Sabre88 Awarded Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Training Support Services contract with the United States Coast Guard

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Benjamin Bratton

Sabre88, LLC.

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Sabre88 Awarded Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Training Support Services contract with the United States Coast Guard

The award comes as a follow-on to an existing contract with the United States Coast Guard, further demonstrating the capability to provide reliable support services to the Federal Government as it has since 2008.

Newark, N.J., July 31, 2020 – Sabre88, LLC, nationally recognized firm and provider of acquisition support services to the federal government, was recently awarded a five-year follow-on contract to deliver training support services to the United States Coast Guard. This comes during unprecedented times and is a testament to the quality of service that Sabre88 prides itself on providing to its customers and clients.

Sabre88 will provide acquisition training support services for the Department of Homeland Security including executing existing training modules along with the development and customization of new training modules specifically for the United States Coast Guard.

The effort to provide acquisition support services to the United States Coast Guard will include training sessions at eight locations across the country from Washington DC to California. Sabre88 will also be incorporating expanded virtual training sessions to accommodate the specific needs of the United States Coast Guard during the current pandemic.

“Sabre88 is excited to expand upon its relationship with the United States Department of Homeland Security with the award of this contract,” said Robert Cottingham, Jr., CEO of Sabre88. “We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate Sabre88’s dedication to providing precise, swift solutions to the federal government no matter the circumstances.”

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HHS Modernization

Department of Health and Human Services is the U.S Government’s agency for protecting the health and providing essential human services. Its basic mission is to enhance the well-being by providing effective health and human services sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.

Recently, as pandemic took over across the U.S, the Department of Health and Human Services was doing more than its name implies. Its non-human side would be a major part of the equation in dealing with an environment almost no one really imagined: Large-scale telework. HHS Chief Information Officer José L. Arrieta said on Federal Monthly Insights — EIS “We upgraded circuit capacity of the HHS network,” and further added “We invested in improving our firewalls and improving our VPN capability across HHS.”

Arrieta’s department is huge, and he likes to say “we’re one of the largest network surfaces on the face of the Earth.” There is a built-in resiliency and redundancy in the HHS network, allowing it to deal with data-sharing traffic or a large cyber-attack.

“From a circuit perspective, from the VPN perspective, we have a series of kind of internally federated network security layers as well. And the interesting thing is that level of resiliency and that flexibility, that type of environment created has been extremely beneficial for us during this time because it gives us options,” Arrietta said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Additionally, Arrieta said , “I think that one of the things that we’re doing with the EIS contract award is we’re focusing on our primary mission space, which is we want to obviously ensure that folks have modern phones, that we’re lowering fixed costs, ensure that network availability exists, and ensure that folks have access to the network, whether they’re accessing it through VPN, O365 or they’re in the office,”

Arrieta is aware that HHS needs to focus on sharing data securely as a data-sharing entity.

“I think that during this pandemic, the one thing we’ve learned about public health is the ability to collect information (and) insight, in terms of what’s happening across the United States in real time, is imperative for a well-coordinated response that will protect human lives. And sharing data rapidly is the other kind of key tenant,” Arrieta said.

As HHS looks to modernize its networks, the need will arise to incorporate the needs of a variety of components, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration — all of which have their own specific needs.

“We are a data-sharing entity. If we were a house, we’d have a million windows and doors,” Arrieta said.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Reference: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/technology-main/2020/07/whats-behind-the-million-windows-and-doors-of-the-hhs-modernization/

EIS at GSA

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Enterprise Infrastructure solutions (EIS) is a comprehensive solution-based vehicle to address all aspects of federal agency IT telecommunications, and infrastructure requirements. GSA announced the award of EIS on July 31, 2017.The EIS program is at present being carried out at the General Services Administration. GSA’s acting deputy assistant commissioner in the federal acquisition service Allen Hill said it is “like a locomotive that you throw coal on and it gets faster”. 

Additionally, Hill also told Federal News Network’s Jason Miller on Federal Monthly Insights-EIS that “We have 208 solicitations that are expected right now”, And nearly 22% of the plan task orders. “That’s 45 out of 208 Fair Opportunities, of which 29 have had task orders by large agencies, 14 of those by medium agencies, and two of them are small agencies.”  And “Agencies are being very deliberate in making their awards. So, they’re taking the extra time,” Hill said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin, to make sure everything is in order, which might also be why there are fewer protests. “But also, the vendors are doing a great job in responding and providing the type of value that is needed for these agencies to make those decisions on what vendor gets selected for that award.”

Meanwhile, vendors waited for the solicitations to come out and for more and more awards to be made over the past several months. The fair opportunity solicitations are being put out to the industry, and the industry is responding. Competition is also present in the market leading to broader base of contractors and so some awards might go to non-incumbents. Creating competition between vendors can result in innovative and better solutions in the services being offered. Hill said “We here at GSA are taking a different approach. We do not want to get into the reactive mode of waiting for the agencies to tell us what they need. We want to be proactive and working with the vendor community and offer those technologies out there. And so, we’re constantly meeting with the vendors to find out what’s new out there to be able to offer.”

“So, we’re trying to be the enablers for them, to not have to be concerned about what those technologies are and making sure that EIS is continuously able to deliver modernized capabilities for the agencies,” Hill said. “And that’s why it’s structured the way it is. It allows us to bring on those technologies so that agents can leverage them, unlike its predecessor, which is a little bit more legacy type approach. It is the old school approach of doing telecommunications. EIS is more of the new way of how telecommunications should be done.”

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Federal Agencies expected to spend almost $200B on acquisition contracts in Q4 2020

he fourth quarter spending surge is upon us, and it appears the federal acquisition community isn’t just focused on getting money out the door, but request for proposals, too. Agencies are expected to spend $194 billion between now and Sept. 30, according to Bloomberg Government. Departments will spend a big chunk of that total on technology — $28 billion — and on professional services — $32 billion. But this has been a trend for some time.

“The $182 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 spending obligations is about a $7 billion decrease from 2018, but fiscal 2019 represents about a $30 billion increase since 2016,” BGov said in a recent webinar. “Spending in the last month of the fiscal year is usually more than that of July and August combined.” Of that $194 billion expected to go out the door in Q4 2020, BGov estimates that agencies will spend $101 billion in September, the most in one month since 2018 when they spent $99 billion.

Given how much money has to get out the door, BGov said, “Most agencies may give preference to schedules, governmentwide acquisition contracts, set-asides and sole-source contracts in the fourth quarter.” For instance, NASA said agency customers’ fourth quarter spending accounted for 54% of all of its revenue under the SEWP GWAC in 2019, 33% of which came in September alone.

Currently SEWP is 35% ahead of 2019 sales and could reach $8 billion to $9 billion in total obligations in 2020. Over at the National Institutes of Health’s Technology Acquisition Assessment Center (NITAAC), they expect fourth quarter spending to account for 57% of their total revenue for 2020. While the fourth quarter portends to be extra busy, so does the first quarter of fiscal 2021.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/pay/2019/12/congress-agrees-to-3-1-federal-pay-raise-in-2020-spending-bill/

Federal IT spending projected to reach $27.2B in Q4 FY 2020

The federal government is expected to invest $27.7B for unclassified information technology contracts in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 following increased spending for telework technologies in March, Bloomberg Government reported Thursday.

The projected amount exceeds the $26.9B in spending recorded during Q4 FY 2019 and that the Department of Veterans Affairs is “likely to make significant investments” during that period after securing $2.2B in additional funding for IT and electronic health records modernization.

Agencies also spent over $1.1B for IT programs related to COVID-19 response, with $467M of that amount attributed to the VA.

Federal agencies are on track to obligate $72B for IT contracts in fiscal 2020, increasing its spending by 3.6 percent from last year’s total.

The report added that while IT contracts have been “largely insulated from work stoppages,” a surge of COVID-19 cases could trigger increased appropriations and spending to support agencies’ modernization efforts amid the global health crisis.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://www.govconwire.com/2020/07/bgov-federal-it-spending-could-reach-272b-in-q4-fy-2020/

Department of Defense Plans New JEDI Amendment

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he Defense Department says it will need until Aug. 17 to decide on a new award in its controversial $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud procurement. Amazon Web Services is suing DOD over its award of the JEDI contract to Microsoft last October, citing technical problems with the evaluation and political interference from the White House.

The case is on remand for 120 days while DOD considers revised proposals. In a June 16 court filing, lawyers representing the DOD side said “another solicitation amendment will be necessary” and that DOD would review “additional limited proposal revisions.” It’s not stated in the filing what technical areas will be covered by the new amendment.

The previous revisions are centered around storage requirements in an area of the JEDI solicitation called ” price scenario 6″ – a cloud storage component that, according to the judge’s read on the bids, was out of compliance with JEDI requirements. That aspect of the dispute erupted into public view in May as AWS filed a protest with the DOD to obtain more information on the requirements and Microsoft responded with a blog post slamming its rival.

The political aspects of the case – allegations that the contract award was steered to Microsoft to accommodate President Donald Trump’s personal animus to AWS founder Jeff Bezos – are not part of the remand.

Microsoft was also recently caught up in a political firestorm that took aim at its status as a government contractor. Former acting intelligence chief and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell tweeted June 12 that Microsoft “should be barred from government contracts” for its decision to stop selling facial recognition technology to police departments. Trump shared Grenell’s tweet with his 82 million followers.

AWS announced a similar decision with regard to its Rekognition facial recognition software – a self-imposed one-year moratorium on law enforcement sales, designed to give Congress time to craft regulations for the use of such systems.

In the court filing DOD indicated that it might need more time to review revised proposals and may seek an extension of the remand.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://www.meritalk.com/articles/dod-planning-for-new-jedi-solicitation-amendment/

https://gcn.com/articles/2020/06/22/dod-postpones-jedi-decision.aspx

https://defensesystems.com/articles/2020/06/17/mazmanian-jedi-new-amendment-remand.aspx

Re-opening Plans for Federal Contractors

After months of federal agency closures, and a wide expansion of teleworking and other remote work policies crafted in response to the novel coronavirus, the federal government is planning for a phased re-opening. On April 20, 2020, the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published Memorandum M-20-23 on “Aligning Federal Agency Operations with the National Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.” In this Memorandum, OMB provides a framework to be used by federal agencies to develop policies and procedures for re-opening and a return to the federal workplace. Each federal agency must develop its own policies and procedures consistent with the Guidelines for Employers included in the Memorandum, as well as accounting for the agency’s own operational needs and the geographic area in which each agency operates. Like most states that have issued re-opening guidelines, the Memorandum contemplates a gating period in which the agency must see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases before proceeding to a phased re-opening. Agency policies and procedures for a phased re-opening must consider the following criteria:

(a) Geography: Includes state and regional phasing status and guidance. It also may include, school and day-care closures, mass transit availability, parking availability, facility requirements, and the agency’s mission needs.

(b) Telework: Agencies are given flexibility to develop their own telework policies and are encouraged to maximize telework flexibilities for high-risk populations, and special populations identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may also include new working arrangements, such as alternating schedules for in-office and telework.

(c) Personnel: Agencies must develop procedures to follow if an employee or contractor is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19. Re-opening policies should consider the needs of vulnerable populations. Policies should also address the employee’s ability to wear face coverings, and whether agencies will provide masks.

(d) Facilities, Service & Operations: Re-opening policies should prioritize public-facing properties and facilities. Facilities that handle classified information should also be prioritized. Policies for facilities must set forth the screening procedure that will be implemented, such as questions to be asked, temperature checks, or other visual inspections. Such policies must also ensure that the agency has adequate hygiene supplies, is following CDC guidelines for cleaning buildings, and implements social distancing procedures to the extent practicable.

(e) Travel Guidelines: Agency policies may reconsider travel limitations currently in place and adapt them as necessary based on mission needs.

These are merely guidelines; therefore, federal contractors will need to familiarize themselves and their employees with the policies and procedures for each of the federal agencies with whom they do business. Agencies are still in the early phases of developing policies and procedures in accordance with the Memorandum, and several agencies have begun to publish their plans, whereas others, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have released solicitations for temperature screening services in anticipation of re-opening.

Re-Opening Guidance Summary:

Department of the Interior

In Phase I, telework will no longer be mandatory, however the agency may continue flexible telework and leave options through the pay period ending May 23, 2020. Priority for telework and leave will be given to employees who self-identify as high risk. Teleworking employees with childcare or dependent care responsibilities affected by COVID-19 have access to up to 20 hours per pay period of excused absence administrative leave.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Contemplates a three-phase approach after localities meet the gating criteria. Dates for each phase are not yet set. Phase 1 will allow the following agencies to resume certain essential and emergency services: Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, National Cemetery Administration, Board of Veterans’ Appeals VA Staff offices. Telework will continue where possible. Phase 2 will expand to allow non-emergent procedures and services. Reopen additional facilities including Fisher Houses, Hoptel Program, VBA regional offices. Telework will continue where appropriate. Up to 50% of Veteran’s Benefit Administration and Board of Veteran’s Appeals will return on a rotational basis, using staggered shift/steams and expanded core hours. Phase 3 will allow visitor access to all Veteran’s Healthcare Administration facilities. Additional non-emergent procedures and services will be expanded as resources permit. Resume in-person Board of Veteran’s Appeals hearings but also allow virtual hearings. VA will, but has not yet, identified polices for screening, testing, and tracing at VA facilities. VA has enhanced cleaning services and closed common areas. It will disseminate additional policies regarding availability of hygiene supplies and face masks. If required, VA will make those face masks available for employees and contractors on site.

State Department

Phase 1 contemplates alternating teams with up to 40% of the workforce at one time. Mandatory telework will be lifted, but strongly encouraged. Social distancing will be enforced and groups of larger than 10 will be prohibited. Cloth face coverings should be worn but are not mandated. Employees will be encouraged to take their temperature daily. This can occur at home when state and local stay-at-home orders are lifted or modified, and essential businesses are open. Other indicators are that transportation is available, the facility meets CDC disinfection guidelines, offices allow for social distancing, and there is an availability of food, medicine, and sanitation supplies. Phase 2 contemplates an option for alternating teams with up to 80% of the workforce at one time. Bureaus are encouraged to continue telework where possible. Distancing will continue, with an option to wear face masks, and daily temperature monitoring. This can occur when non-essential business can open, and when schools, day care and elder care are available. Phase 3 contemplates a return to work greater than 80% of workforce. Cautious resumption of normal flow and seating, and socializing may resume in larger groups. Cautious resumption of normal travel patterns may happen when public places opened, large events permitted, and restrictions on domestic travel lifted.

Department of Defense (NCR and Pentagon)

The Pentagon Reservation and DoD offices and facilities in the National Capital Region remain open and operational, but with restricted access and enhanced health protection measures being taken.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/contracting/2020/05/whats-congress-got-planned-for-federal-contractors/

https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/covid-19-reopening-federal-agency-operations-and-reimagining-a-next-normal
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=33fd39c2-908f-4494-bda3-82203149b52d