Helping Agencies Strengthen Cyber Networks through Strategically Sourced Tools and Services

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 18, 2017

Shon Lyublanovits, IT Security Subcategory Manager and Director of the Security Services Division

[Editorial note: This blog is the second of a three part series by Shon Lyublanovits, GSA’s IT Security Subcategory Manager and Director of the Office of IT Security Services for Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). Designed to raise awareness of the Department of Homeland Security’s annual October National Cyber Security Awareness Month campaign, this blog series highlights a suite of cybersecurity enhancing products, services and solutions provided by GSA, outlining the unique benefits each provides to government].

In today’s cyber ecosystem many, if not all, government mission requirements depend upon IT systems. Government agencies need to go beyond simply knowing who and what is on their networks. Senior leaders, chief information officers, and IT experts across government must be ready to face all potential cyber threats and it is critical that all information be secure. The latest IT tools and associated services are essential if agencies are to effectively and proactively identify, manage, and respond to new vulnerabilities and evolving threats. Agencies must also be able to keep up with and anticipate constant change in the enterprise architecture and operational environment.

GSA remains committed to helping agencies meet these ever-evolving challenges by offering a suite of pre-vetted cybersecurity products, services, and solutions that help agencies comply with mandates and IT requirements, while also addressing cyberattacks. This includes working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a new Special Item Number (SIN) for IT Schedule 70: Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Tools. With CDM tools, we’re able to meet the government’s need for stronger cyber networks with strategically sourced tools and associated services.

New SIN offers agencies improved flexibility in IT procurement and cybersecurity

Our IT products on the CDM Tools SIN are prequalified and approved by DHS. And by leveraging the buying power of the government and streamlining the procurement process, we’ve made it easier and less expensive for our government partners to get the flexible solutions they need to effectively mitigate ever-changing cybersecurity threats.

Furthermore, these flexibilities on the CDM Tools SIN give government customers — federal, state, local, regional, tribal and territorial government entities — even easier access to a governmentwide set of information security continuous monitoring (ISCM) tools. The new CDM SIN also:

  • Enhances and automates existing continuous network monitoring capabilities
  • Strengthens the security posture of government networks
  • Improves risk-based decision making at the agency and federal enterprise level

CDM Tools SIN enhances existing continuous network monitoring capabilities

The CDM Tools SIN gives government agencies the ability to identify cybersecurity risks, prioritize them based upon potential impacts, and enable cybersecurity personnel to mitigate the most significant problems first.

We’ve organized the capabilities and tools into five subcategories:

  1. Manage “What is on the network?” — Identifies the existence of hardware, software, configuration characteristics, and known security vulnerabilities.
  2. Manage “Who is on the network?” — Identifies and determines the users or systems with access authorization, authenticated permissions, and granted resource rights.
  3. Manage “How is the network protected?” — Determines the user/system actions and behavior at the network boundaries and within the computing infrastructure.
  4. Manage “What is happening on the network?” — Prepares for events/incidents, gathers data from appropriate sources, and identifies incidents through analysis of data.
  5. Emerging tools and technology — Includes CDM cybersecurity tools and technology not in any other subcategory.

CDM strengthens government networks

We want to help government fight cyberattacks by providing tools to help detect vulnerabilities and protect agencies from threats. These tools enhance government network security through automated control testing and progress tracking. This approach:

  • Provides services to implement sensors and dashboards
  • Delivers near-real time results
  • Prioritizes the worst problems within minutes (not quarterly or annually)
  • Enables defenders to identify and mitigate flaws at network speed
  • Lowers operational risk and exploitation of government IT systems and networks

Easy Ordering

Purchasing officers can buy from the CDM Tools SIN through eBuy and GSA Advantage!®. Issue a request for information (RFI) or request for quotation (RFQ), and let vendors respond to your requirements. Likewise, government agencies can purchase products, services, and solutions through IT Schedule 70’s Cooperative Purchasing Program.

For more information

If you have questions about the CDM Tools SIN, contact the IT Customer Service Center at (855) ITaid4U/(855) 482-4348 or schedule70cdmsin@gsa.gov. Representatives are available Sunday at 8:00 p.m. through Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Learn more about GSA’s CDM Program.

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

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HACS SIN Helps Agencies Protect High-Value Assets (HVAs)

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 14, 2017

Shon Lyublanovits, IT Security Subcategory Manager and Director of the Security Services Division

[Editorial note: This blog is the first of a three-part series by Shon Lyublanovits, GSA’s IT Security Subcategory Manager and Director of the Office of IT Security Services for Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). Designed to help build awareness of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) annual October National Cyber Security Awareness Month, this blog series describes a suite of cybersecurity products, services and solutions provided by GSA, outlining the unique benefits each provides to government].

It’s no secret that risk management is critical to the way government protects its information, assets and systems.

Federal agencies use large complex network and data systems to maintain and manage varying types of data and information, including High Value Assets (HVAs) that hold sensitive information critical to national and economic security. Some of this information is so critical that disclosing it could cause significant harm to government operations, law enforcement agents, men and women in uniform, and even private citizens. Knowing that, you may wonder if it’s still possible to provide easily accessible information and data sharing as well as other programs that increase citizen and organizational participation in government.

The answer is yes.

GSA stands ready to support government leaders, chief information officers, and IT experts by providing Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) SINs to identify, prioritize, and protect HVAs from criminal hackers. GSA’s HACS SINs provide government agencies with comprehensive protection against the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks by offering access not just more, but better IT cyber services and expertise.

Government agencies have more access to HACS SIN services and expertise

GSA has awarded more than 70 suppliers with HACS SINs to date. These industry partners give government agencies more access to services so they can test high-priority IT systems, rapidly address potential vulnerabilities, and stop adversaries before they impact HVAs. And to ensure that we have top notch expertise in cybersecurity, we’re always looking for more partners and more options to expand, enhance, and integrate these services with the national security community.

In addition, by using our HACS SINs on IT Schedule 70, government agencies can access the expertise needed to shorten procurement cycles, ensure compliance with mandates and IT requirements, and obtain the best value for innovative technology products, services, and solutions.

Improved protection to deter the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks

Our IT Schedule 70 HACS SINs offer a suite of cybersecurity services that help government agencies face and deter the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks. Agencies can deter these threats by protecting HVAs and critical enterprise-wide network infrastructures from our adversaries, enhancing data security on smart devices, and fortifying legacy systems by reducing their accessibility risks.

Improved protection of HVAs and critical enterprise-wide network infrastructures from our adversaries

  • Our 132-45D Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) SIN was developed with the methodology DHS uses to conduct assessments of agency HVAs. All vendors awarded this SIN have been screened through an oral technical evaluation process that follows the DHS methodology.

Enhancement of data security on smart devices

  • Our HACS Penetration Testing, Incident Response, Cyber Hunt and RVA SINs provide customers with access to vendors that are capable of providing these services across the network. Services include, but are not limited to, network mapping, vulnerability scanning, and wireless assessments. Employing the full HACS suite of services will address many of the threats to agencies’ data and improve the security of all devices connected to their networks.

Fortification of legacy systems

  • Our IT procurement specialists are committed to helping federal, state, local, and tribal governments protect their HVAs by enhancing or replacing their legacy systems with advanced emerging technologies.

HACS SINs Information Session for State and Local Government

Cybersecurity implementation can be challenging our customers, especially those unfamiliar with our IT Schedule program. We’re hosting an information session this month for state and local government so that all eligible entities, including tribal governments, can take advantage of the HAC SINs’ benefits.

  • When: Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT.
  • Where: Join us virtually, in Adobe Meeting Space!

We hope to see you there – register today!

For more information, please contact the following:

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

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8(a) STARS II GWAC Continues Win-Win for Government Customers and Small Businesses

Posted by Mary Davie
on August 15, 2017

(Editorial note: This blog is written by Kay Ely, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category)

Moving government IT capabilities forward to meet the operational challenges of the 21st century is not a one person job – it requires a balance of government and industry, especially small businesses, all collaborating and working together. Our small business Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) vendors have years of experience in finding that balance and the numbers to show for it. With more than 3,200 task order awards valued at $5.3 billion since 2011, the 8(a) STARS II GWAC delivers on its promises to federal agencies and provides abundant opportunity for small businesses.

During a recent open season, we added approximately 500 industry partners to GSA’s 8(a) STARS II GWAC. This increase in qualified vendors enhances opportunities to small businesses while moving the federal government forward with more competitive and innovative sources of IT services.

The open season awards, announced on June 13, 2017, help GSA continue our support of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program while assisting agencies in meeting their small business goals, operational requirements, and mission needs.

Helping promote small business growth

Conducting an open season solicitation on the existing 8(a) STARS II contract allowed hundreds of new 8(a) IT firms to join the GWAC, giving them access to federal procurement opportunities that may have previously been closed to them. It increases competition and allows GSA to offer an even stronger pool of diverse and capable vendors to our customer agencies.

Providing federal agencies flexible IT solutions

Like all of our GWACs, the 8(a) STARS II GWAC is a multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract designed to provide federal agencies cutting-edge technology solutions.

It includes four functional areas, derived from the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS):

  • Custom Computer Programming Services (NAICS 541511)
  • Computer Systems Design Services (NAICS 541512)
  • Computer Facilities Management Services (NAICS 541513)
  • Other Computer Related Services (NAICS 541519)

I welcome our newest industry partners and wish them much success working with us. I encourage acquisition professionals to learn more about 8(a)STARS II and use it for their next IT acquisition.

Learn how the 8(a) STARS II GWAC can help you with your IT requirements.

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OMB: GSA Tech Solutions Are “Best in Class,” Driving Smarter Government Buying

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 17, 2017

(Editorial note: This blog is written by Kay Ely, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category)

For more than six decades, GSA has led the way in developing government-wide acquisition solutions, leveraging the power of government’s economies of scale and driving efficiencies across federal, state, local, and tribal governments.

We’re extremely proud that our Governmentwide Strategic Solution (GSS) Laptop/Desktop, along with Hardware and Software for IT Schedule 70, have been designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as “Best-in-Class” (BIC) – part of the first group that OMB recognized in the IT Category.

BIC designations signal to the acquisition community that these solutions meet rigorous category management performance criteria and confirm that we offer the necessary solutions and processes to meet government’s current and future IT requirements. Great news…but we’re only getting started. What’s next?

Buying Smarter

These newly BIC-designated IT contracts represent preferred government-wide purchasing solutions and provide a unique opportunity to leverage the government’s buying power. The BIC designation allows acquisition experts to take advantage of pre-vetted, government-wide contract solutions and supports a government-wide migration to solutions that are mature and market-proven. They also help optimize spend within the government-wide category management framework and increase the transactional data available for agency level and government-wide analysis of buying behavior.

BIC designations are just the latest of several initiatives around customer-centric tools, templates, and best practices that government-wide category management is using to enable government IT to:

  • Improve requirements development, procurement and management
  • Partner strategically with industry
  • Reduce contract duplication
  • Foster cross-agency collaboration

Next Steps

But we’re not resting. We will continue to aim high and strive for higher quality and efficiency in order to provide value to government agencies. We will constantly review and improve our IT acquisition vehicles to maximize value for agencies’ mission requirements. And, we plan to offer other IT solutions for BIC designation review.

We believe a BIC designation is not the end state, but rather an important milestone on a journey to help agencies improve their buying strategies.

Another way we’re making it easier for government to buy smarter: we’ve updated the Acquisition Gateway and GSA.gov pages below to display the BIC designations

See which contracts are raising the bar:

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

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Hybrid Cloud: A Key to Phasing in New Technologies

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 1, 2017

Like any newer technology, cloud computing has faced adoption challenges. IT managers understand the huge potential efficiency improvements and savings that cloud computing can bring to their agencies, but also have questions about security, compatibility, and funding. With these concerns and without a clear path to cloud computing, many agencies continue to maintain on-premises solutions. However, the costs of legacy systems are expensive, and this is a particularly important issue in a budget-constrained environment.

So what can IT managers do?

Many IT managers are turning to a hybrid cloud solution. Hybrid allows an agency to phase in new technologies without making wholesale adoptions agency-wide. For example, an agency could identify all public-facing websites and move them to a public cloud in order to eliminate costly, on-premises servers and maintenance costs.

With the hybrid cloud, that same agency can also continue to operate sensitive systems on-premises to meet proper security requirements, while reducing costs in other areas. As the agency grows more comfortable with cloud solutions, they can transition other services, and employ private or community clouds depending on their requirements.

Agencies can also benefit from pay-for-use services that expand and contract according to usage and need. Reducing the need for large investments in less flexible and more costly infrastructure. It also gives government agencies a flexible and efficient alternative to replace costly, outdated legacy systems.

More agencies are moving to the cloud, and hybrid is a nice transition that allows for the most flexibility, enabling fully customizable and highly efficient solutions. And agencies can use the best available solutions provided by the best available suppliers.

Moving to the Cloud—Hand in Hand

Although embracing hybrid cloud solutions is a little different from traditional IT procurements, agencies don’t have to transition alone—we are here to help. We have experts in cloud technologies with useful resources including requirements and needs analysis, scope reviews, and can advise you on how to structure the procurement and which “pre-competed” contract best fits your needs.

If you are considering moving to cloud, visit www.gsa.gov/cloud or the Acquisition Gateway for industry leading white papers, checklists, and templates that will make your implementation successful. You can also reach out directly to our cloud experts who are on hand to support agencies through transitions at cesdd@gsa.gov.

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

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Defense Health Agency Awards Health IT SIN’s First Major Contract

Posted by Mary Davie
on May 18, 2017

The first major award using the new Health IT Services Special Item Number (SIN) 132-56 on IT Schedule 70 has been made by the Defense Health Agency (DHA). A $15.6 million task order was awarded for the U.S Army Solution Delivery Division for an Enterprise Blood Management System (EBMS). This award will help effectively manage and track blood donor registration, screening, blood products, and associated record keeping for military and civilian blood donors.

In a previous blog, I explained that Health IT Services is experiencing an annual growth rate of 7.4 percent, which makes the health IT market one of the faster-growing technology sectors in both government and private sector (projected to reach $31.3 billion in 2017).

As the market continues to grow in size and complexity, agencies look to Schedule 70 for help. Still in its first year, the Health IT Services SIN is expanding its capabilities to ensure it incorporates agency requirements and industry capabilities. The SIN now has over 170 industry partners, providing access to a comprehensive array of health IT services including electronic health records, health analytics, and a wide range of other innovative health IT solutions.

Training Webinar

On June 13, 2017, the Health IT SIN team will hold a training webinar for government agencies for ordering from the SIN. The discussion will cover the Health IT SIN’s purpose, its benefits to government customers, and ways to use the SIN to meet customers’ health IT requirements.

Visit our Schedules news and training page for registration instructions and other information about the webinar.

Advantages

On July 8, 2016, GSA launched the Health IT Services SIN 132-56, available to federal, state, local, and tribal governments. Created with agencies and industry, the resulting solution provides centralized, direct access to a distinct set of health IT services.

The new Health IT SIN gives industry partners a way to differentiate their solutions from other IT-related services under the IT Schedule 70 Program, allowing them to stand out to agencies. This lets agencies more easily see what health IT services are available and how to get them.

Using Schedule 70 for our Health IT solution allows GSA to keep up with the evolving marketplace by continuously adding new and innovative companies and services. This includes access to a strong and diverse small business landscape.

Additionally, agencies continue to receive the benefits that Schedule 70 offers: ease of access through GSA systems for market research and acquisition planning, and a simplified procurement process that reduces costs.

Increased Use

Agencies are increasingly using the Health IT SIN for Requests For Information (RFIs) or Requests For Quotations (RFQs) for market research purposes: to help clarify and refine their requirements, to gauge vendor interest, and to procure health IT services.

At this time, 27 RFQs/RFIs have been posted under the Health IT SIN.

Other agencies are also actively using the Health IT SIN, besides the Department of Defense:

Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Environmental Health Tracking Branch
  • National Center for Environmental Health
  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Department of Justice:

  • Bureau of Prisons

Department of State:

  • Bureau of Medical Services

Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • VA Medical Centers
  • Veterans Benefits Administration
  • Veterans Health Administration

Interested?

Are you interested in joining the ranks of those currently using the Health IT SIN? Get started by reaching out to us at healthit-sin@gsa.gov.

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My Q & A with the IT Industry – What’s Working and What Could be Improved in Federal Acquisition

Posted by Mary Davie
on May 2, 2017

(Byline: Mary Davie, Government-wide IT Category Manager)

I recently met with more than 50 representatives from the top IT services companies and talked about the good and the bad in federal acquisition. Some of the discussion was surprising … some not so much. The key takeaways include some changes that are fairly simple for government to implement, yet have big impacts.

1. Government acquisition and program personnel need to be more accessible and increase communications regarding requirements and procurement timelines. Industry told me government program/acquisition personnel rarely respond to requests to discuss programs, requirements, and agency priorities in order to develop proposals and solutions or offer alternatives.

GSA’s Information Technology Category has made extensive use of RFIs, draft RFPs, industry days, one-on-one meetings (over 100 individual meetings on Alliant 2 and EIS) and collaborative platforms such as interact.gsa.gov for collaboration and input. I’ve heard many times from government reps that they don’t have time or don’t know how to handle sharing with multiple companies since sharing has to be handled equitably.

I’m here to tell you we have to find time to meet with industry. There are many ways to share information equitably. GSA spends an extensive amount of time communicating and collaborating to develop all of our governmentwide contracts to ensure we get as much input and feedback as possible. The governmentwide IT category and sub-category teams (Mobile, Software, and Laptop/Desktop) are also spending lots of time conducting industry days, participating in technology demonstrations, and meeting individually with companies. And the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) encourages federal program and acquisition representatives to interact with industry as much as possible – they’ve issued three Mythbusting memos on the subject.

So my advice is to establish relationships and regular forums for communication with your industry partners and potential partners. The Alliant PMR and shared interest groups that have formed under the contract were called out as a best practice, and, unfortunately, are rare practice for government contracts.

Agencies should seize the opportunity inherent in active program management to help make the contract successful. GSA’s Alliant program and contracting staff are in constant communication with the industry – they share contract data, potential agency opportunities on the contract, outreach and training to agency customers, account management and agency buying trends; meet many client-facing GSA representatives; and provide a place for industry to resolve issues and challenges in a trusted environment.

Without spending time upfront to talk about what we need with industry, we aren’t going to get good competition or the innovative solutions we are looking for. I think open communications often comes from a feeling of safety and having top cover, and our government leaders need to provide that encouragement to our workforce.

2. e-Tools and Repository of Solicitations. Many agencies do an excellent job of using one system to post opportunities and retain statements of work and proposals in an historical repository. This is a great practice that reduces cost and provides clarity to industry about past requirements and incumbent contractors – things that are important to them as part of their bid/no-bid decision process. One participant said this about the Navy’s SeaPort-e system:

“You can see a changing dynamic in a scope of work and what solutions a customer is looking for. That transparency is robust enough to do a real analysis to understand that customer even better.”

That’s what we strive to do for the governmentwide category management efforts: share data and information, conduct more robust market research, and provide a platform like the Acquisition Gateway so agencies and industry have one place to go to find information pertinent to all agencies and across categories.

3. Statements of Work vs. Statements of Objectives. Government, in general, is still prescribing the HOW we want work to get done and what kind of people we want on the job (i.e., prescribing labor categories), rather than describing what we need and what the outcome should be.

Industry reported that they still see voluminous, prescriptive RFPs instead of simpler statements of objectives. When government uses the prescriptive RFP, it makes it harder for industry to offer innovative solutions – yet the government regularly says that’s what it wants. We need to train our folks to write statements of objectives and then how to manage contracts for outcomes and performance. It’s harder to do, but it’s where we need to be.

The industry unanimously agreed that GSA’s FEDSIM does a great job of this. FEDSIM conducts IT and professional services procurements on behalf of other agencies using a true Integrated Project Team approach. They bring in program, technical, acquisition, and legal staff to work with customer agency staff on requirements development and drafting the solicitation. In addition, FEDSIM uses standard acquisition processes and templates, and works very closely with industry to provide opportunity pipeline information and conduct market research during presolicitation (Check out their new website and you’ll see what I mean.). They write in clear performance-based terms and employ trained project managers and CORs to manage the projects after award.

Industry also pointed out that the way government structures smaller requirements often requires the same level of effort from industry to bid. So the tendency is for industry not to bid those requirements and instead spend their time bidding larger opportunities. This results in reduced competition and fewer innovative solutions for government on the smaller requirements.

4. STOP issuing Requests for Information asking for corporate capabilities! If an agency is going to use an existing contract, there is no need for capabilities RFIs. Agencies should be focused instead on asking for a few key pieces of information regarding the requirements themselves. Industry spends lots of time and money responding to general RFIs and then rarely ever get any information or response back from the government. This should be part of the market research and pre-solicitation process.

Another bad, costly, and confusing practice is for government to issue the same RFI against multiple contracts. Industry feels compelled to respond to all of them because of the uncertainty of where the requirement might end up. Unfortunately, this is a very costly and time-consuming practice.

With the Acquisition Gateway, agencies now have a single place they can find government-wide and agency-specific contracts for specific categories of spend. This should really help eliminate those general RFIs.

Using a tool like Interact provides a great way to share information online and let government and industry respond and ask questions – everyone has equal access. But government should still make time for those in-person discussions.

5. Things that drive up cost – Schedule slips and procurement delays. Industry budgets a certain amount of money each year for bid and proposal costs. As government delays the process, it extends the time industry must spend to pursue the work. It also comes with opportunity costs for not being able to bid on other work. This isn’t helpful if we want highly qualified partners who can bring us innovative solutions.

Requiring industry to provide references and agencies to fill out questionnaires on past performance. Industry questioned the value of government requiring past performance information as part of the evaluation process in the manner it typically uses. We all agree that both experience and past performance are critical factors. For the governmentwide contracts, the value is to offer qualified companies with strong program management and technical capabilities, so experience and past performance are both critical parts of the qualification process.

Systems like Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) can be used for at least part of what the government needs in the evaluation process, but another alternative offered was reciprocity across government in sharing contract Quality Assurance Surveillance Plans.

Industry estimated that the process used by the OASIS and Alliant 2 teams (a combination of FPDS-NG reports, CPARS/PPIRS reports, and past performance surveys only if a CPARS/PPIRS report was not available) saved between 40-70% in offeror bid and proposal costs.

Guessing at the cost of the requirement. Industry shared that a best practice is to publish the range of estimated costs the government thinks (and is willing to spend) to do the job directly in the solicitation. Part of the rationale for this is that the government isn’t writing clear requirements and isn’t sharing enough information for industry to be able to “guess” what the government is asking. Another reason this makes sense is that the amount that the government is spending is already public. Rather than falling into the “Price to Win” trap, leveling the playing field allows the government to select what is truly the best value .

GSA’s FEDSIM organization has used this practice successfully for years (I did it when I worked at FEDSIM 20 years ago). When the range is provided, industry can determine the kind of solution they can bid for what the government can spend.

6. Protests. As you might imagine, this topic brought lots of energetic discussion. Wrapped up in the topic are industry-government communications, risk, quality, and company strategy.

Industry suggested that government should improve relationships and communication. This includes sharing more information and being accessible in the pre-solicitation phase, writing clearer requirements, and allowing for in-person debriefs. As a result of these activities protests may decrease.

Our government representatives didn’t quite buy it. They pointed to cases in which those things were taking place and yet we still received protests. There was clear agreement from both government and industry that protests are often used as a strategy by an incumbent company to buy more time and income.

The group then discussed using something like a protest bond or fee that a company would have to pay if they lost a protest, hoping to encourage only protests that were charging substantive deficiencies or issues.

I don’t think much of what came up in our discussion was a surprise to anyone; however, I truly appreciated industry’s candor and how they gave us an opportunity to share and learn from this feedback. Both government and industry have responsibilities in federal acquisition,both parties can make improvements. Small changes can have big impact.

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IT Services: Driving Mission Delivery of IT Capabilities, Customer Engagement

Posted by Mary Davie
on March 20, 2017

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Casey Kelley, acting director for the Office of IT Services within ITC, General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). As the acting director, Kelley is responsible for a $14+ billion portfolio of contracts that provide federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies with a diverse set of information technology solutions.)

The FAS IT Services portfolio team played a significant role in driving mission delivery of IT capabilities across government during fiscal year (FY) 2016. By providing expertise and procurement support through customer engagement, governmentwide contract vehicles and Best-in-Class (BIC) acquisition solutions, GSA helped government agencies acquire innovative technologies, reduce duplicative enterprise contracts, and improve internal efficiencies.

Customer Engagement is Key to Success

The IT Services team considers customer engagement the key to success, working across government with our agency partners to:

  • Share best practices and ideas
  • Drive IT innovation to help support mission requirements
  • Resolve governmentwide IT challenges (i.e., systems integration through data center optimization)
  • Improve acquisition solutions and availability of data and information

We measure our success directly on agencies’ ability to acquire the best IT solutions and services at competitive pricing to meet mission requirements. Customer and industry feedback is an important tool.  Listening allows us to understand strategic and tactical requirements and offer the right solution. So, whether it’s an IT Schedule 70 solution, a GWAC, or another IT contract or program, we will have the right solution for agencies looking to acquire anything IT.

IT Schedule 70

IT Schedule 70 offers more than 7.5 million products, services, and solutions from more than 4,600 contract holders. We constantly scan the market to ensure we are adding new products and services, adding new innovative companies, and working with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to meet specific needs and demands.

Agencies that choose IT Schedule 70 can boost their return on investment by maximizing their budgets and reducing procurement lead times by up to 50% over open market purchases. Further, in the past two fiscal years, IT Schedule 70 has experienced increased usage by agencies—$14.8 billion in FY 2015 and $15.1 billion in FY 2016 with about half of those purchases were for IT services. And these figures also include state and local government utilization of IT Schedule 70.

GWACs

Because they deliver a broad range of comprehensive, flexible, easy to use, and innovative solutions, government agencies continue to use GWACs for small through very large, complex requirements. Spending for FY 2016 on GSA GWACs was $6.2 billion:

  • 8(a) STARS II – $1.4 billion
  • VETS – $126 million
  • Alliant – $3.4 billion
  • Alliant Small Business – $1.3 billion

Looking Forward: Best-in-Class

For FY 2017, the IT Services team is pursuing Best in Class (BIC) designation for the Alliant GWAC. Best-in-Class is a contracting and acquisition classification used across government to denote contracts that meet rigorous category management performance criteria as defined by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and approved by the Category Management Leadership Council. A BIC designation recognizes these contracts as ‘good-for-government’ purchasing solutions that should be used by all agencies. BIC solutions are designed to meet specific criteria that helps maximize IT value for government agencies. BIC qualities include:

  • Developing contract solutions in partnership with agency customers
  • Applying Category Management principles
  • Maintaining consistent and constant collaboration with government agencies and industry partners
  • Using transactional data to improve product offerings
  • Demonstrating a commitment to small business
  • Using Processes to monitor, improve and report pricing and buying patterns to help agencies make more informed decisions

Over the Horizon

Special Item Number (SINs)

Moving forward, the IT Services team will be focusing their efforts on two of the newer IT Schedule 70 SINs:

  • Health IT SIN (132-56) – includes various Health IT services (e.g., connected health, electronic health records, health information exchanges, Health analytics, Personal health information management, etc.)
  • Cloud SIN (132-40) – includes all cloud services that brings potential efficiency improvements and savings to agencies

The IT Services team will work closely with agencies to ensure the new SINs are meeting government’s needs and to provide training and consulting. They will also continue working with industry to bring more companies into the Schedule 70 program and under the SINs.

The team will also concentrate on the GSA IT Schedule 70 Professional Services SIN (132-51), which is the largest Schedule 70 SIN in terms of dollars. Exploring and applying some of the successful industry-customer collaboration best practices used by the GSA Alliant GWAC program will also help us understand how to leverage the new SINs to their full potential.

Open Market Spend

The IT Services team is also working on developing an “open market spend” model for a repeatable process that accurately identifies task orders originally awarded through open market buys.

Alliant and VETS Next Generation GWACs

Finally, the next generation GSA GWACs (Alliant 2, Alliant 2 Small Business GWACs, and VETS 2) are all expected to be awarded and operational in FY18. Once they are in place, the team will begin performing a broad outreach effort to educate and train customers on these latest offerings.

About IT Services

GSA’s IT Services Subcategory, composed of IT Consulting and IT Outsourcing services, is responsible for a portfolio of contracts and programs providing government agencies with a diverse set of IT solutions. To learn more, please visit our IT Consulting and IT Outsourcing Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway.

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

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IT Hardware: Delivering Cost Savings through Desktops & Laptops

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 28, 2017

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 ITC organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Paul Morris, IT Hardware Subcategory Manager for ITC in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). He oversees the management of GSA’s IT Hardware solutions, Client and Supply Management, and Market Analysis, and publishes relevant content within the IT Hardware’s Category Hallway in GSA’s Acquisition Gateway.)

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, GSA implemented and delivered contract vehicles and easy-to-use solutions that resulted in significant savings for government agencies. One major initiative that is already leveraging the federal government’s buying power, collaborating with other federal agencies and industry, and creating acquisition efficiency is the Government-wide Strategic Solutions (GSS) for Desktops and Laptops program.

The GSS program is co-led by HHS/NIH, NASA, and GSA with heavy involvement from the Army CHESS program.  GSA’s IT Schedule 70 contractors offer the GSS standard configurations for desktop and laptop computers that provide government agencies lower pricing, standard terms and conditions, access to spend and pricing data, and best- in-class solutions. These standard configurations were developed by the GSS team after evaluating governmentwide spend data for laptops and desktops, and working with more than 20 agencies to understand what was being purchased and what the agencies’ needs were.

GSS for Desktops & Laptops Sees Growth

Current spend indicates that desktops and laptops account for approximately 10 percent of the total $12 billion in annual government IT hardware. When GSA’s GSS Desktop and Laptop program first launched in October 2015, we were encouraged by the initial success. Based on FY 2017 end-of-first quarter data, we are seeing purchasing increase through the GSS Desktop and Laptop IT Schedule 70 program, as well as across NIH’s Chief Information Officer-IT Commodities and Solutions (NIH CIO-CS) governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), and NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (NASA SEWP).

Moreover, across GSA’s IT Schedule 70, NIH’s CIO-CS GWAC, and NASA’s SEWP, we have seen an increase in usage to date, when compared to the same period during FY 2016 (an increase from $270,000 to nearly $5 million in GSS purchases alone). We expect strong growth throughout the remaining three quarters in FY 2017, well over 2016’s approximate spend of $16 million.

Likewise, in the previous fourth quarter of FY 2016, GSA and NASA government-wide buying events resulted in discounts of 15 percent to 23 percent from standard contract pricing (depending on the GSS system purchased), an average savings of 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum was one agency that benefitted from the government-wide buying event. Since we provided the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with cost estimates of need upfront, they were able to procure an additional 55 computers because of the savings.

Looking Ahead in IT Hardware

We are taking lessons learned and making continual improvements to our hardware offering.  We are working with the GSS team and will be upgrading the standard configurations, exploring options for expanding the offerings, and planning our FY17 buying event.

Here’s a look ahead for the IT Hardware Subcategory:

  • We’re improving GSA eTools — This year, all GSS Desktops and Laptops in GSA Advantage!® will be easy to find and will have a consistent look and feel for configuration and pricing information.
  • We’re incorporating FY 2016 lessons learned into our planning for FY 2017 GSS Buying Events — We are changing the equipment configuration and features, and communicating early that we intend to host a fourth quarter GSS buying event.
  • We’re supporting the IT Security Subcategory’s Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Provenance pilot — By improving existing SCRM into our solutions, we can reduce agency risk and increase buyer confidence. We’ll work with our customers and vendors to assess the use of SCRM controls in the desktop and laptop purchase experience.

We are excited about the solutions in place under GSS Desktops and Laptops, and the potential to save federal agencies time and money.

To learn more about the IT Hardware Category program, contracts, hardware configurations, or to share your thoughts on the program, reach out to the GSA IT Hardware Subcategory Manager, or browse the Acquisition Gateway’s IT Hardware Subcategory Hallway.

We also offer several ways to purchase IT hardware:

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

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IT Software: Cost Savings in Enterprise Licenses Agreements, Strategic IT Resourcing

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 27, 2017

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 John Radziszewski, Director, Office of IT Products within ITC in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). In this capacity, he oversees GSA’s IT Hardware and Software Subcategories.

GSA’s IT Software Subcategory team is implementing government-wide strategies and initiatives that will reduce costly duplication of enterprise software agreements, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s buying power. This is being accomplished by enhancing current IT Schedule 70 contracts such as: Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (Esri) geospatial software, Carahsoft’s Adobe’s data-centric security and electronic signature solutions, and Carahsoft’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) software. These enhancements give government users what they need, when they need it, and at the lowest cost.

The federal government spends at least $6 billion annually on commercial software through more than 50,000 individual contracting actions — not an optimal way to buy. This way of procuring commercial software licenses usually results in duplicate IT investments across agencies, causing disjointed pricing indexes, terms, and conditions, and increasing the complexity of licenses management.

To tackle this issue, the Enterprise Software Category Team (ESCT) is enhancing new Enterprise Licenses Agreements (ELAs) to reduce duplication of enterprise software agreements, improve pricing, and better leverage the government’s buying power.

Leveraging Government’s Buying Power through ELAs

Through smart government-wide mandates, GSA is currently enhancing ELAs on IT Schedule 70 to better meet government needs, while at the same time reducing duplication of enterprise software licenses, improving cost savings, and optimizing the government’s procurement capabilities. This allows agencies to redirect funding to other mission priorities.

In January 2016, we’ve already enhanced the following government-wide enterprise software license agreements:

GSA‑​Carahsoft’s HPE — The enhanced software agreement with Carahsoft for HPE IT management solutions could result in discounts of up to 39 percent over commercial pricing for government agencies and a potential savings up $50 million over five years for taxpayers.

GSA‑Carahsoft’s Adobe — Again working with Carahsoft, on their Adobe’s data-centric security and electronic signature solutions, it will result in potential savings of $350 million.

GSA‑Esri geospatial software — We agreed to modify Esri’s IT Schedule 70 terms and conditions for geospatial software ELAs. It will result to at least an additional 3% in savings for agencies.

Today, agencies with existing Carahsoft’s HPE/Adobe and Esri software can now take advantage of immediate savings by switching to these ELAs by processing a simple modification. Agencies who make the switch can receive additional savings on ELA prices.

A Look Ahead: Software License Management Service (SLMS)

Working with several agencies, GSA developed a Software License Management Service (SLMS) that can generate significant cost savings by:

  • cutting unnecessary software license spending,
  • implementing controls on the software license management lifecycle, and
  • improving an agency’s cybersecurity posture by tracking and monitoring vulnerabilities.

SLMS uses subject-matter experts to engage agencies with one goal in mind: saving the government (and taxpayers!) money on software licensing. The program is the foundation for successfully managing software. It employs a phased approach to assess agency maturity relevant to IT Asset Management (ITAM), while establishing plans for implementing improvements.

To date, GSA has successfully launched SLMS pilots at three agencies:

  • For GSA, our focus has been on deploying a cutting-edge software asset management toolset, targeting a quick ‘Return On Investment’ on software buys. This is achieved by capturing, controlling, and evaluating GSA’s current software inventory and procurement data, and finding areas for demand management.
  • At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the SLMS team is conducting a current-state gap analysis based on an ITAM maturity model. The outcomes will be a detailed analysis of program performance and a future roadmap for organizational maturity.
  • For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), we helped develop a full suite of ITAM governance, processes, procedures, and policies.

We are ready to expand the pilot to other agencies as well. If your agency is interested in an approach to software asset management, please contact our team (SLMS@gsa.gov). We are here to help you capture real cost savings, enhance cybersecurity, and comply with federal mandates.

To learn more and to access best practices and contract information, please visit the Software Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

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

Other News!

2017 Category Management Conference

The American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC), and GSA are co-sponsoring an event on Category Management and the Acquisition Gateway. The robust speaker list includes leadership from the the IT Category, the Gateway team, industry, and others! Get more information on the 2017 Category Management Conference.

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