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.

Continue Reading...

Better Pricing, Better Value, & Better Shopping Equals A Better Schedule 70

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 29, 2016

Since 1949, GSA’s mission has been to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology to government and the American people. We pursue this mission relentlessly, and have always welcomed input from all stakeholders as we seek new and effective ways to bring more value to our federal customers. That’s why we appreciate the recommendations presented in a recent audit by GSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Conducted between 2011 through early 2016, this audit  found that some contracts on GSA’s IT Schedule 70 offered identical products at widely varying prices. And that some items were being offered at prices higher than commercial sales.  

We agree with these concerns, which is why we have been working for the past three years to fundamentally transform the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program, reduce prices, and streamline processes. I’m a consumer too. I’ll come back to a store when I know I’m getting the best deal — anything to avoid going from store to store comparing prices. And that’s exactly what IT Schedule 70 shoppers have told us they want, too. As FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe laid out in his October 2015 blog, we’ve responded to our customers by working to meet that challenge. Over the past few years we’ve been adding new tools and innovations to IT Schedule 70 so that we can give our customers what they want: better pricing, better values and a better shopping experience.

We heard from procurement leaders across government that price variability on Schedules was a problem. In response, we spearheaded the Competitive Pricing Initiative (CPI), which looks at the current prices of identical products offered by suppliers through MAS and identifies opportunities for more competitive prices. Since it began in FY 2015, CPI has led to price reductions on roughly 1.4 million items across all of GSA’s 15 products Schedules –savings we passed directly to agencies.

Our customers told us it was difficult and time consuming to compare prices between different contractors. To fix this, we asked vendors to standardize part numbers and collected existing Universal Price Codes (UPCs). Now government buyers can more easily find and compare products and prices on Schedules.

To help small businesses that don’t have the resources to conduct extensive analyses, we added a Horizontal Pricing Analysis application to our e-toolbox. This market-research resource  provides MAS contracting officers (COs) with additional data to pass on to MAS suppliers so they can be as competitive as possible.

To help our COs navigate pricing in a rapidly moving IT market we implemented GSA Price Point (XSB), an automated tool that lets them compare products and evaluate prices of all existing and future GSA Advantage! product listings and contract price modifications.  

And we developed the Formatted Product Tool (FPT) to help our MAS contractors and COs negotiate competitive prices for products on Schedule. FPT automates price comparisons for identical items, removes burdensome processes for both vendors and federal buyers, and improves our customers’ GSA Advantage! experience.

All these tools and capabilities help government contracting professionals negotiate prices that are in line and competitive with government and commercial marketplace prices. They also provide transparency and better value to both the government and Industry. Central to GSA’s mission is that we deliver value to the federal government and the American people. While IT Schedule 70 is not perfect, we recognize the challenges we’re facing and have have taken concrete steps to make pricing more competitive and to provide the tools to help buyers make smart purchasing decisions.

However, we are aware that we must continue to address the very issues identified by the IG and continue to transform the MAS program, reducing prices and streamlining processes.

Since that study began in 2011, we have fundamentally changed the way we do business with industry and how our contracting officers work. We have made significant improvements as we tackle pricing issues across the Schedules program. At the same time, we have also cut the time it takes to award contracts, determined a new path for startups to get on Schedule faster, and strengthened our focus on compliance.  With the new Transactional Data Reporting pilot we’ll start to collect and share more information on what the government buys and how much we pay for products and services. After looking at all the changes we have implemented, and looking forward to the improvements we’ll be making down the road, I am more confident and proud than ever that IT Schedule 70 will continue to provide the very best value to all of our important stakeholders.

Continue Reading...

IT Schedule 70 Business Volume By The Numbers

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 25, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Schedule 70 is growing again!

IT Schedule 70 continues to be the largest, most widely used acquisition vehicle in the federal government. In FY15, the program started growing again, bouncing back after a downturn in business volume in prior years.

IT Schedule 70 provides federal agencies with direct access to more than 4,700 pre-vetted innovative companies, who provide high-quality IT products, services and solutions.

In FY15, federal agencies bought more IT products and services through IT Schedule 70 than in the previous fiscal year, growing the program’s business volume by 3% ($424M) to a total of $14.8 billion.

bar chart showing IT schedule 70 Business Volume FY12-FY15

In addition, federal agencies spent the majority of their IT procurement dollars through three Special Item Numbers (SIN) on IT Schedule 70 in FY15:

  • IT Professional Services,
  • Perpetual Software Licenses, and
  • Hardware, making up over 75% of business volume.

pie chart showing distribution of top 3 Schedule 70 SINs (special Item Numbers)

We expect further growth in business volume in FY16 as a result of our many initiatives to increase value of the program. Examples are: the Cloud SIN, the Cyber Security/Information Assurance Project(Cyber IA), the upcoming Health IT SIN, and our recent FITARA initiatives with Salesforce and Esri.

Hardware and IT Services lead the pack in year-over-year growth

In FY15, the Hardware SINs topped the list in year-over-year growth with a 14% jump from $1.6 billion to $1.74 billion over FY14. IT professional services posted the largest real dollar growth of $211 million. IT professional services remain the majority of the IT Schedule 70’s business volume.

Year-Over-Year Growth for Top Five SINs

bar chart showing year over year growth for top 5 Schedule 70 SINs

There is also more good news ahead for hardware business volume in IT Schedule 70.

OMB recently selected IT Schedule 70 (PDF, 4,120 KB) to be one of three federal contract vehicles tapped to participate in the Government-wide Strategic Solutions for Laptops/Desktops. The initiative’s goal is to develop a framework and strategic approach to buying from specific government-wide contracts with standardized configurations, and bring transparency into terms and conditions and pricing, all aimed at helping federal agencies get better value for their laptop and desktop dollars.

We continued to help more companies succeed

No analysis of business volume would be complete without reviewing how our Schedule 70 partner companies are using the contract. We want Schedule 70 to be an effective tool for both the government buyer and the private sector.

In May 2015, we established a tiger team to work with IT Schedule 70 business partners who were not meeting minimum sales requirements. “No sale” or non-productive contracts result in an administrative cost to the government. And we know that companies expend effort and resources to obtain and maintain a Schedule contract in the first place so we want Schedule 70 to be of great value to our partners as well.

As a result, all IT Schedule 70 contracts contain a clause requiring vendors to generate $25,000 in sales in the first two years of the contract and $25,000 each year afterwards. This clause exists to make sure business partners are productive on their contracts.

In all, we identified and worked with over 200 business partners to become productive, reducing the administrative costs of their contracts in the process, while helping them to be more successful in the federal market.

The now-productive business partners either made the necessary sales, developed a comprehensive marketing plan, or hired personnel to support their business development efforts.

Ultimately, we are committed to supporting our business partners toward meeting their contract sales requirements. We will do all we can to help them succeed in the federal market.

That’s a wrap!

Well, that’s the IT Schedule 70 FY15 business volume data story:

  • IT Schedule 70’s business volume grew by 3% ($424 M) to $14.8 billion;
  • Hardware and IT Services saw the largest growth in business volume; and
  • We helped over 200 business partners stay compliant with their sales requirements.

FY15 was a great year for IT Schedule 70, and FY16 promises to be even more successful.

For more news and updates about IT schedule 70 and other GSA ITS programs, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS and join the conversation.

Continue Reading...

Collaborating for Better Government

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 16, 2015

Wikipedia defines “collaboration” as “working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals.” According to the Free Dictionary, collaborating is a partnership, working as a team, or being in concert.   

For GSA, collaboration is more than just a buzzword or standing at a podium talking to stakeholders. It is a dialog a give and take that includes understanding and respecting everyone’s needs, goals, and values.

Successful collaboration happens when everyone is committed to the core principles of trust, understanding, and compromise– and the end result is a better outcome for all parties.

Creating the IT Portfolio of Solutions

At GSA, collaboration is a driving force as we re-shape many of our government-wide programs and contracts. For those of you working with GSA, you’ve seen or been part of any number of working groups, industry days, interagency meetings, and requirements teams. You’ve contributed thousands of ideas and comments on our RFIs, draft RFPs and in our Interact communities.  You’ve rolled up your sleeves and helped shape our offerings from adding a new Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70, to developing OASIS, Alliant 2, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), Network Services 2020 (NS2020), cloud strategies, identity management solutions, mobility and wireless solutions, satellite solutions, software, hardware and so much more.  

The Government’s shift to Category Management (CM), has also guided our planning and resulting solutions. We have experts that know telecom, software, IT hardware, IT services and IT security. The category hallways within the Acquisition Gateway provide access to many government-wide contracts, tools, pricing information, buying guides, templates, best practices and access to other buyers across government so you don’t have to figure things out on your own and are able to leverage work others have already done.

Our collective work has led to a very clear strategy for GSA’s next generation of IT and telecommunications solutions.  As a result, GSA is implementing solutions that better meet agencies’ needs, provide flexibility in acquiring IT/telecom, provide savings, reduce duplication and are reflective of technology market offerings. The graphic below shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development. 

This graphic shows exactly what we’ve mapped out and what we’ve used to guide our solutions development.

Reducing Duplication While Providing Flexibility

Our category management approach ensures that our contract solutions provide different ways to buy technology based on agency collaboration and feedback. We’ve been asked why you see similar technology or services available on more than one of our contracts. Some might say this also results in “duplication” or confusion, but our customers are telling us that they  need flexibility to buy technology products and services in different ways based on what I refer to it as, “the nature of the buy.”  

ITS prides itself on providing both general and niche solutions for IT and telecommunications products and services to federal, state and local agencies.  These solutions draw on GSA’s acquisition and IT expertise and they help our customers by allowing them to direct more resources into focusing on their core missions. About 30% of federal IT spend flows through ITS contracts and programs. We hold ourselves accountable for increasing federal procurement efficiency, reducing costs for both government and industry, and helping government achieve better results.  Reducing overlapping and redundant contracts is important to ITS. We’ve taken a true portfolio approach to planning our solutions and ensuring we provide maximum flexibility for government buyers as they make complex procurement strategy decisions.   

For example, agencies today are procuring wireless services and devices in a number of ways.  Our FSSI Wireless BPAs offer certain terms and conditions, plans, features (such as aggregated pooling of minutes and data) and pricing for services with devices provided as part of the overall solution. On IT Schedule 70, agencies have the option of buying just devices or service plans and devices and constructing their own terms and conditions.  If an agency were to use Networx for the wireless services/devices, they may be doing so to consolidate mobile services on a broader enterprise platform implementation.  

Cloud is another great example. We have cloud-based services available on IT Schedule 70, on our IaaS and EaaS BPAs, through GWACs (especially where integration or transition services are also needed) and through our network services contracts (off premise hosting or data center solutions are examples).  Our network services contracts are telecommunications focused but also recognize broader, related products and services may need to be part of the overall solution. EIS will provide best in class virtual private network services, Ethernet, voice, and managed network services at significant discounts.  These services may also be related to an agency’s enterprise implementation of data centers or call centers — either on-site or cloud-based.  While these are just a few examples, you can see it really doesn’t make sense to try to define, “bucket,” and limit technology solutions to individual contracts.

Guiding Agencies to the best choice

GSA’s job is to understand the market, listen to agency and industry partners, and use what we’ve learned to create solutions. While creating solutions will involve some overlap, we want to act as an honest broker and help agencies get to the best solution for them. Sometimes that includes guiding agencies to other non-GSA enterprise contracts that might be a better fit for their requirements.

We are making it our responsibility to help agencies through the process, especially when overlap could cause potential confusion about which vehicle is optimal for certain requirements. We will accomplish this through our continued proactive management approach with both customers and vendors. Through collaboration, scope reviews, and relationships, we want to better understand the core requirements and make the best acquisition recommendation.

As I pointed out earlier, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. If an agency has a cloud requirement that is within the scope of multiple contracts, we will work with that customer to understand their requirements and help assess their acquisition choices. We will make the best recommendation to ensure the agency requirements are being met in the most efficient and effective manner with the highest quality vendors possible.  On contracts such as our GWACs, Networx, and EIS, GSA performs pre-award and post-award scope reviews ensuring requirements are not only within the scope of the contract but that the contract is being used most effectively.  In addition, on our GWACs and on EIS, training is mandatory for contracting officers who use these contracts prior to GSA issuing them a delegation of procurement authority.

Final Thoughts

Even with slight overlap, these vehicles will deliver flexibility to buyers across government through pre-existing, pre-vetted contracts, which ultimately saves government and industry from investing time and money on new and redundant open-market contracts.

A few final, important thoughts I want to share with you about collaboration:

  • Collaboration allows us to be responsive continually to existing and emerging needs of government agencies and industry
  • Continual collaboration is always a goal, often a challenge, and clearly an opportunity
  • We always look for ways to make IT acquisitions seamlessly support agency missions, rather than hinder them. We also work to align to industry partners’ business goals, when they do not detract from government goals
  • Customer convenience, flexibility, and choice will always matter

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

Join us for a live webcast demonstration of the Acquisition Gateway with Q&A on Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m. PT. There’s no charge for this training, and you can earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP). This webcast is open to all and only federal government agency personnel. Register today!

Continue Reading...

IT Acquisition Best Practices & Dispelling Myths

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 28, 2015

In June, I read a great open letter from Susan M. Gordon, Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, that explained how to make sure we’re doing the best we can to get technology and related services to help us meet our missions.

This blog post is an open letter follow-up with seven best practices for agencies acquiring mission enhancing IT solutions such as software, hardware, telecommunications, cybersecurity, cloud, satellite, mobile, and other IT. These tips should help dispel some common myths.

  1. Make Market Research Personal – Don’t assume market research on paper and the Internet gives you the full picture. You’ll need to talk to experts each time you need an acquisition. Talk to industry, other agencies with similar requirements, and GSA. We administer many government-wide shared IT acquisition contracts. Check out the government’s open and independent resource – the Government Acquisition Gateway and hallways – as a starting point. You’ll find white papers, best practices, potential and existing contracts from GSA and other sources, and community discussion groups where you can ask questions and talk with other agencies.
  2. Always Talk to GSA – Each time you need IT, talk to us about pre-established contracts that might work well for you. It won’t take a lot of time to talk to us – we can use video conferencing or visit you in person. Contact a GSA Customer Service Director in your area to schedule a meeting. In addition to contract vehicles, GSA may be able to share an agency contact with you that recently addressed the same challenges and perhaps developed a best practice in the process. Even if you don’t have a live requirement at the moment, using GSA as a resource for strategic ongoing market research will make for better, well-educated, future buying decisions.
  3. Let Go of Preconceived Judgments – Some people have predetermined notions of many of the pre-established contracts. Letting go of preconceived judgments opens the door to finding the best solutions. For example, you may be surprised to learn how much control you have while using pre-established vehicles, and you may be amazed to find you can often and easily obtain lower pricing through additional negotiations than published, list prices.
  4. Know that Things Change – Don’t think that the government-wide contract you or your contractor checked a year ago is still the same. GSA and other agencies continuously refresh shared contracts and make them more user-centric every day. We’re talking more to government and industry. We constantly seek input on what agencies need today and what industry can offer. We are evolving contracts to meet those needs. For example, this year we’ve added a Cloud SIN to IT Schedule 70 to help agencies find their best cloud solutions easier than ever before. Even though a contract didn’t meet every need in the past doesn’t mean today’s options won’t be your best choices. The GSA of today is not the GSA of yesterday.
  5. Dig Further – If you have an industry partner working with you on market research and acquisition planning who recommends you go open source rather than use an existing contract, do you stop there? As a best practice, don’t. Keep in mind that in-house advisors have more involvement and financial benefit in doing steps required for open-source acquisitions, while pre-established contracts have those steps already completed. For example, if you have a contractor doing market research who recommends going open market for commercial satellite services, consider instead that GSA’s Custom SATCOM (CS2) and CS2-SB contracts have vetted partners and solutions without the overhead and cost of creating an entirely new contract. And remember to evaluate advisor recommendations to ensure they don’t steer toward a specific contract because they’re on it.
  6. Look for Efficiencies – Agencies who use existing contract vehicles with the IDIQ Fair Opportunity process or Multiple Award Contract/Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) save months in acquisition lead time. Why? Because many of the initial steps and approvals required to establish a full stand-alone procurement action, including pre-qualifying industry partners,  have already been done for you. Having to find and qualify contractors can add six months or more to the procurement process.
  7. Lower Agency and Taxpayer Costs – Government-wide contracts can achieve cost savings because multiple agencies are already using them, increasing volume buying from government to industry partners and driving competition to lower costs. I did a recent blog post, for example, about the FSSI Wireless BPAs and how they’re saving agencies on average 27% over what they had been spending on wireless services and devices. Start at the published contract pricing, but always request discounts and lower pricing. Whether you get discounts in initial years or option years, your actual cost will be lower than the initial cost evaluation.

The ultimate motivator and driver for all of us in public service isn’t what we perceive or think is best, but what we find after due diligence is really best for our missions and the American taxpayers.

If you chose not to use GSA for an IT acquisition, it’s ok. But a fresh conversation with GSA should always be part of the equation.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

Continue Reading...

Schedule 70 Cloud Special Item Number (SIN), the Cloud One-Stop Shop

Posted by Mary Davie
on May 18, 2015

Federal, state and local agencies looking for cloud solutions now have a new and easy way to find and acquire commercial solutions to meet missions, achieve efficiencies and savings, and comply with federal mandates such as Cloud First.

On April 29, GSA added Cloud Special Item Number (SIN) 132-40 to IT Schedule 70.

It’s like being able to shop at a “cloud one-stop shop” on IT Schedule 70. And agencies that want additional or custom IT and cloud options can still easily shop the entire IT Schedule 70 and GSA’s other governmentwide contracts.

For an even broader choice in IT solutions, agencies have access to the new Acquisition Gateway, providing them with governmentwide contracts, pricing data, templates, best practices and more.

Stocking the Cloud SIN Shelves

The cloud SIN has several sub-categories: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Industry suppliers are encouraged to submit proposals so they can be included as IT Schedule 70 cloud SIN partners. View the  IT Schedule 70 solicitation for instructions on how to develop and submit proposals for the cloud SIN by following IT Schedule 70 procedures.

GSA will help smoothly transition existing IT Schedule 70 cloud services industry partners to the cloud SIN.

Cloud Efficiencies, Savings, Modernization

Cloud IT is one of the most important technology trends we have access to today. In fact, this year Deltek’s Federal Industry Analysis team predicted that spending on federal cloud computing services will climb rapidly over the next five years, hitting $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2019 (FY 19).

Cloud has huge potential for savings. It also gives government a flexible and efficient alternative to replace costly, outdated legacy systems. Agencies benefit from pay-for-use services that expand and contract according to need, rather than requiring bigger investments in less flexible and more costly infrastructure and resource investments. The new cloud SIN and the industry solutions behind it, enable exactly that.

The cloud SIN will be critical to help agencies acquire cloud easier and faster by:

  •      providing a single SIN for all cloud needs instead of hiding them across multiple Schedule 70 SINs,
  •      allowing agencies to more easily create custom cloud BPAs, and
  •      bringing new and evolving cloud technologies to market faster.

Clear Path to Access Cloud

The cloud SIN offers a clear path to cloud services. It gives buyers the ability to more easily differentiate between cloud technologies and buy what they need.

The SIN is designed to be the first stop for agencies to identify cloud solutions and suppliers that will satisfy NIST’s five essential cloud characteristics.

Agencies will find a growing list of cloud options available through the cloud SIN as GSA continues to add suppliers over the coming months. Agencies will be able to go to eBuy and GSA Advantage! to search for ‘SIN 132-40” to locate cloud options, suppliers, pricing for further action and negotiations, and make purchases.  And use eLibrary and search “SIN 132-40.”

Buyers looking for cloud solutions can also use Cloud Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), Governmentwide Acquisition Vehicles or refer to the Cloud Technology webpage for more cloud computing resources.  And more and more of our solutions are  Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) compliant providing an additional level of security and cost savings.

Follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS for updates on our cloud offerings and everything going on with our IT and telecommunications solutions.

Continue Reading...

Satellite Solutions Reach New Heights in FY14

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 9, 2015

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14. Read previous posts at  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Government relies on satellite solutions more and more to meet critical warfighter communications requirements. In addition, satellites provide network diversity and resilience in the event that a terrestrial-based network fails.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that use of commercial satellite services to government under GSA-DOD’s joint Satellite Communications (SATCOM) contracts grew more than 10% from 2013.

In total, usage exceeded $530 million in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014). Nearly 1,200 services and items have been delivered through the SATCOM contracts since inception in 2011.

Worldwide communications, national defense, weather alerts, search and recovery, shipboard and maritime navigation, distance learning, and training, and many scientific and research programs depend on commercial satellite capacity. SATCOM also supports additional remote and mobile applications in the areas of humanitarian relief, disaster-response communications, and counter-terrorism efforts.

In total 64 agencies, including 45 civilian agencies, ordered satellite services from SATCOM contracts through the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) Program in FY 2014. Of total orders, approximately 90% came from defense and 10% from civilian agencies.

Satellite Buying Trends

The buying patterns on the SATCOM contracts reveal which satellite services are most often used and how agencies are buying them.

Most commercial satellite requirements (around 80%) are being satisfied through use of  IT Schedule 70. These are mostly for satellite bandwidth (transponded capacity) and managed service solutions offered on a subscription basis. More complex solutions that often contain customized components associated with technology, geography, mobility, or security frequently leverage task orders via Custom SATCOM Solutions (CS2) and Custom SATCOM Solutions – Small Business (CS2-SB).

Transponded capacity, which agencies ordered from Schedule 70 Special Item Number (SIN) 132-54, is the use of dedicated bandwidth on a commercial communications satellite. It accounted for 70% of orders in FY 14. Agencies pay for service from fixed and mobile locations to a satellite and back to the end user.

FCSA offers bandwidth in eight separate frequency bands, the most popular being Ku (using frequencies of about 12 GigaHertz for terrestrial reception and 14 GigaHertz for transmission). Ku band dominated with 92% of the transponded capacity. Satellite service in Ku band uses smaller dishes, which can be physically mobile and more easily follow soldiers deployed around the globe to achieve their missions and communicate with their families.

Subscription services  (Schedule 70 SIN 132-55) accounted for 10% of government satellite solution demand last fiscal year. Custom satellite solutions through CS2 and CS2-SB orders accounted for 20% of the demand.

The SATCOM program is a strong supporter of small business. In 2014, $45 million (9% program-wide) of purchases went to small business. Of this, $19 million was through GSA’s-DOD’s joint CS2-SB contract and $26 million through Schedule 70.

Savings and Acquisition Efficiency for Satellite Services

In FY 2014, bandwidth prices using the FCSA contract averaged 34% off Schedule list prices. GSA estimates that the SATCOM centralized competition and increased price transparency driven by the GSA-DISA partnership saved the government $229 million in FY 2014, with $180 million of the savings attributed to DoD orders.

Also of note, the GSA-DoD joint contracts in FY 2014 continue to achieve a reduced number of contracts and acquisition cycles for satellite solution procurements, thereby generating further administrative savings.

For non-custom satellite solutions, the reduced acquisition lead time for task orders under Schedule 70 reduces time to award by about nine months (versus creating new contracts). Shorter acquisition times generally translate into lower administrative costs.

Looking to the future, defense needs will continue to dominate the government’s commercial satellite market. However, we also anticipate growth in civilian demand. This is especially true for the two predefined Schedule 70 SIN solutions, which lend themselves to quickly activated solutions for humanitarian and disaster support services.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

Continue Reading...

“Easy to Find, Easy to Buy” — Envisioning the Next Step for Cloud Computing on IT Schedule 70

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 9, 2014

GSA has led efforts to create a 21st century government, including introducing cloud to federal agencies. We offer a variety of contract vehicles that help agencies streamline acquisition of cloud technologies, including IT Schedule 70, the Email as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), and Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) like Alliant and Alliant Small Business.

As the cloud marketplace is maturing, we are seeing an increased focus on IT Schedule 70 as one of the main acquisition vehicles for agencies.

IT Schedule 70 is already the largest, most widely used IT acquisition vehicle in the federal government, and we are continuously looking to improve what it offers. One area we are exploring is looking for ways to help customers find and buy cloud services.

For example, we are considering the creation of a single Special Item Number (SIN) for all cloud services that would provide clear cloud technology differentiation for customers and improve ease of access to acquire cloud services. We recently released a request for information, seeking industry input on this idea.

IT Schedule 70 already offers cloud services, and our industry partners have cloud offerings in several SINs, so why create a new SIN?

Through customer dialogue and market research, an integrated team of acquisition, technology, and program experts across the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) has identified that there would be benefits to creating a Cloud SIN to all parties involved:

  • GSA Customers – Clear differentiation of cloud services vs. non-cloud IT products and services, and empowered cloud buying through better data
  • Industry Partners – Opportunity to market distinctive solutions and offerings on IT Schedule 70
  • Internal GSA Operations – Enable more granular reporting on cloud sales to enable decision making, and help our customers buy better through data

The goal of this new SIN would be to provide clear cloud technology differentiation and ease of customer access through systems such as eBuy and GSA Advantage!.

Since SINs create logical categories of services within a Schedule, we envision the creation of a Cloud Computing Services SIN will provide a level of differentiation for customers that would more easily and clearly identify cloud services.  Additionally, GSA could establish a set of qualifying requirements that would help customers in identifying cloud services that meet acceptable standards around security, data, and other characteristics.

We are always looking for ways to make sure that doing business with us is as easy and reliable as possible. We believe that adding a Cloud Computing Services SIN would realign IT Schedule 70 cloud technology offerings to better reflect the current cloud computing market and satisfy customer needs.

The cloud market is sufficiently mature to offer differentiated and vetted cloud services through a single SIN, and this makes sense for both GSA customer agencies and industry partners. We are looking for feedback to make sure we get it right and look forward to the conversation. Read the RFI.

Continue Reading...

General Sustainability Administration?

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 22, 2011

A recent blog post questioned GSA’s recent focus on sustainability as well as our ability to deliver innovative information technology (IT) solutions.

I think that GSA’s pursuit of sustainability is the best way to improve how we deliver innovative IT solutions.

The Business of Sustainability

The real issue here seems to be how we define sustainability—is it a separate environmental bonus or is it woven into the fabric of how we do business?

GSA is obviously motivated by environmental concerns—as demonstrated by Administrator Johnson’s Zero Environmental Footprint (ZEF) “moonshot” goal—but the real impact of our sustainability effort is more nuanced.

Sustainability is a platform through which GSA and all government agencies can tackle their most critical business challenges:

  1. Organizational Change: Sustainability acts as a North Star for government and industry, inspiring change and creating a ripple effect.
  2. Operational Effectiveness: Sustainability allows us to reframe the national conversation on budget cuts as an opportunity to create less waste and use our resources more intelligently.
  3. Innovation: Sustainability is what motivates us to develop and agencies to adopt cutting-edge IT solutions, such as cloud computing.

Driving an organization towards a sustainable future is not just about creating a greener, cleaner environment for future generations—it’s also about being smart about our limited resources, and inspiring lasting change and innovation for future efficiencies.

Do More with Less

Sustainability is not a problem; it’s the answer. Here’s why:

Sustainability is a major differentiator for GSA offerings because it’s something our customers want and need. For example, the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States. That means that when GSA provides an IT solution that requires less energy to achieve the same results, we’re not only going “green” for the environment, we’re also saving “green” for our customers by cutting costs and waste.

Including sustainability into our comprehensive IT solutions improves the acquisition process. For example, we’re incorporating sustainable acquisition into the IT Schedule 70 program as well as our large IT governmentwide contracts (GWACs), such as Alliant and 8(a) STARS, which have already broken records and outpaced many previous contracts.

Our GWACs save our customers time and money precisely because they are designed to meet every agency need:

  • achieving socioeconomic credit
  • improving cybersecurity
  • fulfilling mission goals
  • attaining sustainability

As I see it, delivering integrated services is a major driver to improving GSA’s ability to meet our agency customers’ needs. In fact, GSA can only be a leading IT solution provider by factoring sustainability into everything we do.

From the start, GSA’s sustainability initiative has been about delivering a more efficient, cost-effective, and innovative government for the American people.

Let’s continue this conversation. Leave me a comment. Tweet me. Post a link to your own blog. Open communication will only make us better.

Continue Reading...

Great Government through Technology

Posted by Ed O’Hare
on December 16, 2009

The Digital Revolution is dramatically changing the way we live, the way we work, and the way that the American government is serving its constituents; I think for the better.  Almost every day, I hear about exciting new technologies or innovations with the potential to produce changes in the way government serves and interacts with citizens.  The rapid pace of these technological changes – and the ability to harness them effectively – is one of the biggest challenges facing government today.

The government has already made great strides in improving the way it distributes information, provides services and communicates with the American people. That is why I am especially proud to be leading the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. We help government agencies execute their core mission by making it easier for them to acquire the latest in technology products, services and solutions.  That is what I mean when you hear me talking about “Great Government through Technology”.

I started as Assistant Commissioner of ITS in April.  Over the past several months, I have focused on helping our customer agencies implement the administration’s IT priorities, including cyber security, sustainability and innovation.  But one of the things I am particularly thrilled about is the increased emphasis on government collaboration and communication.  That is why I am happy to be making the first of many postings on this blog.

I plan to post here frequently. This space will be used to tell you about trends that I see in the marketplace, my focus here at ITS and important initiatives.  But most of all, I want to hear back from YOU!  I will be looking out for your comments and topic suggestions, and though I won’t be able to respond to everyone, I will do my best to keep the communication two-way.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you!

Continue Reading...