Agencies get another tool for recruiting and hiring student interns, OPM says

Thanks to the Office of Personnel Management, federal agencies will have new tools and resources to help in the recruitment process of student interns. They will be able to use strategic skills to reel in students to specific temporary positions. In a final rule, which focused on hiring authority for post- secondary students, the Office of Personnel Management made it known that eligible students will be those pursuing a bachelors or graduate degree.

The temporary positions for these students will vary from one to four years depending on the term appointment. While the students are in school, they will have to work in General Schedule 11 level or lower. Those who have obtained their degree and fit the criteria of the further eligible requirements (like working a minimum of 640 hours during their employment), will be allowed to be appointed to a permanent position.

President Biden and his administration shared that there has been a struggle in hiring entry-level, young individuals under the age of 30, then that of 10 years ago. In essence, this new authority will give those in academic programs the opportunity and ability to get paid while at school, and while contributing to agencies with the skills they bring into the “work world.” Without the use of normal procedures in seeking employees, agencies can use different methods to recruit diverse and qualified students. For example, use program advertisements on their websites, and/or use third party platforms, essentially creating flexibility in who and how they identify and recruit applicants. With this new authority, vacancies in job positions, retirements, and budget cuts no longer pose a hindrance to federal agencies.

By: D’Andrea Tucker

Source: Agencies get another tool for recruiting and hiring student interns, OPM says | Federal News Network

NSA wants you to be careful where you log in to telework

The National Security Agency (NSA) urges you to be more mindful and careful of logging in to telework at public places (like your local Starbucks or coffee shop for example). As teleworking becomes more common, NSA believes that federal employees and contractors should prioritize securing their data when in public as public Wifi networks are oftentimes unsecured and active Bluetooth signals can give access to private information on your devices.

As the United States faces cyber threats, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has launched a public-private partnership to develop and combat defense strategies and incident response plans to ransomware and threats. In an effort to strengthen the cyber workforce, training has been provided by CISA with certification prep courses and resources to help federal employees strengthen and tighten their cybersecurity skills.

A bill has been formulated and specifies that the crash course training should include the ethical practices, the security risks and a thorough understanding of what the AI technology poses. The bill is being sent to the Senate floor to be voted on.

By: D’Andrea Tucker



The Story of How One Small Firm is Clinging to its Chances of Being Selected for NITAAC’s CIO-SP4 program.

On July 19, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) IT Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) issued an addendum to the CIO-SP4 contract. TCX (Technology Company X) has operated in the federal market for over 30 years and intends to bid on the contract. Because the actual firm is still intending to bid and doesn’t want to jeopardize its connection with NITAAC, it agreed to tell its tale on the condition of anonymity.

TCX, a small contractor in the, says changes to its self-scoring system have hurt its chances of making it into the second round of NITAAC. Pat said TCX pulled two large businesses onto their team of small firms to help increase its total points. “It’s unclear where the cut is, so you’d be stupid not to compose your team of large and small contractors to maximize your points,” Pat stated.

The Small Business Administration’s CIO-SP4 procurement is assisted by TCX, a small-business teaming organization. Pat, of TCX, stated they need to locate new colleagues in the little period of time they have until bids are due, which NITAAC has given them. The

changes also have an impact on their relationships with major companies, as they must now ask them to leave their CIO SP4 team. Pat stated that the proposal expenses and staff hours spent on this procurement were more than $50B.

Pluribus Digital has filed a second bid complaint regarding the agency’s decision to include only small company experience in its CIO-SP4 contract. Amendment seven, according to the business, alters the method NITAAC’s 14-day response is used to determine whether or not offerors can revise their recommended teams. Two additional companies have filed protests with the GAO over the same issue.

“It’s driving small businesses to ‘no-bid’ since they can’t reorganize into joint ventures with giant corporations.” NITAAC’s haphazard, last-minute adjustment is costing businesses millions of dollars at a time when everyone is strapped for cash. Former General Services Administration acting administrator and IRS executive believes the agency should be debating reforms.

The Professional Services Council is calling on NITAAC to go back to the drawing board on CIO-SP4 procurement. “The latest amendment has frustrated many companies of all sizes,” said Stephanie Kostro, PSC’s executive vice president for policy. Pat McCall, managing partner of Koprince Law, said he has rarely, possibly never, seen a procurement run so poorly. He said when an agency runs a procurement this significant, the most important facet is transparency and consistency.

Author: Mariatu Alale

Edited By: Nakira Whitehead

63% of Workers Who File an EEOC Discrimination Complaint Lose Their Jobs

Workers who submitted complaints risked retaliation, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rarely ruled in their favor.

People who are subjected to sex discrimination, race discrimination, and other forms of workplace discrimination are not receiving much help from the laws intended to protect them. This conclusion was drawn after studying the outcomes of the most recent data of 683,419 cases submitted with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, from 2012 to 2016 Employer retaliation was the most common form of sex discrimination retaliation, accounting for 46% of all occurrences. These trends could explain why only a small percentage of persons who believe they have been discriminated against at work actually register a complaint.

The burden of proof for proving discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in court is largely on the employee. Poor rates of discrimination claim filing could also indicate that people consider the legal option to be risky and with a low possibility of success. It’s a big difference between enduring workplace discrimination and proving it in court or to the government. For years, legislators have debated legislation to strengthen worker rights, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which prohibits wage discrimination by compensating individuals doing the same job differently depending on their gender, ethnicity, or national origin.

While we feel that enacting this law would be a positive step toward encouraging more workers to report discrimination, our study indicates that expanded safeguards should be applied to all forms of discrimination. The anti-discrimination protection would provide the deserving employees with increased enforcement and allow for harsher consequences for employers who breach the law.

Author: Emely Rivas

Edited by: Nakira Whitehead


Is competition in federal contracting dead?

Executive Order 14036, Promoting Competition in the American Economy, was signed by President Joe Biden. Under Executive Order 14036, the Secretary of Defense is responsible for increasing competition in the defense industrial base in federal procurements. President Barack Obama has called for a study of how competition is used in the United States, as well as a push to foster competition throughout the economy. For numerous years, the number of businesses conducting business with the federal government has decreased. According to a new Chamber of Commerce survey, small firms suffer from a lack of competition.

The federal procurement procedure follows a Ronco-like “set it and forget it” mantra, which has resulted in a decrease in the number of enterprises contracting with the government. The federal government issues a request, waits for responses from companies that have figured out how to handle the multiple barriers to doing business with the government, and then awards contracts based on the offers submitted. Even when it is aware of alternative capable companies,

the government does not usually contact them or take them into account when making an award choice.

Better electronic tools and training for federal government contracting officers are needed to search the marketplace for companies that can meet government needs. The contracting officer’s market research, the firms considered for award, the company’s prices, and other special terms and conditions should all be tracked and recorded in the tools. According to Ed Rollins, President Obama will not be successful in improving competitiveness with American companies unless he changes the way government contracts are handled. He proposes new technologies to make government contracting more transparent and accessible to the public. According to him, the move will also boost government outreach during the contracting process.

With President Obama’s emphasis on boosting contracting with diverse companies and purchasing more American-made goods, now is the moment to bring about significant reform and promote competition in federal contracts. Senator John Thune believes that the government’s definition of competition and the mechanisms by which it acquires competition need to be updated.

By: Mariatu Alale

Edited by: Nakira Whitehead


Even In A Pandemic Year, DHS Sees More Staff Engagement Successes

It’s easy to imagine a year like 2020 troubling the Department of Homeland Security’s recent modest but steady progress in enhancing employee engagement. DHS has consistently improved since a low point in 2015, and its overall engagement scores on the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey improved by four points over the previous year. The progress accomplished in the last year, according to Bailey, is a result of DHS executives’ and supervisors’ efforts to maintain in touch with employees, provide them with as many tools and protective equipment as possible, and optimize telework and other workplace flexibility throughout the pandemic. 

When current DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was the department’s deputy, leadership began to take a more hands-on approach. Bailey and the other top DHS officials sent out notes to the department’s 250,000 employees. The letters were more personal than the emails she and others had sent to DHS employees in the past. During the past year, the department increased its measures to give more resources to DHS personnel and their families and its efforts to keep engaged with staff. The emergency and backup child care systems established by the DHS before the pandemic and mindfulness training and other personnel tools established as part of the department’s employee and family preparation project were “Lifesavers” during the health crisis. 

The department is developing new materials for DHS family members and will hold “Onboarding workshops” for new employees’ spouses and children. The idea, according to Bailey, is to help new DHS employees’ families better understand what the job entails and how it can affect their life at home. DHS is focusing on tying together its leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement programs in the coming year, according to Bailey. In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security, like many other agencies, saw growth in employee telework, though not as dramatic as other departments. Before the pandemic, only 2% of the DHS staff teleworked on a daily basis. According to DHS’ 2020 FEVS, at least 47% of the department’s staff is unable to telework since their professions require them to be physically present. 

The government is also looking into whether positions may be entirely virtual — and whether they can recruit from outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, perhaps from a lower-cost-of-living location. Those employees’ salaries may be lower, but DHS still needs to prepare for them to travel to their home offices on occasion, according to Bailey. If the department wants to have a chance at recruiting and retaining the best and brightest — and engaging them for the long haul — keeping these workplace flexibilities around is critical.  

By: Emely Rivas 


Contractors now have 50 billion reasons to pursue the SBA Mentor-Protege program, thanks to CIO-SP4.

The National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) has posted the long-awaited solicitation for the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC). The new vehicle appears to be a not-so-subtle endorsement of the SBA’s Mentor-Protege Program’s joint venture teaming arrangement, which is one of the program’s focus points. Contractors of all sizes in practically every industry will be affected by the RFP. The goal of the SBA’s Mentor-Protege Program is to boost involvement among small business contractors, according to the RFP. Large firms have their own awards, but if they have a protégé, they can participate on a small business CTA team. 

Small Business CTAs: To be considered a small business, the CTA’s other members must all be small businesses, some other socioeconomic category of a small business, or a non-small business with an SBA-approved mentor-protégé agreement with the eligible socioeconomic business whose status the CTA is relying on to compete for award. A FAR 9.601(1) CTA that is not a joint venture must show that at least half of the human costs incurred for contract performance will be spent on employees of the prime contractor/team lead. 

The SBA Mentor Protege Program (MPP) is a business development agreement under which one business provides another business with developmental assistance, with the approval of the SBA. The benefits for the mentor are the ability to bid on contracts that have different set asides, greater work share (up to 60% in the joint venture), and exclusion from affiliation. 

The protege gains from being able to pursue and win larger initiatives that it would not otherwise be able to pursue and win on its own by leveraging the mentor’s past performance and capacity. It can also accelerate a smaller company’s success in the federal market by allowing them to collaborate closely with a larger, more experienced federal firm. 

Small businesses can now inherit the capabilities and resources of the larger partner, making them significantly more competitive. The program is also growing more popular as more companies recognize the significant advantage that it can offer both the mentor and the protege. Last month, Ogilvy had its MPP relationship with the woman-owned small business EFK Group highlighted in MSN 

By: Mariatu Alale  


Bots are assisting the Department of Defense in determining the best pricing for weapons systems.

A key purpose of the procurement system is to ensure that the government pays fair and acceptable rates for products and services. However, because obtaining those guarantees may be time-consuming and expensive for both agencies and suppliers, the military services are looking to automation for assistance.

The Army, for example, is trying to complement its ranks of price experts with algorithms that have the potential to automate some of the most time-consuming parts of determining fairness.The Army is attempting to allow bots to crawl through its data systems in order to arrive at trustworthy price determinations. The objective is to cut down on the amount of time its contracting officers and contract experts spend on “low value” work that might be done by robots. According to an Army spokesperson, the more data the bots have access to, the more likely they are to arrive at reliable pricing.

The Air Force has begun a pilot initiative to reduce the time it takes to produce accurate cost estimates by 85%. It utilizes machines to sift through historical pricing for specific components, just as the Army experiment. “We could actually reach to a point where incumbents’ written recommendations for follow-on initiatives become obsolete,” a source adds.

Holt stated that in a hypothetical situation, DoD procurement authorities would be allowed to provide exemptions from the Truth in Negotiations Act’s requirements. When contracting officers get into a sole-source contract, the law compels them to obtain verified cost and pricing data considerably more often. However, any “disruption” would necessitate procedural as well as technical modifications.

In the Truth in Negotiations Act, lawmakers provided the Department of Defense the authority to test sole-source procurements in which procurement authorities might “tailor” standard criteria. Program officials, with high-level Pentagon permission, are able to engage into arrangements with suppliers based mostly on their own data regarding past prices under those trimmed-back legal criteria. Chuck Hagel, the Defense Secretary, “The door is open, or at least cracked, for us to show that we can calculate risk correctly.”

By: Mariatu Alale

Why vendors may not be paying as much attention to the GSA’s Schedule program as they should.

Last year, business on the Multiple Award Schedule contract was at an all-time high. Allen Federal Business Partners is led by Larry Allen. He explains why schedule contracts might not be receiving the consideration they deserve in an interview. Allen explains that GSA Schedules do a lot of work, but they don’t always get the recognition they deserve from contractors or the media. Other programs, such as GSA Polaris and GSA’s Astro, as well as the NIH CIO-SP4 contract, are all new contracts with specific start dates, and you must submit your bid by a certain deadline to be considered. But it’s still there in the schedules, and you can make a bid at any time. And while that might not make headlines, it does make for good business, according to him, and statistics show that scheduled contracts are more common than ever with federal buyers.

According to Jared Smith, “interest in being on track” could have waned a year ago. “My phone has been ringing a lot more” about people who are trying to get back on track, Smith says. “I believe we’re starting to see some improvement. For a moment, there may have been a lull. However, now is the time for industry to resurface” Smith explains. To get on any IDIQ deal, such as the GSA Schedule, you only need one set of skills: the ability to write a good proposal. Selling in those contracts requires a different set of skills, since they’re all like fishing licenses, and you have to go out and catch the fish. The third part is that you must ensure that you remain compliant, Smith clarifies.

The federal company in Huntsville, Alabama, is growing. In Huntsville, the FBI is taking the lead and extending its operations. For the next few years, Huntsville will have over 20,000 government workers. According to Smith, federal business is conducted in San Diego, San Antonio, and Denver. If you work for the government, you may want to consider any of these locations outside of the Beltway. Jared explains that business is expanding so things are getting more and more clear now. There are places where there are huge concentrations of federal employees like San Diego. But they tend to be company towns for one particular department. Martins-burg, West Virginia, has a large diversity of different federal agencies.

Author: Mariatu Alale

Article source:

Adieu to CVR, the platform that taught DoD how to act as an IT enterprise

For the past decade, the Pentagon’s IT leadership has struggled how to prevail on the military services and Defense agencies to combine their emails and office implements into something that resembled a unified and consolidated enterprise. After trails and tribulation, multiple setbacks, and even a worldwide pandemic, the Defense Department has finally achieved that goal.

The biggest catalyst for change is a project called, “Commercial Virtual Remote” or CVR, the implementation of Microsoft Teams that DoD launched in March 2020 as an emergency measure to let millions of employees do their jobs from home. At its peak, CVR, hosted in a commercial cloud, handled online meetings and collaboration services for 2.3 million users throughout the department. The wildly-successful service finally went dark on June 15, after having been extended several times. “Typically, when we have the luxury of time, that’s our default. But the experience of CVR has shown that working together as an enterprise really does work.” Danielle Metz, DoD’s deputy CIO for information enterprise said in an interview for Federal News Network’s On DoD. Once a widespread user base adopted and grew to like CVR, it became apparent to IT leaders throughout the department that the demand for cloud-based collaboration wasn’t going to subside.

So, defense components dramatically accelerated their plans to migrate users to more permanent cloud offerings that offer the full suite of Microsoft 365 tools. Danielle Metz proclaimed that 80% of the department’s workforce had already made the transition by the time of the June 15 CVR shutdown. And some DoD components are ahead of others. The long-term replacements differ from their predecessor in several important respects. “CVR was a standalone capability — it was just Microsoft Teams, and it had limitations, by design, because it fit a very specific need,” Metz said. “The 365-cloud environment covers the totality of our controlled unclassified information, and it integrates all of the Office suite productivity — Teams, Outlook, all the Microsoft applications. And it will have the additional security that we didn’t have in CVR, just because it was an extraordinary circumstance.” Another major difference, is the full-fledged cloud productivity suites Defense employees will use from now on aren’t strictly an enterprise service in the same way CVR was. But Metz said the federated environment should still operate more-or-less like a unified enterprise. The department intends to build on lessons it learned from securing CVR, when it used a single cybersecurity services provider. For the time being, the department will give up some of the economy-of-scale pricing advantage it might have achieved by negotiating a single agreement for CVR directly with Microsoft. However, Metz said DoD’s components will still use a relatively small number of consolidated contract vehicles to purchase their Microsoft licenses. The department is strongly encouraging them to buy the services through the $7.6 billion Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (DEOS) contract DoD and the General Services Administration awarded to Leidos in 2019.

Ultimately, the department also wants to reduce the total number of Microsoft 365 tenants it will have to stitch together in the new federated environment. As of now, there are 13. Another key legacy of CVR is a restructuring of the Defense Department’s connectivity to the public internet. When the pandemic started, DoD’s networks were architected with the assumption that almost all of its employees would be working inside of government buildings with direct connections to government networks. Those pandemic-related capacity upgrades will play an ongoing role in the new federated environment, Metz said. “Many DoD leaders are looking at how we’re going to bring people back to work. If we’re going to have a hybrid model, [we’ll need] robust networks and bandwidth, government-furnished equipment, the ability to do the full complement of our work regardless of where you are,” she said. “That affords DoD leadership the

ability to be able to make those types of decisions, because we have the footprint now. It should not matter where your workforce is located, they will be able to execute their mission safely and securely.”

By: Ameer Ford

Source: i ii