Sustainability and Cybersecurity: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Every morning when I scan the headlines, I see the buzzwords sustainability and cybersecurity in government, IT, and acquisitions articles.

Journalists and industry pundits write about one or the other topic. Conferences schedule numerous panels and workshops. Even the administration has released specific mandates, including the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and Executive Order (EO) 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. It’s easy to see why these two complex topics are often discussed independently. They sometimes appear to be mutually exclusive: you can either be sustainable or secure, but you can’t be both.

Despite this, I don’t think we’re at a crossroads. If we’re going to effectively face our energy and security threats—as well as the goal of “cheaper, faster, greener”—we need to talk about the two topics together and blaze a new trail.

Heads or tails, we both win

Sustainability and cybersecurity are two sides of the same coin. But it’s not a coin toss—each depends on the other.

We are learning that sustainability and cybersecurity must go hand in hand. As agencies move forward on Open Government initiatives, we see previously restricted data sets posted in more public fora, and, by virtue of their very openness, exposed to more security threats. Innovative Green IT solutions such as smart grids, data center consolidations, and cloud computing—though more open, accessible and energy-efficient—require new or increased security measures.

Given the resources GSA and other agencies devote to developing contract vehicles allowing agencies to procure these solutions, it makes sense that acquisition officers integrate security and sustainability requirements at the beginning. Rather than treat one or the other, or both, as add-ons, cybersecurity and sustainability should be in all contracts.

Smarter buying at your fingertips

GSA is at the forefront of these issues. We’re a strategic partner of the administration in its sustainability initiatives. Also, we’ve pushed government technology providers to adopt security measures.

Two offerings—SmartBUY and MTIPS—help agencies meet administration mandates and successfully integrate sustainability and cybersecurity requirements.

This is only a start, but it’s the first step that makes all the difference. As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Let’s continue the discussion. Post a comment below or come see me on the Cloud Computing panel at FedScoop’s 2nd Annual Lowering the Cost of Government Summit, August 19th in Washington, DC.

GSA as Acquisition Enabler: Alliant Hits $1 Billion

Parents like nothing better than to see their children grow up and succeed.

For my colleagues and me, last week—when the contract surpassed $1 billion in the value of task orders issued since its launch—was like Alliant’s high school graduation.

Despite some challenges, Alliant reached the $1 billion mark more quickly than its recent predecessors ANSWER and Millennia. It has demonstrated its value to our industry partners and customers, and GSA remains firmly committed to supporting it.

A few points about Alliant’s success:

  • All Department of Defense (DoD) branches and many civilian agencies, including Homeland Security and the State Department, use Alliant;
  • Twenty-four of 59 prime contractors have won awards on 45 task orders;
  • GSA has received an average of four bids per task order and not a single protest—demonstrating fair, open competition;
  • Both the largest and most innovative IT projects across government, such as Smart Buildings, use Alliant.

From Alliant’s success, we can also draw conclusions about the state of the acquisition world.

There has been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about GSA and its imagined or real intentions toward other agency GWACs.  In light of Alliant’s success, my only comment is to echo Administrator Martha Johnson’s question:  “How do you … be a real agent for procurement, not the procurement enforcer?”

I want agencies to use Alliant, as well as our small business GWACs, because these contracts meet their needs, not because the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has mandated their use.

Recently, industry groups have expressed concern about duplicative indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contracts.  I know firsthand from my industry experience that vendors feel compelled to bid for all or as many contracts as possible. This bidding ends up costing tens of thousands of dollars each, or more. These costs are not just the “cost of doing business”; they are passed on to the government and eventually to the taxpayer. I don’t see how that benefits anyone in the long run.

Agency acquisition officers face two critical issues: the time cost of money and the availability of an already stretched acquisitions workforce.  Agencies looking to avoid paying a GSA or other GWAC fee by creating their own contracts may not save money or time in the long run.

As Administrator Johnson has noted, our challenge is “not about mandates or market changes”; it’s about what GSA can do to meet our customers’ needs. Results on Alliant and our small business GWACs show us that we are on the right track; now we must execute on that vision.

So let me know in your comments below: what do you need? What are your requirements? What—and how—can we serve you better? How can we make your job easier?