Saying Goodbye to a Career of Federal Service

Posted by Kay Ely
on October 1, 2018

I recently announced I’m winding down my career with the federal government.  Retirement is a great time for reflection as I approach the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

After 32 years of service in the government and private sectors, I have been fortunate to work beside people whose passion is to serve in the best interests of our customers. I leave my position as Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) filled with pride from what we have accomplished and confidence in the excellent ITC staff.

But none of ITC’s projects and programs would be successful without the partnership, support, perspective, and engagement of our federal agency and industry partners.

I have talked often about ITC’s many successes to illustrate that the work ITC does has significant, real-world impacts — we manage more than 5,000 contracts, representing nearly $25 billion in mission-critical IT spending annually.

Our goal is to meet all agencies’ IT needs by giving them access to the best commercial products and services available, from laptop configurations to massive IT network overhauls and everything in between.

We’re always focused on how the market is changing, and which emerging technologies are becoming critical in the modern IT landscape.

This year, ITC launched initiatives aimed at modernizing and simplifying current solutions, eliminating duplicative processes, and deploying emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger technology (DLT), to enhance efficiencies and drive savings into the acquisition process for GSA and government.

During my tenure as Director of IT Schedule 70, we focused on cross-government and cross-industry collaboration, realigning ITC to better support industry partners and help customer agencies meet their mission objectives.

One such example is the FASt Lane program, which focused on getting new technologies into the hands of customers faster. It has two parts: a quick 48 hour e-Modification (eMod) process for current Schedule 70 contract holders wishing to add or update their current IT product offerings, and a program helps get new vendors on schedule in approximately 45 days, down from the average time of 110 days.

We also implemented an initiative to renegotiate Schedule 70 base prices for many of the largest contracts. As a result, the government is achieving discounts of up to 46 percent off original pricing.

The solutions that we have put in place are truly critical to enabling the government to do its ultimate job — serving the American taxpayers.

I look forward to following GSA’s and ITC’s future endeavors and celebrating their successes from a new vantage point.
Many thanks to this entire community for your tremendous partnership over the years.

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

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

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 9, 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 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: Increasing and Enhancing Government-Wide Solutions To Address Cybersecurity Needs

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 2, 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 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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Hello ITC, Goodbye ITS!

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 5, 2017

By Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category

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.

“I thought GSA’s team was ITS. Is ITC a typo?”

No … it’s not a typo. Within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, we are now officially the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC). This isn’t just a name change from the Integrated Technology Service. We also realigned internally to better serve our customers and to align with agencies and industry partners so we deliver flexible solutions, support agency missions, and drive innovative and agile improvements through IT Category Management (CM).

Yet with any new change, there are bound to be questions. The questions I’ve heard range from simple ones like “What does the acronym ITC mean?” to “Where does ITC fit into the big picture of Category Management?”

Agency Advocacy is Priority One

We changed from ITS to ITC to better support and serve other agencies.

Our top priority is to be a mission enabler for agencies by:

  • Helping agencies find the best solutions using our technological and acquisition expertise regardless of where they reside, rather than advocating for any specific GSA contract solution. (Yes, you read this correctly. Our ITC experts will recommend a non-GSA contract if it’s the best-fit solution for an agency);
  • Working with agencies to define better requirements, reduce procurement action lead time, boost innovation, and improve data transparency;
  • Using more qualitative and quantitative data analytics, including market research, to help you make better informed decisions;
  • Supporting CM and foster best practices and shared solutions. (We can deliver better services to fellow agencies and taxpayers by making it easier to do business with our suppliers, thereby enhancing agency missions and reducing total cost of IT ownership to agencies); and
  • Continuing to work with agencies and suppliers to make emerging technology available government-wide.

New Name, New Capabilities, Maximum Impact

As mentioned earlier, we’ve realigned the organization so we can provide:

  • Acquisition subject-matter experts,
  • Category experts, and
  • Solutions support experts.

And we’ve also added new divisions within ITC to give agencies and suppliers more focused support:

  • Customer (i.e., Agency) Engagement Division,
  • Supplier Management and Compliance Division,
  • Innovation Division, and
  • Acquisition and Category Management Support Divisions.

These organizations will coordinate activities and functions, improve collaboration and innovation, and help us gain operational efficiencies. As the Assistant Commissioner for ITC, I’ve already seen positive outcomes from our technology and acquisition subject-matter experts working together to generate great value for the government and taxpayers:

  • Our Commercial Satellite Communications program is in partnership with the Department of Defense to help civilian and defense agencies support our nation’s military men and women in uniform, as well as humanitarian relief, disaster-response, counter-terrorism efforts, and more.
  • We developed Health IT expertise to better partner with the Defense Health Agency, so they could have access to innovative and emerging health IT services (The SIN was recently awarded to 65 highly qualified industry partners).
  • Our software expertise has produced better agreements with vendors to provide geospatial services, Salesforce-related services, and security and electronic signature solutions…all while saving time and money.

ITC Role in Government-Wide Category Management

I’ve also been asked where ITC fits into the big picture of CM and if ITC is the same thing as the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) government-wide Category Management initiative.

In early 2015, OMB announced the government-wide CM initiative with goals to increase savings, reduce the number of new contracts, and increase spending under government-wide management. Soon after this announcement, OMB created the Category Management Leadership Council, which approved dividing the federal marketplace into 10 super categories (PDF).

Our realignment into ITC directly supports the IT category, which gives us purview over the IT marketplace. As well as being the ITC Assistant Commissioner, I also serve as the government-wide Category Manager for IT. My position, coupled with ITC’s great team, enables us to drive change in IT procurement across the government.

A Closer Look at IT Subcategories

With ITC’s expanded focus, 2017 is the perfect time to update you on what’s going on with the Acquisition Gateway and the IT Category. Our next blog post will focus on the Acquisition Gateway updates. Then, in the coming weeks, we’ll post more blogs in this space to look back at IT category insights over the past year and what’s ahead for each of the following IT subcategories:

  • IT Hardware,
  • IT Security,
  • IT Services,
  • IT Software, and
  • Telecommunications (Telecom).

Together these subcategories and their IT solutions emphasize what we can do as a nation to deliver many critical services to the American people. These include using satellite systems to enhance weather alerts…strengthening counter-terrorism and global security efforts…and leveraging geospatial software for USDA to increase crop yields and helping CDC to track down Zika outbreaks.

Select Get email updates when this page changes and choose “Great Government Through Technology” to sign up to receive email alerts when we publish new blog posts.

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

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Navigating the Future of Mobile Services

Posted by Mary Davie
on December 15, 2016

(This blog post reflects my perspective as the government-wide IT Category Manager)

Today, the federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on mobile services. An agile and evolving federal workforce is driving an ever-increasing need for agencies to have the ability to meet their missions, and do their work securely anywhere, anytime, and on any device in order to serve U.S. citizens.

Fast-changing mobile technology and increased demand are putting pressure on agencies to determine how best to acquire, maintain, and manage mobile resources. So government needs a mobile plan that looks ahead. And that’s just what the Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) aims to accomplish.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Category Management Leadership Council (CMLC) set up the MSCT to develop and implement a government-wide strategic plan to increase efficiency and drive savings related to acquiring government mobile services. The cross-agency team looks at how agencies can best navigate the future of mobile services. OMB, GSA, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State lead the MSCT.

While they’re taking input from agencies across government and industry, the MSCT has already accomplished several goals, such as establish strategic objectives, prepare mobile device guidance, make plans for a mobile brokerage feasibility study, incorporate industry partners’ insights and expertise, and are taking on mobile reporting and data management.

MSCT Roadmap and Guidance

OMB’s August Mobile Services and Devices memo (M-16-20) assigns several responsibilities to the MSCT, and the first three are now complete. Documents from these tasks are posted on the Telecommunications Hallway in the Acquisition Gateway.

1. Mobile Services Roadmap – The MSCT published the roadmap so agencies can develop mobile tools and solutions that will conform to Category Management principles and best meet agency and user needs. It focuses on general-use needs similar for most agencies (also known as core commodity services). It also identifies another primary needs segment that requires customizing based on agency and mission. This second segment focuses on mobile applications and complex mobile solutions such as security and ID credentialing.

2. Mobile Device Procurement and Management Guidance – This guidance helps agencies select, procure, manage, and dispose of mobile devices. It focuses on what agencies can do to more efficiently manage devices, reduce costs, simplify processes, improve contractual terms, and meet government green initiatives.

3. Mobile Services Brokerage Model Feasibility Study: Project and Implementation Plan – This document explains how the MSCT will conduct a feasibility study for possible use of a brokerage approach to agency mobile acquisition efforts. Typically, smaller agencies have fewer in-house resources. The brokerage approach could support them by providing external support. MSCT’s goal is that no agency be left behind while improving management of mobility government wide.

MSCT Strategic Objectives

The MSCT has three primary objectives:

  1. Standardization – Define a common set of plans, devices, terms, conditions, and other mobility attributes that apply across contractors and agencies to drive competition based on quality and price.
  2. Simplification – Make it easier for agencies to acquire and manage mobility services and devices.
  3. Savings – Further reduce costs for wireless carrier services and other mobility category services.

Insights from Industry Partners

MSCT solicited and incorporated industry partners’ insights and feedback. In response to the RFI issued earlier this year, wireless carriers, systems integrators, and technology leaders gave their list of priorities:

  • Simplify core product offerings to reduce complexity and cost
  • Support ancillary service offerings and have flexibility to use open market offerings to streamline procurements
  • Have standard terms and conditions that require less negotiation and have already been validated across the federal government
  • Use self-service ordering, service options, and a suite of templates to increase speed and quality of fulfilling orders and responding to bids
  • Allow the ability to add new services to contracts in days and weeks, rather than months

Common Data Structures, Enhanced Data Collection

The MSCT is also tackling mobile reporting and data management. Billing records contain data to assess if agencies are overpaying or under-using mobile resources. Sharing data will strengthen our ability to make intelligent and informed decisions at the agency level and government-wide. In the future, we will focus on data quality and accuracy to help the IT category deliver strategies that maximize value and savings for the government.

Continuing to Collaborate

The MSCT is ready to work with agencies and industry in fiscal 2017 to improve and streamline mobility acquisition. Want to know specifics? Read the Strategic Roadmap.

Have questions or want to provide feedback? Contact wireless@gsa.gov.

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

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Agency Mobile Resources at the Ready following OMB Memo

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 7, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements. Acquisition solutions include Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – EIS (the future replacement for Networx), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Wireless (FSSI-W), and the Federal Relay Service.

Many of you are aware that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Mobile Services and Devices memo on August 4, 2016. The intent is to vastly enhance acquisition and management of mobile services and devices across government.

Resources and Tools Are Available to Help Agencies

Agencies saw an early draft of the memo and now that it’s final, it’s a great time to review resources available to support every agency in achieving the goals set forth by and in the spirit of the OMB memo.

Leverage Government-wide Acquisition Strategies – Resource number one is the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution. It gives agencies a variety of service plan and device options from leading national wireless carriers. Information about the program and how to order is available on the GSA website.

Another resource is GSA’s Wireless Economic Model downloadable Excel-based spreadsheet to give agencies a rough order of magnitude concerning your estimated costs and savings when using new wireless service plans. In addition, a Wireless Guide is available to help agencies move from existing contracts and carriers with step-by-step instructions. You can also access a User’s Guide, FSSI Wireless Ordering Template, and ordering instructions. For more resources and templates, visit the Enterprise Mobility Resources web portal.

Optimize Plan Pricing and Device Refresh Schedules – When it comes to OMB’s directive to optimize pricing, the GSA mobile solution has a strong three-year track record of success in optimizing plans and cost savings. About 85% of defense and civilian cabinet-level agencies are using FSSI Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), achieving a government total $29 million savings compared to prior rates since the May 2013 FSSI-W award. Agencies that have moved to the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution find average cost savings of 27% compared to previous wireless service costs. These agencies pay on average $14 less per unit per month. As a reminder, the BPA published prices differ from the actual service prices agencies have negotiated when using the FSSI-W BPAs so please check with us to get prices paid information when you are making comparisons. You’ll find that it’s hard to beat the prices we’ve achieved for the features in the service plans offered.

Carriers include devices at no cost with service plans and users have a choice of devices with each service plan. In accordance with OMB’s guidance, previous generation devices are typically equally capable of meeting government requirements and can be acquired at significantly lower prices. Agencies also have the option to buy service plans for government-furnished equipment (GFE) and user-owned devices.

Scheduling device refreshes is flexible too. No-cost device refreshes happen based on commercially available cycles of 10 to 20 months, although agencies can determine a refresh schedule that works best for their users.

Baseline Agency Usage and Quarterly Reports – Once an agency uses the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution, the built-in requirements for carriers to provide usage reports will assist in agency quarterly reporting. These reports can help agencies to analyze usage and optimize mobile service levels, including identifying and terminating unused (or zero-use) devices and services. The pooling option for data and minutes saves dollars for agency customers by allowing agency high-volume users to leverage purchased and unused minutes and data from lower volume users.

Optimize Agency Requirements – The OMB memo also addresses actions agencies must take to consolidate contracts, track and improve inventory of mobile devices, and pool mobile services to avoid overage charges. Depending on size, agencies using the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution can choose to consolidate wireless contracts at the bureau level and then into one enterprise-wide agency contract. Smaller agencies might fully consolidate initially without phases.

Reach Out for Personal Assistance

For more assistance, GSA has an Enterprise Mobility Team that is happy to help with any questions you have or support you need. You can contact us toll-free at (855) ITaid4U (482-4348), or contact our Enterprise Mobility Team directly through kelly.adams@gsa.gov, richard.jones@gsa.gov or jon.johnson@gsa.gov.

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

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