Some good news for ManTech on its cyber range protest

The Army is inching closer to clearing out a couple protests involving its $2.4 billion contract to support the National Cyber Range Complex.

In July, the Army made 14 awards to companies to provide testing, planning and event services at the range, which is in essence a model of the internet. The range is used to test tools and simulate attacks and responses to attacks.

ManTech International and the BKM IDS Mentor-Protégé joint venture then filed protests with the Government Accountability Office over not being selected for an award.

Both companies are arguing that there are problems with how the evaluation was awarded.

GAO has dismissed ManTech’s protest after the Army said it would re-evaluate its proposal and make a new selection decision.

But the Army is not doing the same for BKM IDS, so that protest remains active and could headed to a GAO decision.

BKM IDS pursued an award in the small business category. A decision on that protest is expected by Nov. 19.

Eight of the 14 winners are small businesses. The remaining six are large businesses including Lockheed Martin, which built the range in 2011 and has managed it since 2014 under a $750 million contract.

The new contract greatly expands the services and how the cyber range will be used.

Posted on Sep 02, 2021 at 7:55 AM0 comments

Now officially open: the Patent and Trademark Office's $2B BOSS software contract

The Patent and Trademark Office has officially prevailed against a second group of protestors that challenged the agency's awards for its $2 billion PTO Business Oriented Software Solutions vehicle.

Now that the Government Accountability Office has released its 30-page denial, PTO is free to begin awarding task orders under the vehicle.

Small businesses whose protests were denied are:

  • Stratera Fulcrum Technologies
  • M6-Vets
  • Metric 8
  • MERPTech LLC
  • RCH Partners LLC

That group of small business protesters challenged the awards to RIVA Solutions, Halvik Corp. and Steampunk.

Salient CRGT's protest was denied earlier in the summer. That company competed in the full-and-open portion and challenged the awards to Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corp.

Salient CRGT argued the comparative analysis among the three large businesses was unreasonable and not adequately documented. The analysis wasn’t consistent with the terms of the solicitation, according to the company.

GAO disagreed and ruled in PTO’s favor.

Booz Allen and SAIC are the only two large businesses on the contract.

An earlier protest by General Dynamics IT was withdrawn by that company. 

Work areas for BOSS include software development and integration, testing, configuration management, production, software maintenance and transition, and program management. Companies will also vie to help in architecture and design, coding, defect triaging and user experience design.

The contract was awarded in April.

Posted on Sep 02, 2021 at 12:29 PM0 comments

Palantir backs satellite intelligence company

Palantir has extended its partnership with an emerging geospatial intelligence firm by making an equity investment.

Terms of Palantir's investment in BlackSky Holdings were not disclosed, but it follows a pilot program that saw BlackSky deliver insights and intelligence to Palantir customers within minutes of collection and without human interaction.

BlackSky said Wednesday that program involved several geospatial intelligence customers.

“This collaboration further enables BlackSky to put the power of real-time intelligence in the hands of the user by allowing Palantir customers to directly task our satellites, reduce decision-making timelines and increase the delivery of on-demand insights,” BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said in a release.

Following the pilot, the two companies have signed a multi-year software subscription agreement. They will integrate BlackSKy’s Spectra AI offering with Palantir Foundry.

“This partnership directly connects space sensors to action, accelerating operations across domains, from space to mud,” said Palantir Chief Operating Officer Shyam Sankar.

BlackSky is in the process of combining with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company formed to acquire another business and take it to the public markets.]

That deal is expected to close Sept. 8, after which BlackSky will list on the New York Stock Exchange.

Posted on Sep 01, 2021 at 12:08 PM0 comments

We're part of another GovExec media buy

Usually we write about other people’s acquisitions, but today we get to write about us being acquired.

GovExec, publisher and producer of several public sector products including NextGov and Route Fifty, has acquired Washington Technology and the rest of the Public Sector 360 division from our parent company 1105 Media Inc.

Financial terms were not disclosed. GovExec is backed by private equity firm Growth Catalyst Partners.

WT's sibling publications FCW, GCN and Defense Systems are all now part of the GovExec group. The purchase also includes Public Sector 360’s events including Fed 100 and marketing services businesses.

This just the latest in what can be easily described as a buying spree by GovExec. Their acquisitions over the last several months have included GovTribe, Government Marketing University, Power Almanac, City & State New York, the Atlas for Cities, Military Periscope, and Government Contracting Institute.

GovExec began its run of deals in December 2020 with the Atlas for Cities acquisition, but the bulk has come in a rush with six announced transactions including ours since June.

To be honest -- I’m excited by this. GovExec, from their very name, is focused solely on the public sector.

I’m also very glad that my current boss Troy Schneider will take on the role of general manager of the government technology brands for GovExec.

In their release, GovExec cites three business reasons for acquiring us

  • Expanded audience in government technology
  • Supercharge growth of its subscription platforms
  • Development of a powerful engagement platform in the public sector

The second bullet falls directly in our area because Washington Technology is the only publication in the Public Sector 360 group that is subscription-based.

“GovExec will immediately look to expand the renowned Washington Technology subscription membership platform, while leveraging the brand’s unique community building expertise,” the company wrote in its release.

GovExec has some subscription-based businesses through its acquisitions of GovTribe, The Atlas and Military Periscope. I’ll have some new brethren to work with.

“This will accelerate the growth of the existing subscription portfolio... and potential new offerings across its fast-growing portfolio of research and decision-support tools,” GovExec said in its release.

“With each strategic decision we make, we look for the ability to leap us forward, build our expertise in new areas and complement our larger portfolio to expand results for our customers,” said Tim Hartman, CEO of GovExec.

I’m not going to let my excitement blind me of course. There is a lot of work ahead -- but it should be a lot of fun.

Posted on Aug 31, 2021 at 12:29 PM0 comments

Serco continues push for lost $354M Navy contract

Serco Inc. continues to fight for an incumbent Navy contract it picked up more than two years ago when it acquired the naval engineering business of Alion Science & Technology.

Booz Allen Hamilton wrested the $354 million contract away from Serco when it was tapped by the Navy to support the SEA 21 office that manages the lifecycle maintenance of non-nuclear surface ships.

Serco filed its first protest in late February, which resulted in the Navy pulling the award back from Booz Allen. In its corrective action, the Navy said it would reassess its selection decision.

Now they have and they have again picked Booz Allen. And now comes Serco’s second protest. The company is making a similar argument as the first time around – the Navy didn’t conduct a proper evaluation. If it had, Serco would have won, according to Serco’s argument.

Serco filed its new protest on Aug. 27. A decision from GAO is expected by Dec. 6.

Alion won the professional services contract in 2015. Serco acquired the company’s naval systems business in 2019 as part of a strategy to become an end-to-end provider of design and sustainment work for the Defense Department.

Posted on Aug 31, 2021 at 12:47 PM0 comments

Carahsoft's Abod says 'community' is critical success factor

As this year's FCW Eagle Award recipient, Carahsoft founder and CEO Craig Abod was recognized at the annual Fed 100 gala Friday for the many strides he and his company have made to make it easier for government customers to buy the technology they need to meet their missions.

One recent example includes the Carahsoft Cloud Purchasing program launched last year to simplify cloud purchases and give government buyers access to more than 90 cloud-related vendors.

But in accepting his award, Abod didn’t talk technology or process breakthroughs. His speech centered on community.

“This industry is really a community,” he said. “One that is unique and vibrant... and everyone in this industry contributes to our joint successes.”

Abod founded Carahsoft in 2004 and it has since grown into one of the largest value-added resellers and technology product distributors in the market. Carahsoft ranked No. 30 on the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100 with $1.2 billion in prime contracts, up 10 spots from the year before.

Abod cut his teeth in the market working for people such as Dendy Young, former CEO of GTSI and one of the pioneers of the reseller business.

“He gave me my first job and my second job in this industry,” Abod said. Young sat at Abod’s table during the Fed 100 gala Friday night.

“I truly believe that this award -- that tonight’s gala -- celebrates the intersections and synergies among these community members,” he said. “And as our community continues to evolve, each of our roles become more important.”

He included small businesses, large systems integrators, emerging companies and large technology firms as those in the community.

“We all exist, grow and partner together to serve the greatest customer in the world,” he said.

He urged the government officials in attendance to push their industry partners and to leverage them as more than sources of technology.

“Push us to be advocates for your important missions, push us to listen to your needs and bring the best solutions to bear…. So you can better serve your constituents,” he said.

In accepting the award, Abod thanked the Carahsoft team, which now includes his daughter Carah. She lent her name to the company and joined it three years ago. Abod’s son Connor now works for another emerging technology company, founded coincidentally by two former Fed100 winners.

He also recognized his wife Kim, “who has supported me throughout this journey and has put up with decades of late nights and long weekends.”

Posted on Aug 30, 2021 at 11:50 AM0 comments

Phebe Novakovic offers career, leadership advice in rare interview

General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic is famously reticent about talking to media. She answers questions from financial analysts representing institutional investors during GD’s quarterly calls and will occasionally speak with certain national business outlets -- the operative word there is “occasionally.”

But she recently spoke with Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein for an episode of his Peer-to-Peer Conversations show on Bloomberg Television that aired this past weekend. The full interview is embedded below this article.

I watched for couple reasons. First, she so rarely gives interviews that the show is almost must-see TV for anyone in the government market.

Second, I wanted to hear what she said about the two parts of GD we pay the most attention to: the Information Technology services business and Mission Systems, which makes IT hardware.

At round the 12:48 mark, Rubenstein asks about the “information business” as he calls it. He sets the question up by wondering if the information business is the biggest driver of growth for defense companies because of the cyber work they do.

She tells us nothing beyond the nugget that there is “cyber in all we do,” including the massive Abrams Main Battle Tank that serves as the backdrop for the interview.

She also said submarines are what is driving GD's growth. But that’s it.

As a colleague said, it was an inartful question. There was no probing about why nearly all the other large defense hardware companies have jettisoned their IT services businesses, while GD invested with the CSRA acquisition three years ago. Why does being in that market make sense for GD when it didn’t make sense for its peers?

That was a disappointment when I have my narrow IT-focused goggles on.

Otherwise, I thought the interview offered some nice highlights even if it retreaded some familiar storylines such as her time working as a case officer for the CIA. She actually admitted to being a spy but declined to share any of her cover stories.

Rubenstein asked a couple questions around whether she knew early on that she could be the CEO of General Dynamics. She dismissed that kind of thinking as hubris.

Novakovic praised former CEO Nicholas Chabraja, who led GD from 1997 to 2009. She worked as his chief of staff, which gave her an up close look at how a strong and intelligent CEO operates.

“I was the beneficiary of a lot of learning,” she said.

Her advice for women looking to rise in the corporate ranks:

“Be part of a team and do the job in front of you as best as you possibly can. In a functional organization, the rest will take care of itself,” she said. “If it is a dysfunctional organization, all bets are off. Get out of there.”

She gives the same advice to men.

Novakovic also offered some insights on the qualities necessary for a successful CEO.

“A good leader needs good character,” she said. You also need a smattering of capabilities -- finance, problem solving, and thinking strategically.

“And you need perseverance. Sometimes you just have to never stop. Never quit."

A good leader also needs a strong moral compass.

“You have to constantly question, Am I doing the right thing? If you aren’t asking yourself that regularly, you run the risk of failing to see potential errors,” Novakovic said.

She also talked about the need to “see around square corners” by questioning your decisions and your strategy.

“Why are we doing this? Why aren’t we doing that?’ she said. “Teasing out those answers is where you find opportunity.”

Posted on Aug 30, 2021 at 11:11 AM0 comments

SBA backs protest over facility clearance requirement for joint ventures

When the Small Business Administration weighs in and says that an agency misunderstands its regulations, we can be fairly certain that company’s bid protest will prevail.

That’s what happened to InfoPoint LLC, which protested provisions in an Air Force contract for command and control support services.

The Air Force required all joint ventures competing for the award meet certain secret facility clearance requirements on their own. Even when all the members of the JV met those requirements on an individual basis.

From the Air Force's perspective, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act required it.

But InfoPoint objected, citing provisions of the Small Business Act and SBA regulations in their protest with the Government Accountability Office. GAO then invited SBA to weigh in.

The Air Force said that there was nothing in the law or the regulations that prohibited the requirement that the JV meet the security requirements. But SBA countered by quoting the law and the regulations back to the Air Force.

It appears to be an easy decision for GAO, because the regulations were pretty explicit. If all members of a joint venture have already attained and meet secret facility clearance requirements, there is no need for the joint venture to go through the same process. It’s pretty straightforward.

GAO has told the Air Force to remove that requirement from the solicitation, which is for a five-year task order under the OASIS vehicle. The Air Force is looking to buy support services for command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

Posted on Aug 30, 2021 at 12:33 PM0 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

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

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