Army chooses 14 for $2.4B cyber range support contract

The Army has picked the winners of a $2.4 billion contract to support the National Cyber Range Complex with testing, planning and events.

In essence, the complex is a model of the internet that is used to test cyber tools and simulate attacks and responses to attacks.

The new contract is broken into two categories: one for event planning and design, and the second for event execution and operations. Each category has several subcategories.

Category 1's areas include re-engineering and creating realistic internet simulations, along with identifying needed skill sets.

Category 2 covers work to maintain the infrastructure such as data centers and networks, plus the skills needed to develop and manage training and evaluation events.

The National Cyber Range Complex was developed in 2011 and has been managed by Lockheed Martin under a $750 million contract it won in 2014. For this new contract, the Army went with a multiple-award approach and selected Lockheed as one of the 14.

The range has grown greatly over recent years from a small initial number of test beds to an expected 32 in fiscal year 2022. Some of the training uses include vulnerability assessments, cyber mission force training, product and solutions evaluation and architecture evaluations.

Eight small businesses (designated with an asterisk) are among the other 13 newcomers:

  • BAE Systems
  • Boeing
  • The MIL Corp.
  • Scientific Research Corp.
  • Ad Hoc Research LLC *
  • Axiologic Solutions LLC
  • Command Post Technologies *
  • DigiFlight *
  • Dignitas Technologies *
  • ISYS Technologies *
  • Sealing Technologies *
  • Sentar*
  • X Technologies *

Awardees will compete for task orders to support the cyber range. In addition to the training and simulation work, the range also is looking to modernize and requires enterprise IT services.

The Army received 29 bids for the contract that runs through July 26, 2031.

Posted on Jul 28, 2021 at 12:16 PM0 comments

Accenture (finally) touts big Army ERP win

It has been nearly two years since Accenture first was awarded a nearly $729 million contract to consolidate several Army enterprise resource planning systems.

The Army Unified Enterprise Planning Capability Support Services contract was highly contested by IBM, which filed multiple protests before exhausting its appeals at the Government Accountability Office. Accenture first one the contract in late 2019.

But now Accenture is now free to announce and tout the win with the Army Shared Services Center, which wants to consolidate several ERP systems into a single management contract and a single operating model. Accenture and IBM were incumbents on several of the predecessor contracts.

Accenture will provide change management, agile development, quality assurance and other support functions.

“This is an important opportunity to help the Army sustain its legacy systems yet enhance modernization through advanced technologies such as automated enterprise services,” Vince Vlasho, senior managing director of Accenture Federal Services’ defense portfolio.

Accenture already supports a cloud-based payroll and accounting project for the Army known as the Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation Non-Appropriated Fund Integrated Financial Management System.

The company will apply commercial technologies to meet the Army’s needs during the contract’s six-year run, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, deputy director of Accenture’s defense portfolio.

Posted on Jul 27, 2021 at 10:35 AM0 comments

IBM further builds out federal team

Over the past several months, IBM's federal business has added several former senior government leaders for more cloud and artificial intelligence brainpower it positions itself to purse more digital transformation opportunities.

Big Blue has made those hires in the wake of recent executive orders such as the Biden administration’s EO on improving the nation’s cybersecurity posture.

The order establishes a framework to develop and issue new requirements in areas such as software supply chain security, threat information sharing, and federal IT modernization and procurement.

As we covered last week, IBM has already revealed its hire of Margie Graves as digital modernization strategist and senior fellow at IBM Center for the Business Government. She’s the former deputy federal chief information officer.

Some of other new hires over the last few months include:

Retired Maj. Gen. Brian T. Dravis as a partner in the defense and intelligence group of the IBM Federal Global Business Services unit. He’s a former director of the Defense Information Systems Agency's Joint Service Provider organization and oversaw a $1 billion IT portfolio.

Troy Edgar as partner of finance and supply chain transformation. He most recently was chief financial officer of the Homeland Security Department.

Retired Lt. Gen. John W. Morgan III as client lead for federal, defense and Army. He joins the company from Northrop Grumman. While in the Army, he led the Allied Force Command at NATO.

Kevin Aylward, Kyle House and David Robbins also joined the IBM federal team as partners.

These hires follow the hire last year of Terry Halvorsen, the former Defense Department CIO.

Posted on Jul 27, 2021 at 11:32 AM0 comments

TOP 100: Smartronix using deals, awards to build on cloud expertise

Smartronix continues to solidify its position on the Top 100 through strategic acquisitions and important contract wins.

With the backing of private equity firm OceanSound Partners since late 2019, Smartronix is pursuing a strategy to be a leading provider of cloud migration and solutions around data and digital transformation.

The strategy accelerated when OceanSound brought in Peter LaMontagne as CEO a year ago. Smartronix has since closed two acquisitions in Datastrong and C2S Consulting Group, made several strategic hires, and built out a series of cloud accreditations and certifications.

Smartronix is ranked No. 58 on the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100 with $471.3 million in prime contracts.

LaMontagne said the company’s strategy has crystallized over the last year as Smartronix has moved its solutions further up the technology stack. The company has also sought to better define its solutions and how they drive managed services offerings.

“We’ve also invested in how we go to market and we are better defining our markets,” LaMontagne said. This includes how the company supports combatant commands and how it is embraces commercial markets that are highly regulated.

“The best affirmation of our strategy is the acquisition of C2S and Datastrong."

Smartronix's acquisition of Datastrong added more capabilities around enterprise analytics, data science, and data engineering and data management. Datastrong also brought new customers at the Justice and State departments.

Datastrong's commercial customers are from the pharmaceutical, financial services and education sectors. Those are some of the highly-regulated commercial markets LaMontange mentioned earlier.

“Also with Datastrong, there are a couple of initiatives that were pursuing with our current DOD client set that almost instantly accelerated because of the capabilities that Datastrong brought to the table,” he said.

Smartronix saw similar benefits from C2S, which was an immediate help on some bids that Smartronix wasn’t in a position to pursue on its own.

“The opportunity was on our radar screen and it is a client we very much want to help,” LaMontagne said. “We had the qualifications but not the affinity.”

C2S filled that gap and allowed Smartronix to match its contract vehicles and large-scale qualifications with the acquired company's customer experience and relationships.

“That makes the opportunity a real possibility,” he said.

Making that cliched one-plus-one-equals-three goal work takes a lot of effort in marketing externally with the customer as well as communicating across the company, LaMontagne said.

He credited C2S founder Brandee Daly for playing a critical role in the early days of the integration effort. She joined Smartronix as the executive vice president for strategic cloud initiatives, but has recently left the company.

“She instantly opened up the business and allowed great connectivity as did the team from Datastrong,” LaMontagne said. “Our team was hungry for more capability and understanding what they were doing.”

LaMontagne likened it to when someone joins a family through marriage.

“When someone marries into the family and it’s like, wow, we have this cool new relative. Let’s get to know everything about them,” he said.

Posted on Jul 26, 2021 at 1:21 PM0 comments

Amendments doing little to clarify CIO-SP4 confusion

Plenty of grumblings are all around the market about requirements in the solicitation for the $50 billion CIO-SP4 IT services contract and even a few protests.

Most of those concerns revolve around contractor teaming agreements and whose and how much past performance will count in a proposal.

A series of amendments by the National Institutes of Health's IT procurement shop have done little to clarify or ease the concerns voiced by many in industry.

The largest trade association, the Professional Services Council, has added its voice in letters to the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center that urge for a pause to reassess the needs and overall approach of CIO-SP4. PSC also asks that once an amended solicitation is released, bidders get 30 days to respond.

PSC doesn’t mince words in expressing its and industry’s problems with the solicitation and the subsequent amendments that seem to have sown more confusion.

“The seven amendments published since late May have served to further compound industry concerns and have forced potential offerors to consider alternative strategies or decide not to bid on the CIO-SP4 opportunity,” wrote Stephanie Kostro, PSC executive vice president for policy in a July 22 letter to NIH.

Many of the concerns echo ones raised by PSC in a June 28 letter that complained about surprises in the May 25 request for proposals and subsequent amendments.

“In fact, elements of those amendments have created more anxiety and concern among the contractor community,” Kostro wrote in June when there were only four amendments.

One day after receiving the latest PSC letter, NITAAC issued another amendment to defend its approach to teaming agreements. Those agreements are different for small business, other than small, and emerging large businesses.

NITAAC cites the Small Business Administration regulation that requires agencies to look at the capabilities, past performance and experience of first-tier subcontractors when a small business prime doesn’t have the necessary capabilities and past performance.

NITAAC also said in Amendment 8 that bidders should not worry about their point totals to move beyond Phase 1. The government will pick the companies with the highest points up to a certain number of companies.

For example, NITAAC expects to pick between 75 and 125 awards for other than small, and 100-to-125 awards for small business. Woman-owned, veteran-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, HUBzone, 8(a) and emerging large businesses should expect between 20 and 40 awards in each category. Indian economic enterprise and Indian small business economic enterprise will get between five and 10 awards each.

I’m not a big procurement expert, but I’m not sure Amendment 8 addresses concerns from industry or clarifies anything.

The due date for proposals remains Aug. 3 and that’s a real sticking point for industry as PSC makes clear in its letter that asks for the pause so a final “clean amendment” can be issued. Then bidders should have 30 days to respond.

NITAAC has done little to ease the concerns raised in PSC’s July 22 letter so keep an eye out for more amendments. Whether they address industry concerns or not, or even just extend the deadline, is another matter.

Posted on Jul 23, 2021 at 11:15 AM0 comments

Shield AI acquires firm that beat a human pilot

Any company whose artificial intelligence engine outperformed a human piloted fighter jet in a dogfight would get its profile raised more than a bit.

Heron Systems built that system and now has a buyer in Shield AI that sees artificial intelligence as a national security imperative.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Heron is a woman-owned small business headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.

The success of Heron’s AI pilot in that exercise versus an F-16 was what made them such an attractive takeover target for Shield AI. Heron took on the F-16 as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's AlphaDogfight trials in 2020.

“With China already showing comparable results, operationalizing Heron’s work for programs such as Next Generation Air Dominance must be a national security priority,” said Shield AI CEO Ryan Tseng.

Shield AI was already applying self-driving car technologies to military aircraft. The company sees this deal as helping it accelerate the development and deployment of AI pilot technologies for fighter jets and unmanned aerial systems.

According to Shield AI, China has already developed an AI pilot that is beating their human pilots in simulated dogfights.

Once the acquisition closes, Heron Systems will operate as a division of Shield AI.

Posted on Jul 22, 2021 at 12:38 PM0 comments

Protests over $10B DHS IT contract back under consideration

NOTE: This story has been extensively re-written because of some mistakes and mischaracterizations in the original story.

A pair of companies that saw their protests regarding the Homeland Security Department's $10 billion FirstSource III contract dismissed over being untimely are asking the Government Accountability Office to reconsider that decision.

Sources are indicating those two small businesses will see their original protests reinstated.

But first I have to explain a couple mistakes I made in writing the original story that was published a few days ago.

I wrote that KPaul Properties and Z-SofTech Solutions had been eliminated from the competition for FirstSource III, DHS' vehicle for acquiring IT hardware and software from small businesses. They were not eliminated. That was a misunderstanding on my part. I got that wrong.

The companies protested requirements in the solicitation that dealt with certain ISO certifications that were required as part of the phase one submission for FirstSource III.

GAO did not rule on the merit of those protests. Instead, the oversight agency dismissed the protests because it believed they came after the due date for the phase one submissions. The appropriate time to raise those kinds of objections is before submissions are due.

Here is where another misunderstanding occurred. The companies actually submitted their protests before the due date, which had been extended by DHS. But GAO apparently didn’t know about the extension.

It is unclear how that misunderstanding occurred. But somehow GAO worked from the wrong date and made the decision.

GAO will not comment since it is a now active case. I’ve asked KPaul and Z-SofTech companies for copies of their requests for reconsideration. No luck there so far.

My hunch is that GAO will act on the requests for reconsideration by reinstating the original protests and adjudicating those.

If the case goes to a full decision, we’ll probably learn what happened with the date. If DHS takes a corrective action that addresses the protests, we’ll likely never learn what happened. But we’ll keep trying.

Posted on Jul 22, 2021 at 1:35 PM0 comments

VTG 'dazzles' with Navy laser win

In recent years, VTG has installed a laser device as a pilot for the Navy and now will proceed on rolling the system out on five Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers under a new $9 million contract.

The laser device is known as the AN/SEQ 4 Optical Dazzler Interdictor, or ODIN. It is a defensive technology for “optical dazzling of adversaries’ long-range and very long-range surveillance systems,” VTG said in a press release.

In essence, the ODIN laser “blinds” the surveillance and reconnaissance sensors. The laser is built to protect ships from threatening unmanned aerial systems.

VTG installed systems on the USS Stockdale and USS Spruance as part of a pilot under a sole-source contract. The contract for the five destroyers was competed in a full-and-open environment, the company said.

“The ODIN laser represents a significant advancement for the Navy in addressing asymmetric threats and protecting our sailors,” said John Hassoun, VTG president and CEO.

This laser is being developed and built by the government at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren Division. Under the new contract, VTG will work with the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Port Hueneme Division to install the systems on the destroyers.

Posted on Jul 21, 2021 at 1:29 PM0 comments

CACI records another big win at Defense Threat Reduction Agency

CACI International has extended it win streak with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency by winning a $1.4 billion follow on contract for work countering weapons of mass destruction and other threat networks.

The company has worked with DTRA for 14 years and this win follows a $1.7 billion award back in 2016. This new contract was a task order issued under the OASIS vehicle that extends and expands the work CACI does for DTRA.

CACI will provide DTRA with a wide range of analytical expertise to counter and deter multi-faceted threats. This includes enhancing situational awareness of threat networks. The company also will support combatant commands with the integration of analysis, capabilities, and technologies to defeat adversary networks that pose a threat.

The new task order has one base year and four individual option years. CACI competed against one other bidder for the work.

Winning recompetes is a point of pride for CACI. In this case, CACI CEO John Mengucci said in a release that it highlights CACI’s understanding of DTRA’s mission and is a testament to the company’s commitment to the customer.

Mengucci spoke about that commitment in our recent Top 100 profile of the company.

“Our continued success and growth demonstrate that our expertise, and technological investments are not just meeting our customers’ most critical needs but are exceeding and anticipating them in a proactive manner,” he said.

Posted on Jul 21, 2021 at 11:04 AM0 comments

CIO-SP4 amendments clear out most early protests, extend due date

The procurement shop at the National Institutes of Health has apparently satisfied several early complaints over the solicitation for the $50 billion CIO-SP4 IT services contract.

NIH's IT Acquisition and Assessment Center was hit with several protests following the release of the solicitation. But since the original release, NITAAC has issued a series of amendments that they and the Government Accountability Office believe address concerns raised.

Most of the protesters objected to how past performance from teaming partners would count in the proposals. NITAAC put some limits on the past performance of partners. The latest amendments issued Friday addressed the concerns raised by six of the eight protests.

GAO dismissed the protests filed by Sara Software Systems, GPSItek JV, Amaxiam LLC, Reliable Mission Solutions, Mahani Technical Services and 2TeckJV.

Still active are the protests by Tat America International Corp. and AgilisTEK LLC.

One of the active protests claims there are ambiguities in the solicitation. The other challenges the self-scoring rating system.

Both of these are the kind of issues that can and will likely be resolved without going to a full GAO decision. So we’ll look for a couple more dismissals in the coming weeks.

NITAAC can continue to move forward with the contract except for the awards while protests are pending. It can’t make awards while protests are pending. But that likely won’t be an issue.

More protests are possible though unlikely. NITAAC continues to make amendments and has pushed back the due date for proposals to Aug. 3.

In other amendments, small business bidders must now submit the teaming agreements they sign. Previously, there was no requirement for formal documentation of the teaming relationships.

The solicitation also prohibits the use of subcontractors to provide business systems capabilities such as CMMI, Earned Value Management, and ISO-certifications for bidders in the Other than Small and Emerging Large Business categories. If you must rely on a sub for those business systems, then you must form a joint venture.

It looks like NITAAC is listening to industry, who have complained about the teaming requirements laid out in the original solicitation. Many of the amendments have tightened and clarified what is allowed and what isn’t.

Posted on Jul 20, 2021 at 9:09 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

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