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Budget, the role of contractors and other issues at PSC's annual conference

The Professional Services Council annual conference ended on Tuesday and while the event is closed to the press, it was open to Twitter.

What I tracked on Twitter – #PSCConf – gives a good indication of where the industry group sees the market headed. They had an impressive slate of government speakers, including James Clapper, director of National Intelligence; Deborah James, Air Force secretary; Terry Halvorsen, Defense Department CIO; and Soraya Correa, chief procurement officer of the Homeland Security Department. (Still a mystery to me how you have such high ranking government officials speaking at a closed event.)

Thanks to Twitter, we know that Clapper talked about the role of contractors and that the intelligence community thinks of contractors as part of their workforce.

He also said that there is no right number of contractors. “Strategy must dictate how resources are used,” he said. But while contractors are important – Clapper said “We absolutely cannot meet our mission without contractor support” – the role is diminishing.
The drop in contractor support may not be over.

The intelligence community needs industry help with its cyber mission, Clapper said. He also emphasized a need for clearances and transparency. A healthy public-private partnership is critical.

Another session at the conference, I would have loved to cover in detail was a panel titled, Surviving the Knock on Your Door. The speakers included Lynne Halbrooks, former DOD inspector general and now a partner at Holland & Knight; GSA’s former inspector general Brian Miller; and Jeremy Wensinger, the former president of global security and solutions at USIS.

Wensinger lived through that proverbial knock when USIS ran into a False Claims Act lawsuit and a Justice Department investigation. And while his portion of the business wasn’t the target, the reverberations were felt throughout the company. Eventually, USIS sold Wensinger’s business to PAE and the rest of the company went into bankruptcy and dissolved.

His message to attendees was to be prepared have a crisis team that understands the government market.

Miller also warned about whistlerblowers and False Claims Act investigation. Halbrooks made an interesting point when she talked about the impact of the government’s limited resources. When the knock comes, the government isn’t just curious.

I was a bit disappointed that PSC’s twitter feed was relatively quiet for its lunch session on the agenda for the next president.

The speakers included IBM’s Anne Altman as well as Kymm McCabe, former executive with ASI Government. The session was led by PSC CEO and President Stan Soloway.

PSC is collecting ideas on its webpage for initiatives for the next administration around ideas related to the federal marketplace, getting better value from government contractors by unleashing their skills, and creating an environment that encourages partnerships between government and industry.

During the conference session, McCabe floated the idea of a “compliance BRAC.” BRAC is the base realignment and closure process where a committee recommends a list of military facilities to be closed, and Congress votes yes or no on the entire list. The process is designed to remove the politics from closing bases.

McCabe recommended a similar approach to analyzing compliance and recommending changes.

Altman focused on aging government systems. There is a need to plan for how to retire aging systems and infrastructure, she said. On the second and last day of the conference, Air Force Secretary Deborah James gave the closing keynote. She talked about the need for the Air Force to invest in readiness and operations, especially in a tight budget environment. The potential government shutdown also was costly in terms of people and resources. Congress needs to pass a budget and not just a long-term continuing resolution. A CR would be worse. She said she is focused on three priorities: taking care of people, readiness and modernization, and making every dollar count.

S,o based on the Twitter-verse, that’s my take on the PSC annual conference. Search the hashtag #PSCConf for more, especially if you want to read the justifiably nice things people said about Soloway as he departs the organization after 15 years.

While I truly hate to see him leave, maybe his successor will let me and the rest of the press corps attend next year, but I’m not holding my breath.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 07, 2015 at 9:31 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, Oct 12, 2015

His reluctance to have "press" attend may have something to do with general feelings about "the media." Few journalists bother to cover this vital industry, and there is a quick turnover at almost all news orgs that give it any attention. And PR depts. of major companies often have their way with "the media." Stan is a master at getting his message out and clearly. He's not interested in more expert filtering than occurs today, which is very little for the above reasons. His successor will have the same attribute.

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