REMINDER: Fast 50 nominations due Aug. 6

The 2021 Fast 50 nomination process is now open for submissions.

So if you are a fast growing small business and you’ve been in the government market for the past five years, now is your chance to grab the spotlight and get the recognition your company deserves.

Click here to see and complete the nomination form. Nominations are due Aug. 6

Our annual Fast 50 program ranks small businesses according to their compound annual growth rate over the last five years. We are looking at revenue numbers from 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 for this year's list.

To qualify, you need to have at least $50,000 in government revenue in 2016.

For the Fast 50, government revenue includes subcontracting work, prime contracting work in the federal and state and local markets. Work in the education field qualifies as well.

Companies submit revenue data for the five years. We then calculate the CAGR and the companies are ranked accordingly. The due date for nominations is Aug. 6 and we’ll announce the Fast 50 in early September.

It is important to note that when we publish the rankings the revenue data is included. See the 2020 rankings for an example of how the data is presented.

As part of your nomination, we also are asking for information on your business such as capabilities, lines of business, major customers and major contractors. That information will also be published as part of our profiles of each Fast 50 company.

The Fast 50 package is published in September and will include the rankings, our analysis of the companies and profiles of several companies.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions --

Posted on Jul 16, 2021 at 8:03 AM0 comments

TOP 100: IBM makes big move toward transformation

A recurring theme that we’ve heard from companies on the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100 is transformation, both for themselves and for their customers.

But few companies can claim as a dramatic a transformation as the one happening at IBM, which is spinning off its managed infrastructure services business into a new $19 billion-annual revenue company to be called Kyndryl.

IBM will remain a $59 billion-annual revenue company focused on hybrid cloud adoption, digital transformation and other areas of innovation such as artificial intelligence-related solutions.

“We are really returning to our roots as a core technology company,” said Steve LaFleche, general manager for the U.S. public sector and federal market at Big Blue.

IBM’s revenue today is about 65 percent services and 35 percent technology. But LaFleche said that once Kyndryl is an independent company, IBM’s revenue mix will flip to 65 percent technology and 35 percent services. The split is expected to happen by the end of this year.

For 2021, IBM is ranked No. 33 on the Top 100 with $1.1 billion in prime government contracts.

LaFleche said the split will have little impact on the federal business because most of the managed infrastructure business with public sector customers takes place in the state and local market.

A second question that was top of mind going into our conversation was how does IBM distinguish between managed infrastructure services and its cloud offerings. Why don’t they fit together?

LaFleche said it's rather simple: think of the managed infrastructure services as the people who run data centers and network operations, which makes it about hourly rates.

“IBM’s focus is on our hybrid cloud platform,” LaFleche said. “The software platform, some of the underlying integrated hardware that enables clients to modernize. We’ll keep that as part of IBM.”

The company has positioned itself to help customers accelerate their digital transformation journeys, modernize applications and implement intelligent workflows.

“We will not be running data centers or networks or storage farms or any client’s on-premise infrastructure,” LaFleche said.

Big Blue's journey began several years ago and can be tracked through the kinds of acquisitions it has made. Topping that list of course is the $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat in 2019. Much of IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy is built around Red Hat’s Open Shift offering.

“That is the foundation of our open hybrid cloud platform,” LaFleche said. From there the company has invested in its software stack that sits on top of that platform and the company is retooling its services business to focus on accelerate adoption of the cloud platform.

Big Blue is also incorporating Open Shift into its System Z mainframes and IBM Power Servers.

“This will better enable our clients to move to this open hybrid cloud world that we see as the predominant architecture for the foreseeable future,” LaFleche said.

The opportunity is huge in the federal space because parts of many agencies are moving to a hybrid cloud environment, but the majority have not. Much work remains to be done.

IBM wants to help federal customers keep what they need on-premise in a private cloud but at the same time help them move what they can to a public cloud. This will be particularly important as agencies add mobile front ends to systems and improve how they interact with citizens.

Those kinds of moves require a hybrid cloud approach, according to LeFleche.

“And IBM’s strength is really in that hybrid multi-cloud arena,” LaFleche added.

Earlier this year, IBM won an $850 million Navy contract for enterprise resource planning support services. That is an example of the kind of opportunities IBM is pursuing in the federal space. The contract is known as NETSS, short for Navy ERP Technical Support Services. It consolidates several existing contracts.

“That’s exactly the type of work we want to see,” LaFleche said. “Anything that involves applications and application modernization and moving those applications forward.”

Outside of Red Hat, many of IBM's other acquisitions have brought in capabilities such as Taos in the United States and NordCloud in Europe. Those deals happened earlier this year and focused on hybrid cloud consulting.

“These companies are services companies that help clients modernize applications, move them to a hybrid cloud in an open way,” LaFleche said. “So they can run on IBM’s cloud, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure. It’s very agnostic.”

Earlier this month, IBM acquired a DevOps consultancy and enterprise Kubernetes certified service provider. That deal for BoxBoat extends IBM’s container capabilities, which are critical to a hybrid cloud implementation.

While its acquisition strategy moves forward, IBM’s partnering strategy has evolved as well. IBM has forged relationships with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google. Big Blue also partners with Workday, Salesforce and Palantir.

“We have embraced a broad ecosystem but with a common mission -- we want to help drive this open hybrid cloud platform. We’re not just partnering for empty calories,” LaFleche said.

The pace of modernization and digital transformation is picking up in the government market. Part of that is driven by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced agencies to work remotely. Now they see a real benefit of a flexible workforce whether there is a pandemic or not, LaFleche said.

“There’s a big pull in the marketplace and the technology is there and the skills to modernize these applications are there,” LaFleche said. “We are at a moment of time where everybody says, it’s time to go.”

Posted on Jul 16, 2021 at 12:42 PM0 comments

SAIC pushes back on lost $2.5B NASA IT contract

Science Applications International Corp. isn't taking the loss of a $2.5 billion NASA IT and communications infrastructure contract lightly and is protesting the award of that work to Leidos.

SAIC has held the incumbent contract since it was part of "Old SAIC," before the 2013 split that created Leidos and today's version of SAIC.

The 10-year Advanced Enterprise Global Information Technology Solutions contract covers wide-area and local networks, cybersecurity, collaboration tools, emergency and early warning systems, telephony, cabling and radio systems.

When SAIC won the contract in 2011, it was known as NASA Integrated Communications Services or NICS.

In its protest, SAIC is arguing that the evaluation was not done properly. If it had, then SAIC would have retained the work.

A decision from the Government Accountability Office is expected by Oct. 14.

As I said when Leidos first won AEGIS, the contract is interesting for more reasons beyond its size and scope. AEGIS also illustrates both how much the market has changed, as has Leidos and SAIC since the split.

Posted on Jul 15, 2021 at 11:49 AM0 comments

Darkblade deal adds second pillar to Intrepid

Intrepid Solutions & Services acquisition of Darkblade Solutions grows revenue by one-third, nearly doubles profits and adds another 100 people but that deal is about more than the numbers.

Darkblade brings the second of three business pillars that private equity-backed Intrepid envisions for itself as it targets defense and national security customers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We had the defense-intelligence pillar from Intrepid,” said Executive Chairman Dennis Kelly. “We needed the core defense pillar which Darkblade brings to us.”

The third pillar is with what Kelly called national intelligence, or the three-letter intelligence agencies.

“We are working on that one right now and targeting opportunities to fill out that last pillar,” he said.

With Darkblade, Intrepid is picking up a new customer in the Army. Added capabilities include research-and-development work, signals intelligence, electronic warfare, cybersecurity, and counter unmanned systems.

The R&D capability in particular is an immediate plus for Intrepid. The company is pursuing an opportunity with a defense intelligence agency where Darkblade bolsters its proposal.

“Without Darkblade’s capabilities we would have had a hard time priming that opportunity,” Kelly said. “We were biting our nails because we wanted that capability as part of company and to be ready to go before the RFP (request for proposals) hit the street.”

Kelly declined to name the opportunity, beyond that it is with a defense intelligence customer. G Squared Capital Partners provided investment banking support to Darkblade Systems in the transaction with Intrepid.

The acquisition of Darkblade is the kind of deal that private equity firm Bluestone Investment Partners had in mind when it brought Kelly in as executive chairman of the firm in December. Kelly's role is to support strategic efforts including business development and acquisitions. Day-to-day operations remain the responsibility of CEO Ryan Hebert.

Over the past several months. Kelly has been building the BD and capture infrastructure. One early payoff was winning a full-and-open position on the Defense Intelligence Agency’s $12.6 billion Solutions for the Information Technology Enterprise III contract, known as SITE III. DIA is using that contract vehicle improving integration, information sharing and information safeguarding.

Darkblade can now plug into SITE III and other contracts Intrepid holds such as the OASIS vehicle.

“The good news is that we have some really great vehicles, so we’ve got the mechanisms to grow,” Kelly said. “What we needed were more capabilities.”

The addition of Darkblade “opens the aperture of opportunities that we can prime,” Kelly said.

The acquisition pushed Intrepid’s annual revenue from about $40 million to $60 million and increased its head count from 200 to 300.

“That’s interesting but not as important as the capabilities they bring and what those capabilities mean for us and the new opportunities that we can pursue,” he said.

In addition to looking for that next deal and adding that third pillar, Kelly said he’ll also be focused on integrating Darkblade into Intrepid.

He sees the integration as a merger of equals and they’ll take the same approach when they add the third pillar.

“We are definitely not taking the conquering nation attitude that says we just acquired you so line up and do what we say,” Kelly said. “We take the approach that we are all partners in this.”

That’s more than just rhetoric as Darkblade rolled a significant amount of its value into equity in Intrepid. “So they are owners and that’s important to us,” Kelly said. “And with the next deal we want to do the same thing. We want people and partners who are invested in the success of the business going forward.”

That approach is the model Bluestone often follows as it invests in smaller firms to build emerging middle-tier companies. John Allen, co-founder and managing partner of Bluestone, described that strategy in an April Project 38 podcast.

Posted on Jul 14, 2021 at 9:27 AM0 comments

What the New York Times misses about DOD's meetings with Amazon

So I’m reading today’s New York Times article about connections and contacts between Amazon and the Defense Department.

Apparently some Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about meetings and email exchanges that took place been Amazon and other tech executives and senior Pentagon officials.

The article outlines several meetings and follow-up emails. The set up made it sound like these were horrible things that happened. An inspector general report on the now-cancelled JEDI cloud contract didn’t include much information about these meetings, which took place in 2017 and 2018.

The New York Times article refers to “concerns” over how that IG report “glossed over” the fact these meetings took place.

A pair of Republican lawmakers in Rep. Ken Buck (Colorado) and Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) want Amazon officials to testify under oath over whether they improperly tried to influence the JEDI contract.

It should be noted that Amazon lost the contract to Microsoft, which sparked Amazon’s lawsuit arguing that President Trump hated Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and he influenced DOD to pick Microsoft over Amazon.

DOD's IG found no evidence of that influence. But the lawsuit did lead DOD to cancel the JEDI contract last week and go with a new cloud acquisition.

The New York Times article summarizes all of that. But it then goes on to describe a series of meetings then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had with senior executives from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and other global technology companies during 2017 and 2018. After these meetings, DOD released a new cloud adoption strategy and JEDI came soon after that.

My problem with the article is the subtext that there was something wrong with Mattis having these meetings. Something scandalous has to be going on is what the article seems to be saying. That’s the tone I pick up anyway.

Maybe this is my bias, but I’d be more concerned if Mattis and others in government weren’t meeting with these companies. It should be a regular part of doing business for the government. They need to observe, learn and adapt what works well and efficiently in the private sector and bring it into government.

I can’t help but think about a story I heard after the CIA mistakenly bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999. Much of the blame fell to the use of outdated maps.

A speaker relayed how FedEx officials told DOD to use the company's maps because it had every building mapped to its precise location. They had drivers going there almost every day.

FedEx had to know precise locations because its business relies on that information. That kind of pressure, and in that case FedEx's very existence, forces commercial companies to constantly innovate.

So as the Defense Department looks to improve and transform -- something Mattis talked about from day one as defense secretary -- it makes perfect sense to go to the commercial companies driving the kind of innovation he was looking for.

Who else should he talk to but Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google? DOD has been visiting companies in Silicon Valley for the last decade. Some also argue that the federal government built Silicone Valley in the aftermath of World War II.

The New York Times article reads like it is scandalous and unethical that Mattis and others met with these executives.

But he was just doing what a good executive does -- meet the smartest people you can. If anything, the meetings should be applauded. More of them are needed.

Posted on Jul 13, 2021 at 10:37 AM0 comments

NCI protects its turf with CMS win

A $21 million win may not be large but the message about its legacy speaks volumes.

NCI Information Systems has protected a decades’ long relationship with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by winning a professional services contract for appeals management.

The company has supported CMS' Office of Hearings and Inquiries for 20 years and will continue to review Risk Adjustment Data Validation, or RADV appeals, and provide administrative management of the Medicare Geographic Classification Review Board applications and cases.

“By leveraging our deep understanding of the agency’s processes, together with our decades of success in developing effective data management solutions, we look forward to providing CMS with insights that are defensible, accurate and timely,” said NCI CEO Paul Dillahay in a release.

The contract has one base year and four option years. NCI will provide intake, preliminary review, support of hearing logistics, appeal adjudication recommendations, and disposition support as part of CMS’ processing of RADV appeals.

Other areas where NCI is supporting CMIS include the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing contract and the Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM) contract. For 20 years, NCI has also worked under the CMS Center for Program Integrity and the CMS Office of Financial Management contracts.

Posted on Jul 13, 2021 at 11:54 AM0 comments

Northrop, NASA finalize $935M moon orbiter contract

NASA and Northrop Grumman have finalized a $935 million contract for the company to build an orbiting space station that will circle the moon and facilitate lunar missions.

The Habitation and Logistics Outpost for Gateway, or HALO orbiter, is part of NASA’s Artemis program to further human exploration of space. 

HALO will attach and integrate with the Power and Propulsion Element being built by Maxar Technologies under a separate $375 million contract. The orbiter also have to be compatible with SpaceX’s $2.9 billion human lunar lander craft. That contract is currently under protest.

Both HALO and PPE will be delivered to their moon orbit by the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. NASA is targeting November 2024 for a launch.

“NASA is building the infrastructure to expand human exploration further into the solar system than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The space agency describes HALO as a “near-rectilinear halo orbit," which means that it is wide-flat orbit with two sides being nearly straight. HALO will be tens of thousands of miles from the surface of the moon at its furthest, and then close to the moon to launch lunar landers.

The orbit will allow HALO to conduct deep space science as well as conduct lunar exploration, NASA said.

HALO will have three docking ports and will host international habitat being built by the space agencies of Japan and Europe. HALO also will have a refueling module.

The new contract follows an initial $187 million award in 2020 for initial design work.

Posted on Jul 12, 2021 at 10:35 AM0 comments

Maximus' deals set the stage for more growth

Maximus has muscled its way up the Top 100 rankings by making at least one blockbuster acquisition nearly every year for the past three. For the 2021 rankings, we have a couple to pick from.

There is the acquisition of Attain’s federal business for $430 million, which added about $200 million in annual revenue. Quickly on the heels of that was the June 1 acquisition of Veterans Evaluation Services Inc. for $1.4 billion, Maximus’ largest-ever acquisition to date. VES should bring in between $480 million and $525 million in annual revenue.

There also is the leadership transition at the head of its federal business with its long-time leader retiring.

Maximus reached No. 25 on the Top 100 this year with $1.6 billion in prime contracts in fiscal year 2020.

Though the retirement of long-time federal leader Tom Romeo doesn’t have a revenue story line, it is no less a milestone for the company given his leadership over the years and the potential road ahead for the new leader.

Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell knows Romeo’s shoes will be a challenge to fill. But Caswell also believes the new federal leader in Terry Weipert has an advantage perhaps given she comes from outside the company.

“Whenever possible we try to promote from within,” Caswell said. “But there’s something to be said about bringing in somebody with a fresh perspective and an external view and Terry Weipert is a great example of that.”

Weipert has over 30 years of government contracting experience and has worked at IBM. She led the delivery of IBM’s health care, life sciences and state, local and education solutions.

She also brings business process outsourcing experience from Sutherland Global Services and has led programs at Unisys and Accenture.

During her first month on the job in April, Romeo continued to run day-to-day operations as she learned more about the business. In May, Romeo stepped back but remains with the company to act as a resource for Weipert and to help with some business development activities.

One early priority will be the integration of the Attain and VES acquisitions. There are a lot of basics to get through such as submitting time cards and using accounting systems, Caswell said.

“There’s also a lot to learn about the biorhythms of the business -- how do you get bids through, what’s the approval process, what’s the levels of authority that individuals have,” he said.

Because of priorities at VES’ primary customers in the Veterans Affairs Department, Caswell said the company will hold off on most back office integration so it can focus on COVID-related work at the VA.

“We’ve got time to really focus on customer delivery and then ultimately on integration,” Caswell said.

Priority two for Weipert will be pulling in Attain’s capabilities through Maximus contract vehicles they now have access to such as Alliant 2, CIO-SP3, and the Internal Revenue Service's Total Information Processing Support Services program.

“A priority will be to deliver on that goal of mid-, single-digit organic growth and I feel like we’ve set the table for that with Attain,” Caswell said.

More growth will come from VES but for the next year it will be focused on helping the VA clear the backlog of benefit assessments that have piled up because of COVID delays.

But even with just Attain, the opportunity is ripe for Weipert.

“In a way I’m envious. I’d love to come into a business like this that is crescendoing on Tom’s excellent contributions over the years,” Caswell said. “At the same time it is poised with a whole new set of skills and capabilities and a great reputation… to me it’s a dream job.”

Attain didn’t have the scale or the past performance on large projects to pursue opportunities that are now open to it as part of Maximus, Caswell said.

“They didn’t have the critical mass or credibility on larger deals,” Caswell said. “We’ll be able to bring more investment to that business and more capabilities.”

One area of investment will be business development. Similar to most smaller professional services firms, BD is done at Maximus by the partners or the senior leaders. They are delivering and selling at the same time.

“But now we've got a BD team that we can align with them in their accounts and give them access to bigger opportunities and the ability to play on a bigger stage,” Caswell said.

Acquiring Attain brought Maximus more capabilities that will drive the digital transformation of their customers such as DevSecOps, artificial intelligence, machine learning, agile development and data science.

“All of that is front and center in terms of government leaders thinking about IT transformation and what the future looks like,” Caswell said. “Those are critical capabilities for the future of their agencies and we couldn’t wait. We needed to be there now.”

Posted on Jul 09, 2021 at 12:28 PM0 comments

Oracle, Mythics win second shot at ICE cloud infrastructure competition

The Homeland Security Department has hit the reset on a $100 million contract for a cloud infrastructure contract to support its Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

DHS and ICE cancelled the solicitation after protests by Oracle and one of its major resellers in Mythics objected to the requirement that bidders offer Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

The protestors argued that specifying the brand names in the solicitation put a limitation on competition. In other words: Oracle and Mythics were shut out of the competition for the blanket purchase agreement because they do not offer AWS and Azure.

It should then be no surprise that DHS and ICE cancelled the solicitation. Recent history shows the agencies would have lost the protest and be told by the Government Accountability Office to either open up the competition or write a better justification for why the competition should be restricted to AWS and Azure.

Oracle and Mythics faced the same situation last year when the Library of Congress limited competition to vendors offering AWS, Google and Azure. Oracle and Mythics won that protest, though the contract was eventually won by an AWS strategic partner in Four Points.

If DHS and ICE follow that pattern, they will release a new solicitation that makes no mention of brand name cloud infrastructure providers. That is what they should have done in the first place, though of course Oracle and Mythics are not guaranteed a win in the end even with this initial victory.

Posted on Jul 02, 2021 at 10:30 AM0 comments

Air Force asks for reconsideration of $4B protest that went against them

The Air Force has asked the Government Accountability Office to rethink a decision to sustain a protest filed by ManTech International involving a highly classified, $4 billion contract.

I’ve tried and failed to get more details on this contract and the still-sealed GAO decision.

I do know this is an odd one, given that ManTech was one of three winners alongside General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

The unanswered question remains why would a company that was a winner protest? ManTech has declined to comment.

The Air Force will use the contract to implement security protocols, conduct information security operations, counterintelligence training, analysis, and investigations. The three companies are to compete for task orders.

On June 17, GAO ruled in ManTech’s favor and is still working with the Air Force on a public version of the decision. Given that the work is classified, the Air Force has the final say on what can be released. That could take months.

Only if and then, we will get any insights into what ManTech protested and why GAO agreed.

The reconsideration filed by the Air Force is a request for GAO to take a second look at the decision. These moves rarely result in a reversal, but I guess there is always a chance.

Posted on Jul 02, 2021 at 11:01 AM0 comments

Deadline extended for Industry Innovator Awards

A lot of effort goes into innovation, as does what goes into nominating your successes for recognition. So we’ve extended the deadline for the 2021 Industry Innovation Awards.

In fact, the deadline for all the Government Innovation Awards has been extended to 11:59 Eastern time on Friday, July 16.

Click here to submit your nomination. Don’t wait until the night before.

This is a great opportunity to brag about what you’ve accomplished in a year that really has been like no other.

We want to recognize and celebrate the vital role government contractors play in the public sector IT community.

Any company supporting the public sector is eligible for a 2021 Industry Innovator award. Nominees will be judged based on their contributions and leadership in the government market over the past year.

We are looking for examples of what industry has done to bring innovation to their government customers. We aren’t looking for work on a specific project, but instead seeking examples of how you have developed a technology solution or offering that meets a customer need in a new and unique way.

Winners will be selected on three core criteria:

Tangible evidence of efforts driving innovation in this space. That includes but is not limited to internal investments, acquisitions, partnerships or alliances, relevant patents and key contract wins.

The innovative solution itself -- both the technology involved and how the company is leveraging it.

Mission impact: problems or challenges that government customers need to solve, and how this innovative company is helping to address those challenges.

The form calls out several specific technology areas -- artificial intelligence, analytics and automation, cybersecurity, cloud and infrastructure, digital transformation, Internet of Things and smart cities, and unmanned systems.

But your company’s work can be in any corner of government IT. The focus should be on how your solution serves your customer and addresses a need.

The awards program is part of broader effort by Washington Technology and our sibling publications FCW, GCN and Defense Systems to recognize and celebrate innovations that are occurring across the government market.

Posted on Jul 01, 2021 at 1:55 PM0 comments

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