NSA told to rethink $10B cloud award to Amazon Web Services

Score this round to Microsoft in its ongoing rivalry with Amazon Web Services widely called the "Cloud Wars."

The Government Accountability Office has told the National Security Agency that it should rethink a highly-classified $10 billion cloud infrastructure award to AWS.

After the award, Microsoft went to GAO challenging how the evaluation was conducted.

GAO said it found “certain aspects of the agency’s evaluation to be unreasonable," according to a summary of the decision released Friday. The oversight body has recommended NSA re-evaluate proposals and make a new award determination.

Agencies are not legally bound to follow GAO’s decision. But if they do not follow that recommendation, the agency has to explain why in a report to Congress.

Little other than the contract's existence is known publicly. It does go by the name WildandStormy and the ceiling value has been pegged at $10 billion.

WildandStormy is a separate effort from the multiple-award Commercial Cloud Enterprise vehicle awarded last year for use by all 17 intelligence community agencies. Microsoft and AWS each hold seats on the 15-year C2E contract.

GAO’s decision is classified, but certainly lengthy. Heavy negotiations between GAO, AWS, Microsoft and NSA need to take place before we see a public version, but that remains a possibility. GAO said it intends to release a public version of the decision after the NSA conducts a security review and the companies scrub any proprietary information.

We first reported the award to AWS when we saw the Microsoft protest pop up in the GAO docket on July 22.

Given the classified nature of the work, the companies have been relatively quiet. Microsoft declined to comment and referred back to GAO’s statement. I’ll update this if I hear back anything from AWS.

Adding to the radio silence surrounding WandS is that all searches on the solicitation number (H98230-20-R-0225) yield nothing. General Google searches return nothing. Sam.gov and Deltek's GovWin come back empty.

Searches on “WildandStormy” only return news articles that followed the news of Microsoft bid protest.

That AWS and Microsoft are embroiled in another hotly contested cloud contract is no surprise. We watched their long battle for the Defense Department’s JEDI cloud infrastructure contract. Microsoft won and AWS took them court.

DOD eventually canceled JEDI and replaced it with a multiple-award vehicle that AWS and Microsoft are the only cloud providers on, though others could join.

Will that happen with WildandStormy? My gut says no but anything is possible. AWS does have the right to go to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, so we’ll watch that docket over the next several weeks.

Posted on Oct 29, 2021 at 11:13 AM0 comments


How General Dynamics IT handled the aftermath of George Floyd's death

General Dynamics IT found itself in a place it had not been before in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in June 2020.

Black employees were hurting and scared. Everyone was devastated by the brutality of Floyd’s murder. Like other companies across the market, GDIT facilitate discussions and support groups.

GDIT President Amy Gilliland knew she had to send a strong and clear message to employees.

“I was very deliberate,” Gilliland told me in a recent conversation. In addition to participating in conversations with employees, she released a video to the send the message that “I absolutely 100 percent will not tolerate hate in this company.”

Months ahead of the pandemic, GDIT established employee resource groups as it worked to integrate the acquisition of CSRA and create a new company culture. In the wake of Floyd’s death those groups took on a new mission.

“We had established the groups but I wouldn’t say they were a community,” she said. “We doubled down on how those communities engaged and how our leadership engaged. We had some really difficult conversations.”

Gilliland spoke with me following her presentation at the GDIT Women + Technology event on Tuesday.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion had always been something we were focused on but there was a realization on my part that we had a lot more work to do,” she said.

One area Gilliland focuses on is the diversity of the employees in the mid-level of their careers. These are where future leaders emerge.

“People need to see themselves in leadership,” she said. “From a gender perspective, I think people can see themselves but from a diversity perspective we have more work to do.”

GDIT is also doing more training around inclusion.

“How do we think differently?” she said. “Sometimes people just don’t think about what they say or how it might be heard by somebody else.”

GDIT is also looking at how it engages in the community and what the company gets involved in, particularly with respected to under-represented groups, Gilliland said.

“George Floyd was an impetus and a driver for us to accelerate the path we were going on but perhaps we weren’t going as fast as we should have,” she added.

Gilliland shared the video with me that she released to employees in the wake of Floyd’s death and her passion is evident.

“GDIT finds itself in a place it has not been before, having open conversations about race, discrimination and hatred. This is new and for many uncomfortable. But we must have this dialogue,” she said at the opening.

The company declined to let me post the video here. In it, Gilliland also acknowledges the pain and fear of her Black employees and extolls all of GDIT to speak up against prejudice and discrimination at work and in their communities.

“Help be a force of change,” she said. “Imagine the power of 30,000 of us denouncing hatred and bigotry in every walk of our lives. That is change.”

Posted on Oct 28, 2021 at 12:25 PM0 comments


George Wilson calling it a career at ECS Federal

After a nearly 11-year run at ECS Federal, George Wilson will call it a career at the end of this year executives for ECS' parent company ASGN announced his retirement from the business during its third quarter earnings call with investors Wednesday.

Wilson will be succeeded as president by John Heneghan, current chief operating officer of ECS.

Wilson joined ECS as executive vice president in February 2011, after what for most people would count as a career at Stanley Associates. He was part of the executive team that took Stanley from 20 employees and $2 million in annual revenue, to 6,000 employees and $900 million in annual revenue before it was acquired by CGI Group for $1 billion in August 2010.

In 2014, Wilson was named president and CEO of ECS and had already orchestrated several acquisitions. At that time, ECS had grown to about $300 million in revenue. Wilson told me after an acquisition in 2015 that he had a goal of hitting $500 million in a few years.

He called it “aggressive” but achievable. ECS broke that mark in 2017 when it reached $525 million in annual revenue.

In 2018, ECS was pushing to nearly $600 million in revenue when it was acquired by holding company ASGN Inc. for $775 million.

Wilson continued on as president of the business and had a new revenue goal -- reach $1 billion in sales by 2021.

Following a pattern, they reached that goal a year early by recording $1 billion in revenue in 2020.

The acquisitions also continued with ASGN's backing. Since 2019, ECS has closed six transactions as they’ve built out more capabilities around cybersecurity, data analytics, artificial intelligence, health IT and IT modernization.

“George and his leadership team have expertly navigated the federal government marketplace to meet the most critical and complex needs of our clients to reach $1.0 billion in revenues well ahead of our initial expectations,” ASGN CEO Ted Hanson said in announcing Wilson’s retirement.

The Stanley roots at ECS will continue with Heneghan as president. He came to ECS from CGI, the latter of which he joined through its acquisition of Stanley. Heneghan was named chief operating officer of ECS in January after working as a senior vice president for three years.

Posted on Oct 28, 2021 at 1:46 PM0 comments


PAE gets back into $850M DTRA competition after protest

PAE is back in the running to gain a seat on a $850 million professional services contract with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The company found itself on the outside looking in after being eliminated from the competition. But DTRA has let the company back in after an apparently convincing protest at the Government Accountability Office.

DTRA is using the contract to acquire “assessment, exercise and modeling and simulation support,” according to procurement documents posted by Deltek.

Up to six awards are planned, with three each for the large business pool and the same number for the separate small business pool. PAE obviously is bidding as a large business. Both pools share the $850 million ceiling. Task orders that are worth less than $4 million a year will be competed under the small business pool.

The contract bundles into a single vehicle several other contracts that are set to expire.

After PAE filed its protest, DTRA never officially responded to the issues the company raised. Instead, they came back and said PAE would get back into the competition.

This could mean PAE raised such strong points in the protest that DTRA couldn’t defend itself. Or it could mean that it was easier for DTRA to let PAE back in rather than defend a protest while also evaluating the other bidders.

We’ll have to watch and see if PAE actually wins a spot on the contract. If they do, this was definitely a protest worth filing. If they don’t, we’ll likely see them back at GAO.

Agencies have increasingly been using these two-tiered procurements because we’ve seen a number of protests by these companies when they’ve been eliminated. We also observe a lot of companies getting back into the competition after their protest.

It makes me wonder if it is worth it for agencies to do these two-step procurements if the protesters just get back in. When they do this, I think they are giving companies yet another incentive to protest.

Does anyone really want that?

Posted on Oct 28, 2021 at 12:01 PM0 comments


Protesting pays off for this small business

Protesting has paid off for a small business joint venture originally left off the list of winners for a $2.4 billion multiple-award contract to support the Army’s cyber range.

BKM IDS LLC is a mentor-protégé joint venture, whose bid was rejected by the Army for the small business portion of the National Cyber Range Complex contract to acquire event planning, operations and other support services.

The Army made 14 awards in July, after which BKM IDS protested to argue there were problems with the evaluation.

In September, the Army said it would take a second look at BKM IDS’ proposal and the protest was dismissed.

On Tuesday, the Defense Department announced BKM IDS would be added to the contract vehicle to make 15 overall awards so far.

Eight of the original 14 winners are small businesses, so BKM IDS becomes the ninth awardee in the set-aside category.

Awardees will compete with each other for task orders and some of those competitions will be reserved for small businesses.

The contract is divided into two categories. Category one is for re-engineering and creating realistic internet simulations along with identifying needed skill sets. The National Cyber Range is essentially a replica of the internet that is used to test tools and simulate attacks and responses to attacks.

Category two covers the infrastructure needed to maintain the range and develop training and evaluation events. That work includes maintaining data centers and networks.

Among the bidders on the contract's full-and-open portion, ManTech International’s bid was rejected and it filed a protest.

ManTech's protest was dismissed in September as well, so the Army could take a second look at the company's proposal.

But so far there is no clear sign of any movement on that front, whether that be an award or another rejection.

ManTech declined to comment.

Posted on Oct 27, 2021 at 12:51 PM0 comments


OceanSound adds another middle tier platform with DMI backing

Digital Management Holdings LLC, better known as DMI, has been acquired by OceanSound Partners in a transaction that gives the federal market's middle tier another private equity-backed company.

This isn’t OceanSound’s first foray into the federal market. In January 2020, OceanSound acquired Smartronix and then added to it Trident Technologies.

Since then, OceanSound has backed two acquisitions by Smartronix -- CS2 Consulting in May and Datastrong in January.

With DMI, OceanSound creates another vehicle to roll up acquisitions in the federal market and other areas such as state and local and commercial sectors.

DMI provides digital transformation and managed mobility services to federal agencies, including agile software development and engineering solutions. The company has over 2,100 employees and 200 clients.

“This investment underscores the prime position that DMI occupies in the market and is a tremendous validation of the Company’s long-term growth potential,” said Sunny Bajaj, DMI’s founder and CEO. “Marrying our technology capabilities and customer relationships with the financial strength and network of OceanSound makes us even stronger and strategically positions DMI to be the leader during this period of extraordinary digital disruption.

Bajaj retains what is described as a “significant stake” in the company. The rest of the DMI management team will continue to run the company.

Bajaj and DMI apparently had other suitors to pick from, he said they chose OceanSound because of its track record with companies that cross between the commercial and federal markets.

DMI counts as defense customers agencies such as the Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Force and Air Combat Command. Civilian customers include the Coast Guard; Homeland Security, State, Treasury and Agriculture departments; and FBI.

The company's contract vehicle positions include CIO-SP3, General Services Administration Alliant 2, Army ITES-3S, Air Force NetCents 2 and Treasury TIPSS 4.

But DMI also has hundreds of commercial clients in the automotive, consumer and retail, financial services, and healthcare sectors. It also has built a global network of locations across the U.S. as well as Spain, the U.K., India, Chile, and Argentina. That allows DMI to have a global delivery model with a network of digital design studios, agile software development centers and mobile service centers, the company said.

“DMI has excelled at leveraging their next-gen software engineering solutions developed for commercial customers to create differentiated solutions to better solve challenges facing their government customers,” said Joe Benavides, partner and co-founder of OceanSound. “We are excited to leverage our strategic perspectives, engineering-like approach to value creation and extensive resources to help build a better, faster growing DMI.”

Blackstone Credit and Goldman Sachs Asset Management Division provided committed financing for the transaction.

Baird served as financial adviser and Jones Day served as legal counsel to DMI. Miles & Stockbridge advised DMI management.

DC Advisory served as financial adviser and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as legal counsel to OceanSound.

Posted on Oct 26, 2021 at 1:34 PM0 comments


Amy Gilliland on how COVID led General Dynamics IT to rethink employee relations

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, both President Amy Gilliland and her leadership team at General Dynamics IT knew early on that the business would emerge as a different organization on the other side of the crisis.

No area was more greatly affected by the pandemic than the people side of the business.

“We’ve used these 18, 19 months of the pandemic to completely reimagine how we look at talent,” Gilliland said during her session at the GDIT Women + Tech 2021 event.

The business built their approach to the talent issue around these three questions and took several actions around each:

  • How do you attract talent?
  • How do you treat your employees?
  • How do you help employees evolve their careers? 

GDIT accelerated its hiring process because of COVID and the increasing need for employees and the competition for talent.

Customers were already looking to modernize their technology, but with COVID they needed to do it right away.

“So speed is really important in this market,” Gilliland said. “We don’t have the luxury of weeks or months to hire employees.”

They still need to do due diligence, but the goal now is how to do that faster.

We need to go from interview to offer quickly,” she said.

She’s driving that sense of urgency throughout the organization from a hiring perspective and they are targeting employees they want to hire. Veterans is one example.

“That’s an exciting population for us,” Gilliland said.

GDIT prides itself on its knowledge of its customers’ missions and veterans coming out of the service are steeped in that knowledge.

“I think that the culture we have in terms of ethics and what matters to us really resonates with them,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, GDIT has increased its veteran hiring rate by 200 percent.

“That’s great for GDIT and its great for our customers,” she said.

GDIT has also increased its use of employee referral incentives. Those now account for 20 percent of new hires.

The company has also put a focus on the employee experience and building a community. Gilliland, herself a Navy veteran, again used veterans as an example of what they are doing.

“From a veteran perspective, the transition period goes from day one to your 365th day," said Gilliland. “It’s a big life change, so we have set up a micro mentoring program, where we put new veterans in touch with a network.”

GDIT has several employee resource groups focused on different employee communities.

“Building that sense of community makes you feel like you are a part of something that’s more than just a transaction or a job,” she said.

The question around career development has led GDIT to a couple actions. First, it is working with managers to change the culture and get them to embrace the idea that your high-performing employees need to be able to move around the business.

“You have to be willing to allow them to move on to other organizations. They have to have those kinds of career pivots,” she said.

While it is a cultural change, GDIT also is developing a technology-driven solution to enable movement.

“We should have a Netflix-like experience for internal mobility,” Gilliland said. “You should be able to go into our website and type in a couple filters – your career experience, your certifications, your interests -- and it should spit out jobs that are available at GDIT.”

The business is working on that using machine learning and is close to that ability now.

GDIT also has an internal mobility team focused on helping employees find opportunities inside of the company, but Gilliland said such a Netflix-like portal will let employees take more control and be more proactive in their career development.

The business also is increasing efforts around training and certifications for employees.

“We have a goal to materially improve the number technical certifications that our employees have compared to last year,” Gilliland said.

The pandemic has taught GDIT and the rest of the federal market that work can be done from nearly anywhere.

“We are talking to our customers about what flexibility might look like,” she said. “It’s not always possible but there are certainly places where you can do unclassified development work for an intel customer.”

Gilliland said she is seeing improvement there.

“You could number those kinds of positions in the dozens before COVID and now we’re measuring it in the hundreds,” she said. “I think they understand the importance of flexibility”

Posted on Oct 26, 2021 at 1:51 PM0 comments


Sev1Tech breaks $250M revenue mark with acquisition

Sev1Tech is acquiring Geocent to add more DevSecOps and engineering services capabilities to the buyer's stable of IT modernization, cybersecurity and cloud services offerings.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sev1TechCEO Bob Lohfeld called the acquisition a “milestone in our growth journey” because Geocent’s DevSecOps capabilities and scientific space domain knowledge fit with Sev1Tech’s growing space modernization work.

The transaction is backed by Sev1Tech’s private equity owners DFW Capital and Enlightenment Capital, and pushes Sev1Tech to about $250 million in annual revenue. Lohfeld set that goal for Sev1Tech in 2019.

“The combination of these management teams and the service synergies created will allow Sev1Tech to deliver even more complex solutions to an incredibly mission-driven customer base,” said Doug Gilbert, partner at DFW Capital.

In addition to the space sector, Sev1Tech and Geocent also have customers at the Homeland Security Department.

“Our combined capabilities will amplify our missions, from the tactical edge to the enterprise to the end user,” Lohfeld said.

KippsDeSanto & Co. was the exclusive financial adviser to Geocent.

Posted on Oct 26, 2021 at 6:25 AM0 comments


Orolia's latest acquisition builds on ultra-precise tech solutions

Orolia has acquired another company to expand its capabilities and bring in new customers.

Orolia is acquiring Seven Solutions for an undisclosed amount. Both companies are players in the field of resilient positioning, navigation and timing.

Their customers can be found in the defense, aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, smart grids and other critical infrastructure industries. These customers have applications that are dependent on ultra-precise, resilient timing and frequency technology.

By adding Seven Solutions, Orolia is picking up the so-called White Rabbit sub-nanosecond time transfer and synchronization technology.

White Rabbit, named for the character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, was developed at the CERN super collider to achieve sub-nanosecond accuracy in Ethernet-based networks.

In the case, of Seven Solutions, the technology allows it to deliver highly accurate timing solutions to its customers.

“Orolia and Seven Solutions under one umbrella will combine our world-leading technologies to draw a new frontier in network timing to sub-nanosecond levels, delivering the most robust and accurate Resilient PNT solutions for our customers,” said Orolia CEO Jean-Yves Courtois. “Seven Solutions’ long history of delivering cutting-edge time distribution solutions to sectors like telecommunications, smart grids, aerospace, defense and scientific facilities aligns perfectly with Orolia’s DNA.”

Seven Solutions is headquartered in Granada, Spain. The Spanish government is expected to approve the transaction by the end of this year.

Posted on Oct 25, 2021 at 1:41 PM0 comments


AT&T wins second shot at $1.6B in FBI telecom work

When a company files a bid protest, one of the things it hopes for is at least get another shot at the contract in question.

That’s what AT&T has earned in pursuit of a pair of FBI task orders worth a combined $1.6 billion. The FBI has agreed to re-evaluate proposals for a $1.2 billion task order for telecom services and a $419.3 million job for data networking and voice services.

Both orders were awarded through the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract vehicle.

Verizon won the $1.2 billion order, while Lumen took the data networking award.

In its protest, AT&T said that the evaluations were not done properly. Rather than argue with AT&T in response to the protest, the FBI agreed to re-evaluate and make a new selection decision.

There is no timeline for the new award.

Posted on Oct 24, 2021 at 6:20 AM0 comments


Introducing the 2021 WT Fast 50

Welcome to the 2021 edition of our Washington Technology Fast 50 that ranks the fastest growing small businesses in the government market.

It’s a celebration of the depth, diversity and hard work of small businesses in the federal sector.

The rankings are based on information that companies submit, including five years of revenue data. We then calculate their compound annual growth rate over those five years. For 2021, the range is 2016 through 2020. Companies are then ranked according to that CAGR.

That’s why the largest company by revenue isn’t necessarily the No. 1 company. That honor goes to the fastest growing. It might seem like a no-brainer, but I get questions about that each year.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE RANKINGS

In the coming weeks, we’ll profile several of the companies on the Fast 50 but here are a few things I want to point out.

In a rarity, we have a repeat at No. 1.

Data Intelligence Technologies Inc. is on quite a roll and is one of the few companies to capture the top spot in consecutive years. They did it this year with a 2016-2020 CAGR of 311.1 percent.

They are the third company in 20 years to repeat as No. 1. The others were Merlin International in 2005 and 2006, and OBXtek in 2013 and 2014.

We have 20 companies on the 2021 list that also appeared on the 2020 Fast 50. Last year's rankings had 17 companies repeat.

In what must be a record for the Fast 50, DigitalSpec is making its eighth consecutive appearance on the Fast 50 with a CAGR of 41.2 percent from 2016-2020.

The depth and focus on this year’s group of companies also stands out to us.

For example, Data Intelligence is focused on data just as its name implies. That means everything like engineering, cloud hosting, science, security, visualization and analytics

The OM Group at No. 14 has focused its efforts on cloud migration and the many services that surround those efforts.

Some of the Fast 50 firms keep their target agencies in a tight group. For example, Advanced Concepts & Technologies at No. 29 has focused its acquisition expertise on supporting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as one of the main lines of business.

This isn’t the first year we’ve noticed the depth of capabilities among the Fast 50. But it is still important to note that innovation and cutting edge skills aren’t solely found at the largest companies in the market.

As you explore the rankings, you’ll find that we’ve collected valuable information on these companies including leadership, contracts, major customers and lines of business. Each profile links to the company website where you can learn more.

Posted on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:07 AM0 comments