Booz Allen challenges counter-drone award that went to Leidos

Booz Allen Hamilton is objecting to an award that went to Leidos to support Air Force efforts to counter unmanned aircraft.

Under the $82.7 million task order contract, the Air Force is looking for systems engineering and integration services. The contract was competed under pool 3 of the GSA OASIS vehicle.

The order supports what the Air Force calls “counter-small unmanned aircraft systems engineering and integration” efforts.

Booz Allen is arguing that if the evaluation had been done properly, it would have been picked over Leidos. The Government Accountability Office says it will have a decision by Dec. 2.

As a task order, there isn't a lot of publicly-available information on the award. But this Defense Department document describes the challenge the Air Force and the other services face because of the exponential growth in unmanned aircraft.

That threat is two-fold. One side sees direct threats posted by nations, terrorists and criminals. The other side covers unintentional actions by negligent and reckless operators.

DOD is looking at a three-part strategy it calls, Ready the Force, Defend the Force and Build the Team. Each has their own set of supporting goals.

Ready the Force includes maximizing current counter unmanneddrone systems and adopting a risk-based approach.

Defend the Force looks for more joint capabilities and operations concepts and doctrines.

Building the Team focuses leveraging existing relationships and creating new partnerships to meet emerging challenges.

You don’t have to look too hard around the market to realize that Booz Allen and Leidos aren't the only ones pursuing counter-drone opportunities. This isn’t a big contract when you are the size of Booz Allen or Leidos, but is an important and growing market area.

Posted on Aug 27, 2021 at 6:59 AM0 comments

10 'new normal' best practices for a COVID world

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of talk of the market finding its “new normal.”

Given the Delta variant's acceleration, I’m not sure we have reached a place where the new normal is that. But I think we have a good outline of where the industry is headed.

The folks at Wolf Den Associates have given this a lot of thought. In the latest issue of their Practitioner Perspectives newsletter, they explore what contractors should do right now as everyone emerges from the “rabbit hole of COVID lockdowns and precautions” as they call it. The newsletter riffs quite nicely on an Alice in Wonderland theme.

I want to highlight their 10 New Normal Best Practices:

  1. Assess key differentiators and “Why us?” messaging to position for increasing price sensitivity.
  2. Develop multi-platform connections with customers that transcend Zoom (or other web conferencing tools).
  3. Leverage Other Transaction Authority agreements, Small Business Innovation Research awards and other alternative acquisition methodologies for near-term wins.
  4. Prepare for a series of continuing resolutions, with the customary slowdown in new starts and extension of existing programs.
  5. Develop strategic partnerships to position for increased set-aside spending.
  6. Implement "Agile beyond IT" to drive value with customers.
  7. Take advantage of a turbulent environment to approach new customers.
  8. Train staff for streamlined procurement and use of orals, challenges and demos.
  9. Prepare to meet cyber benchmarks as contracts adopt Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification requirements.
  10. Evaluate recruiting and staffing strategies and pricing models as the shift to a remote workforce becomes permanent.

A couple of those items jumped out at me.

Best Practice No. 1 and increasing price sensitivity.

This hits at something I think everyone in the market should keep an eye on. The federal government has spent a lot of money and accumulated a lot of debt as it has taken on COVID relief efforts. Those bills will come due eventually.

Hopefully, that doesn't mean a return to a period of sequestration. But more lowest price, technically acceptable contract evaluations are likely. Even if agencies don’t call them out as LPTA. Articulating your value has never been more important and will only become more critical when a new period of austerity begins.

Best Practice No. 5 and increased set-aside spending.

With the new administration, there is a renewed emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Following an executive order, agencies are looking at barriers that hold minorities and other disadvantaged groups back from fully participating in the economy and benefiting from government programs. This includes contracting.

Over the next year or so, more small business prime contracts and new requirements for SB participation on large contracts will emerge.

Wolf Den's list of actions also makes me think of the importance of customer relationships. One could argue that customer relationships and intimacy are foundational to almost all of the items on the Wolf Den list. That includes differentiation, alternative methodologies and "Agile beyond IT."

An overall theme is to never stop preparing, never stop reviewing your strategy, never stop talking to your customer.

Just never stop.

Posted on Aug 27, 2021 at 9:32 AM0 comments

More FirstSource III protests dismissed

Three more companies have had their protests involving FirstSource III contract dismissed as the Homeland Security Department makes adjustments to address their concerns regarding the potential $10 billion IT product vehicle.

Enterprise Technology Solutions, IGS Strategic joint venture and Strategic Communications LLC are now fully in the running for the contract that covers hardware, software and related services.

DBISP LLC, Federal Merchants and Integration Technologies Group still have open protests. A fourth company in KPaul Properties has both a pending protest and a reconsideration request active at the Government Accountability Office.

In the reconsideration, KPaul is objecting to an earlier decision by GAO to dismiss its protest after another DHS corrective action.

At this point, I would think that the pending protests will continue on to a full decision by GAO. That decision is scheduled for mid-November. So as I said here, don’t expect awards for this vehicle until December at the earliest.

Of course, we’ll probably see more protests after the fact as well.

Posted on Aug 26, 2021 at 9:33 AM0 comments

Granicus builds civic engagement skills with new acquisition

Granicus has made another acquisition to further build out its digital experience capabilities for the public sector market.

The latest deal sees Granicus purchase GovQA, a digital provider of public records and compliance workflow solutions for government.

Earlier this year, Granicus acquired Bang the Table and Open Cities. Granicus' portfolio with the acquisitions includes digital communications and community feedback, websites and content management systems, digital services and constituent management and records management systems.

“Governments are experiencing a massive influx of records requests filed by the public, corporations, and media; with some seeing a 500% increase in requests and even greater increases in the resources needed to fulfill these requests compared to only a few years ago,” Granicus CEO Mark Hynes said in a release.

He added that Granicus' solutions can increase public trust in government by providing easier and more accurate access to public records.

“Local and state government agencies have the opportunity to re-shape the trust narrative by embracing digital civic engagement and experience solutions that consistently demonstrate government transparency, efficiency, responsiveness, equity, empathy and reliance on truth,” he said.

According to GovQA’s recent research, public records fulfillment and compliance complexity has increased 150 percent over the last three years alone.

Granicus is backed Vista Equity Partners, which acquired the company in 2016. In 2017, Granicus merged with another Vista property in GovDelivery.

Shea & Company served as the financial advisor for GovQA.

Posted on Aug 26, 2021 at 11:11 AM0 comments

ManTech retains IT modernization work at USCIS

ManTech International has held onto an $86 million incumbent contract for IT architecture, advanced engineering and analytics services to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services agency.

This work came to ManTech thanks to its 2017 acquisition of InfoZen.

InfoZen was the sole incumbent at that time. But the recompete of what is now the SPEDI contract is split into three parts. SPEDI is an acronym for Support for Platform Engineering and DevOps Engineering.

The only other winner we could confirm is General Dynamics IT, which Deltek data says won a $63.2 million contract.

"By developing and deploying intelligent platforms that put Analytics, Automation and AI, Intelligent Systems Engineering, and cloud engineering to work in the here and now, we are equipping our customers for the future,” said Bryce Pippert, general manager of ManTech’s federal civilian sector.

Posted on Aug 25, 2021 at 1:39 PM0 comments

Will the Comcast-MicroTech deal open up more opportunities?

Every company that sought to win a spot on the potential $50 billion EIS telecommunications contract vehicle had to spend millions on their proposals whose pages were numbered in the hundreds. Lines of pricing probably approached half-a-million or more.

That was just to get to the August 2017 awards to 10 companies. Now there are nine carriers, given how CenturyLink and Level 3 merged shortly thereafter into the company now known as Lumen Technologies.

Winning was just step one. After that came months and in some more than two years of work and testing of back-office systems to gain an “authority to operate" that let them work on EIS task orders. Companies likely spent several million more getting their ATOs.

In short, getting on the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract was an expensive and time consuming process.

It was a given that companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Lumen would pursue spots. Those three are also incumbents from EIS' predecessor. L3Harris Technologies and BT Federal also have large corporate infrastructures backing them up.

But pursuing EIS was a risk for these relative newcomers to the federal market: MetTel, Core Technologies and Granite Telecommunications.

Which brings us to MicroTech and Comcast.

MicroTech was probably the surprise winner of EIS. My first thought when I saw the name on the list was whether this was a different company from the one founded and run by Tony Jimenez. But it was indeed his company. Jimenez had spent years ahead of EIS building out those capabilities.

They’ve had success, winning nearly 20 EIS task orders. In November, MicroTech bundled the EIS work into a subsidiary called Defined Technologies and now he’s selling that business to Comcast.

Jimenez has declined to comment on the deal.

Two trains of thought are on my mind about this deal and both are off the mark to a degree.

Myth number one is that the deal is a windfall for MicroTech and Jimenez. The value of the transaction is undisclosed at this point and I’m sure it is a good price for MicroTech. But whatever the price is, you also have to back out the millions in time and resources spent to get to this point.

My read is that like many divestitures, MicroTech sold the EIS business so it could focus on its core business. Defined Technologies was having some success in winning EIS business, but with that success comes more demand for resources to sustain the growth.

Defined Technologies should have more access to those kinds of marketing and sales resources at Comcast that inside a small business like MicroTech. Which means becoming part of Comcast should unlock more opportunities for Defined Technologies.

Train of thought number two is the question of why would the cable and media giant Comcast want to buy a spot on EIS. Isn’t it too late to get on a contract that’s been out in the market for nearly two years?

Not in this case.

EIS replaced GSA’s Networx vehicle and retirement of the latter contract is well underway. More work is coming over as task orders under Connections II, WITS3 and other local service telecom contracts expire in the next several years.

This is billions more in business outside of Networx. In fact, I have been told that GSA has voiced some thoughts that it might have to raise the $50 billion ceiling of EIS.

So there is the opportunity that Comcast sees and one reason, as our Ross Wilkers has been noting, the company launched its federal business two years ago. Comcast's federal shop already had some success, including winning spots on DISA’s Commercial Ethernet Gateway program.

Once Defined Technologies is in place, look for Comcast to accelerate its pursuit of federal work thanks to its position on the EIS.

Posted on Aug 25, 2021 at 11:42 AM0 comments

VTG fuels new opportunities with latest acquisition

VTG has made its second acquisition of the last nine months as the private equity-backed company continues to build out its four-pronged strategy.

ASSETT Inc.'s capabilities include software development, artificial intelligence and digital transformation with a particular focus around undersea and unmanned systems. That company also built up a collection of intellectual property through a series of prime contracts.

Some of ASSETT's customers include Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Special Warfare Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.

The deal brings about $10 million in annual revenue and 50 people to VTG. With ASSETT in tow, VTG estimates it'll hit $250 million in 2021 revenue.

“These are primarily engineers, scientists and software developers,” VTG CEO John Hassoun said.

This is the fourth deal VTG has closed since 2019 as it builds its capabilities around the same number of key areas:

  • C5ISR
  • IT modernization. That includes digital transformation, including artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Directed energy and hypersonics
  • Unmanned and undersea warfare

“We’ve been looking two years trying to find key differentiated technology in the unmanned and undersea area that enhance our offerings,” Hassoun said.

One item that made ASSETT attractive is its collection of prime contracts, particularly its Phase III Small Business Innovation Research contracts. Those are wide-open contract vehicles that almost an agency can use to acquire cutting-edge technology developed under Phases I and II.

“Think of Phase III as a very flexible vehicle built on IP and technology and it can draw investment from all kinds of other uses and operational initiatives,” Hassoun said.

Now ASSETT will be part of a larger company with more infrastructure to take its technology to new customer sets beyond the Navy.

“Right now the plan is to set them up as a center of excellence for product development and technology demonstration,” Hassoun said.

That group will be under the leadership of retired Navy Adm. Jim Shannon, reporting to Hassoun. Shannon will collaborate closely with VTG Chief Growth Officer Sunil Ramchand in promoting VTG's expanded capabilities to its broad customer set.

“The capabilities they’ve generated around artificial intelligence, machine learning and human-machine teaming are applicable to many of our other customers,” Ramchand said.

ASSETT has strong relationships with certain customers because of its small size it hasn’t expanded much beyond that customer. As part of VTG, their capabilities should at least be made aware to a broader audience. It’s a similar strategy that VTG used when it acquired Intelligent Shift in 2019.

Intelligent Shift mostly did subcontract work in the intelligence community, where it applied its digital transformation skills. But since that December deal, VTG has used the Intelligent Shift capabilities to win $40 million in prime contracts in the IC.

When VTG integrates its acquisitions, it’s with an eye toward new opportunities. Because of its acquisitions, VTG has won several new prime contracts including the Optical Dazzler Interdictor, Navy, or ODIN contract. VTG is developing a laser to disrupt adversaries’ surveillance systems under a $9 million pilot.

Another example, is a $116 million contract for C4ISR engineering and production services with the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.

A trend driving opportunities for VTG is the Navy’s investments in distributed maritime operations, which is driving the need for more undersea capabilities as well as dispersing it capabilities more widely to meet near peer threats such as China.

“It is forcing the Navy to go to unmanned platforms as well and the fleet architecture has to be networked,” Hassoun said.

That is the kind of digital transformation work VTG is focused on and what guides is acquisition strategy. Each acquisition needs to add capabilities that make the whole stronger, he said.

“Before we made the ASSETT acquisition we identified about five or six different opportunities that by combining both entities, both capabilities, we could pursue that neither company had the right credentials on their own,” Hassoun said.

“From the get go, we're moving into a new world with a new set of opportunities.”

Posted on Aug 24, 2021 at 1:06 PM0 comments

Northrop wins part of its next-gen jammer protest

Northrop Grumman can claim a partial victory in its protest of a $500 million award to L3Harris Technologies to build a next generation jammer for the Navy’s EA-18G Growler aircraft. 

Many elements of the protest involve highly classified information so there is a good chance we might not learn much about the specifics of Northrop’s objections. Technically, there are two protests because the Navy segmented the classified portion from the unclassified portion of the work.

Northrop’s successful protest dealt with the project's classified portion, in which the argument was that L3Harris had a conflict of interest. The Government Accountability Office recommended the Navy address that conflict of interest.

Beyond that I don’t know much else, including if GAO made any specific recommendations on how the Navy should address the conflict or even what constituted L3Harris' conflict of interest.

The decision on the denied protest involves the unclassified portion of the jammer contract. But again, it will likely be some time before many details are released given how intertwined the two are.

What we do know is that Northrop challenged the evaluation that led to the award to L3Harris.

The development of the Navy’s next-generation jammer has been a fly-off of sorts between the two companies. Each won a demonstration contract to show off their approach. L3Harris won the follow-on to that, which is what Northrop is protesting.

The jammer is a pod that will sit under the Growler’s wing and will let the plane conduct electronic warfare operations. The Navy wants to address advanced and emerging threats in the middle frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

L3Harris is contracted to deliver eight pods. The eventual opportunity should be much bigger. As of 2017, the Navy had 150 Growlers in operation.

In addition to the U.S. military, there is an international opportunity for this technology as well. Australia's military is also participating in the development program.

We’ll track how the Navy addresses the conflict of interest GAO found and how that could impact the award to L3Harris.

In a statement, L3Harris said the company was disappointed in GAO's decision. "We do not yet know the details behind this decision," a spokeswoman said in an email. She said they are waiting to get more information from GAO and the Navy.

Northrop Grumman hasn't responded to my request for comment.

Posted on Aug 24, 2021 at 6:57 PM0 comments

DHS clears several FirstSource protests but others pending

The Homeland Security Department has started making adjustments to the solicitation for its FirstSource III contract in the wake of protests.

The Government Accountability Office has dismissed six protests after DHS took a corrective action that let companies back into the competition. DHS also likely made changes that addressed their protest concerns.

FirstSource is a $10 billion contract that will be used by DHS to acquire hardware and related software and services.

Several protests are still pending and sources indicate that some of those may be dismissed in the coming days. Others will likely continue on until GAO makes a ruling towards the end of the year.

If that is the case, FirstSource awards are still many months away. That delay happens if GAO rules that DHS needs to make changes.

Protests dismissed over the last last week were from:

  • Blazar Technology Solutions
  • Canfield Consulting Group
  • DH Technologies
  • ESCgov Inc.
  • Four LLC
  • zSofTech Solutions

Companies with still-active protests are:

  • Enterprise Technology Solutions Inc.
  • Federal Merchants Corp.
  • IGS Strategic joint venture
  • Integration Technologies Group Inc.
  • Strategic Communications

Decisions on those protests are expected by mid-November. But there is expectation that some will be dismissed before then.

One company withdrew its protest last week: GovSmart.

KPaul Properties had its protest dismissed as untimely earlier by GAO. But the company's filing for reconsideration is still pending. A decision on that case is due Oct. 22.

FirstSource III seems to be a little bit of a tangle right now, but it also seems that DHS is making progress.

Having said that: we'll likely not see awards before December.

Posted on Aug 23, 2021 at 12:57 PM0 comments

A procurement legend steps down at DHS

A real legend of government procurement retired on July 31 when Soraya Correa stepped down as chief procurement officer from the Homeland Security Department.

Because I’ve focused most of my attention in the market from the contractor’s perspective, I didn’t have as many opportunities to talk with Correa as I should have. But she always had a lot to say when I did.

She spoke at many of our Washington Technology events, mostly about DHS but also other topics. When we needed a keynote for a small business event last year, she stepped right up and was easy to work with.

But I’ve had few real sit-downs with her so to write a tribute about her and legacy seems a little disingenuous.

That’s why you should read this edition of Steve Kelman’s The Lecturn blog over at our sibling publication Kelman has a passion for procurement but also the people who do it.

Correa’s career sets an example of public service. She was just a high school graduate and began work as a clerk typist. Night courses followed. By 2002, she earned her bachelor’s in business administration.

I don’t want to rehash Kelman’s telling of her story, but Correa came to exemplify a career of passion and commitment to the government mission.

Procurement shops are often labeled as the place that says "No" to the majority of items. It does carry a heavy compliance burden, but Correa’s approach has always been to focus on the mission.

“We're here to make sure that a mission gets executed and that it's done right,” Correa told Kelman. “We’re here to enable the mission.”

Now she’s retiring after 40 years. Her accolades are well deserved.

Click here to read Kelman’s blog on Soraya Correa.

Posted on Aug 18, 2021 at 9:31 AM0 comments

SAIC's protest dismissed, but fight over $2.5B NASA IT award likely to continue

Science Applications International Corp.'s protest over Leidos winning a $2.5 billion IT infrastructure contract has been dismissed, according to sources.

The dismissal follows comments last week by Leidos CEO Roger Krone, who expected the Government Accountability Office to dismiss the protest after NASA took a corrective action involving the 10-year Advanced Enterprise Global Information Technology Solutions contract.. SAIC is the incumbent on the predecessor contract.

There was a lag between the corrective action and the dismissal because the corrective action didn't take the award away from Leidos. NASA is just taking a second look to address issues raised by SAIC. There was no automatic dismissal by GAO as we often see.

On one side of the argument, SAIC said the corrective action didn’t address the basis of its protest. On the other side, NASA and Leidos argued that the corrective action was adequate and the protest should be dismissed.

But sources indicated to me that GAO didn't rule on the merits of the protest, which means SAIC can come back after NASA completes its corrective action. So SAIC isn't out of this one yet even if it didn't get the outcome they wanted.

So what are they fighting over?

The 10-year Advanced Enterprise Global Information Technology Solutions contract covers networks, cybersecurity, collaboration tools, emergency and early warning systems, telephony, cabling and radio systems for the NASA enterprise. AEGIS is a great opportunity for anyone in this era of IT modernization and transformation.

SAIC won the contract in 2011 when it was known as the NASA Integrated Communications Services contract and it was worth $1.4 billion. At that time, SAIC scored a takeaway from Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS services business.

Lockheed inherited the contract 2001 when it bought OAO Corp, which won the contract in 1997 when it was known as the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA.

The more recent history, at least since 2011, is that the "Old SAIC" renamed itself Leidos in 2013 through a complex split into two new companies. Leidos then it acquired Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS business in 2016.

The second company formed out of "Old SAIC" retained the SAIC name and took the NASA contract with it.

But obviously, the folks who came to Leidos from Lockheed hadn’t forgotten about the contract. In fact, you could say these large IT contracts are a big reason Leidos bought IS&GS in 2016. In fact, Monday marks five years since the deal closed.

The acquisition set Leidos up to pursue, among other opportunities, the Navy Next Generation Enterprise Network. So pursuing AEGIS is no surprise.

But all that history is just a sidebar. The competition is here and now between SAIC and Leidos, in ways that they weren’t when the split first occurred.

Posted on Aug 12, 2021 at 2:35 PM0 comments

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