strengthen government agencies’ network and digital defenses against cyber attacks. Likewise, we’ll continue to evaluate and add more vendors to make these offerings even more robust. Altogether, we have evaluated and added 34 vendors to these SINs.

And eventually, all current IT Schedule 70 vendors that offer cybersecurity services will be required to migrate to the new HACS SINs. This, of course, will also provide a way for our industry partners to more easily differentiate these specific cybersecurity services from other IT offerings.

Strength through Inter-Agency Partnerships

We realize that in order to maximize success to guard against cyber attacks, we must create trusted partnerships with the national security community to ensure the rapid delivery of emerging technology to meet government cybersecurity needs.

  • First, we have increased communications and collaboration with Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and the intelligence community (e.g., National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, etc.), in order to better structure, develop, and implement cybersecurity-related policy and guidance.
  • Second, we continually provide information regarding cybersecurity and feedback through the IT Security Hallway on Acquisition Gateway, and on other web-based platforms – both secure and open domain.
  • Lastly, on an ongoing basis, we proactively engage government agencies and industry partners to expand the utilization of the new HACS SINs.

For more information, please contact the following:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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ITC Welcomes New Leadership

As we continue to improve IT Category Management to drive greater value for the federal government we are excited to add two innovative senior executives to our talented, resourceful, and committed team.

Keith Nakasone is the Deputy Assistant Commissioner (AC) for Acquisition, and Jose Arrieta is the Director of the Office of IT Schedule Contract Operations. Both Nakasone and Arrieta joined ITC Jan. 9, and bring years of experience and outstanding track records in acquisition and technology.

Keith Nakasone

Keith joins us from the Federal Communications Commission where he served as a Senior Procurement Executive, Enterprise Acquisition Center. Keith will oversee all acquisition vehicles such as IT Schedule 70, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), USAccess, our identity management program, and telecommunications contracts such as Networx and Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). These programs represent $22B in annual federal, state and local spend. Keith will also manage strategy development, internal training for the acquisition workforce, and systems support for executing ITC’s acquisitions.

Jose Arrieta

Jose comes from the Department of Treasury’s  Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), where he led the office to three consecutive “As” on the agency’s Small Business Administration report card. As the Director for the Office of IT Schedule Contract Operations, Jose will oversee Schedule 70, the largest IT acquisition vehicle in the government – a $15 billion dollar program.  Jose oversees the operation that provides leadership, guidance, and expert advice to ensure Schedule 70 continues to provide exceptional value to agencies, industry, and the taxpayer. In his new role, Jose will provide oversight  and guidance, and promote public policy objectives related to federal acquisition, including competition, integrity, fairness, and transparency, while ensuring compliance with laws, regulations, and policy.

Combined, Keith and Jose bring years of experience, leadership, innovation, and know-how in governmentwide acquisition, technology, and customer service. And with these additions, ITC will continue to provide access to best-value information technology and telecommunications products, services, and solutions to federal, state, local, and tribal government organizations. Please join me in welcoming Keith and Jose to GSA!

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GAO Denies Pre-award Protests Against Alliant

I am pleased to announce that we are continuing with the evaluation and award (planned for Fall 2017) of GSA’s $50 billion Alliant 2 Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC). Our decision follows the recent decision by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to deny four companies’ protests to our new source selection methodology and the number of contractors to be awarded.

Alliant 2’s innovative evaluation methodology is characterized as  “highest technically rated, with fair and reasonable price.” It achieves best value under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) part 15.101 by identifying offerors with the most relevant technical expertise who propose fair and reasonable pricing.  The method was pioneered by GSA’s OASIS (One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services and further developed under the Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCaTS) and Alliant 2 programs.

In their decision, GAO stated that they found “…no basis in the FAR to object to a proposed source selection process that contemplates award to the highest technically rated offerors without using a tradeoff process.”

GAO further commented that FAR Section 1.102(d) permits reasonable exercise of the contracting officer’s discretion, recognizing that if a procurement strategy is in the government’s best interest, and is not explicitly prohibited, then the innovative procurement process is permissible.

GAO Decision Impact

GSA’s innovative source selection methodology on the Alliant 2 solicitation was directly challenged through several pre-award protests to GAO. However, GAO found that the methodology is valid, not objectionable, and supported by the discretion afforded contracting officers when they use the FAR. This decision affects IT acquisitions significantly.

This unprecedented decision reinforces the fact that government has the flexibility to try new and innovative source selection methodologies, among other things. As a proactive partner with federal agencies, GSA is always willing to try new ways to better serve government and improve mission delivery.

Our goal is to create comprehensive IT solutions available from the very best companies.

Ongoing Partner Engagement

We engaged both government stakeholders and industry partners from the beginning of the procurement process, and conducted extensive acquisition planning and market research to determine how to best structure the Alliant 2 GWACs. We always strive to maximize our collaboration with federal agencies and industry in order to identify the most advantageous structure for our contracts and to incorporate their ideas.

You may also remember a previous blog about Alliant 2 (including Alliant 2 Small Business) describing how much effort the team put into ensuring robust transparency, collaboration, and innovation at each phase of the process, especially during Alliant 2’s pre-solicitation phase.

These outreach efforts included:

  • Establishing an Alliant 2 Interact community with more than 8,000 members,
  • Providing a government-wide reviewed business case on OMB MAX,
  • Conducting meetings/presentations for interested agencies.
  • Coordinating agency customer and industry working groups,
  • Hosting five separate pre-proposal conferences attended by over 1000 people, and
  • Publishing seven Requests for Information (RFIs) through FedBizOpps (FBO) with two official industry days, and two separate fully comprehensive and complete draft Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

I know that the Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 Small Business contracts will meet the needs of federal agencies for IT services and will include a diverse set of highly qualified industry partners.

Download and read the entire GAO decision.

Read more about Alliant 2/Alliant 2 Small Business and the A2/A2SB Interact Community.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.