With the sequestration deadline looming, government contractors are split on whether the pending sequestration budget cuts will occur.

According to survey findings released today by Market Connections, Inc., a leading government market research firm, 36% of government contractors believe sequestration is unlikely to happen, while 34% believe the budget cuts are somewhat likely. Keep reading →

I have been trying out the General Services Administration’s new portal for Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or GWACs.

There is a lot of useful information here, but the user experience remains uneven and in my experience, there are available tools that could improve the ability to analyze the data.

The new GSA web site says:

A Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is a pre-competed, multiple-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract that agencies can use to buy total IT solutions.

The GWAC program has taken their data to the next level by creating an interactive tool that allows GWAC stakeholders to view and segment GWAC information to make better decisions.

Users have the ability to:

  • Explore GWAC data by contract family, federal agency, and industry partner
  • Build customized reports and download them to your computer
The GWAC Dashboard is compatible with Internet Explorer 8 and 9 using Flash Player 14.4.X. If you are using any other version, you may experience usability issues.

The Users Guide contains the footnote:

The Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) Dashboards are intended for informational purposes. The data contained within may not be fully accurate.

The contacts page says:

Request for accessible dashboard content may be directed to [email protected].

That may be important to some users, since they, like I experienced, may not be able to download the complete data set. That’s what happened to me, so I contacted the GSA contact, but did not get a response so I downloaded each agency separately and merged them into one spreadsheet 19,168 rows and 18 rows. I also created a data dictionary spreadsheet.

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For state chief information officers, life at the office has become delicate high-wire act. While under pressure to continue delivering legacy information technology services that are critical to day-to-day operations, CIOs still have to keep up with the surging demand for new IT services, such as mobile- and cloud-based computing.

That’s a central theme from the results of a just-released survey of state CIOs by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), TechAmerica, and consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP, said Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s executive director. Keep reading →

UPDATED with additional data. The federal government’s ongoing budget woes will result in flat-lined technology budgets over the next five years, forcing agencies to move aggressively away from outdated technologies to make the most of limited budgets, a new report by the TechAmerica Foundation predicted.

Compounding the challenge for agencies is Congressional gridlock over the budget and the looming possibility of sequestration which is hitting the government in the middle of an ambitious technology transformation program, said TechAmerica analyst Robert Haas.

The combination of uncertainty and lack of funds is causing agencies to reassess how they manage older systems and acquire new technologies, he said.

All of that is set against a backdrop of broader uncertainty of how Congress will address the so-called fiscal cliff, involving the expiration of tax breaks and forced budget cuts due to trigger in the new year. Unless Congress takes other steps, the Budget Control Act would force automatic cuts of an estimated $1.2 trillion in federal spending spread evenly over a nine year period beginning in 2013.

Many agencies, as a consequence, are pursuing a strategy of shifting existing funds into new systems and away from older systems. This leads to what Haas referred to as “creative destruction” or the withering of older systems in favor of the new.

Spending in the federal IT market will remain relatively flat through 2018, Haas said. The 2013 budget allocates $73.5 billion for IT projects, with a slight rise to $77.2 billion projected for 2018. But inflation will erode the real value of that spending he said, reducing the effective value of the 2018 funding in constant dollars to about $70.2 billion.

Civilian government IT spending for 2013 will be $40.8 billion and raise slightly to $43.5 billion in 2018. Because of the flat budgets, federal agencies are becoming more aggressive in shifting resources away from legacy systems to newer equipment and software, Haas said.

After a series of funding cuts in recent years, the Defense Department IT budget will remain stable for the next five years, Haas said. The 2013 Defense IT budget is $32.7 billion and is predicted to remain steady at $33.7 billion in 2018.

Sequestration, however, would have an overwhelming impact on defense operations, requiring $52.3 billion in DoD reductions in fiscal year 2013, affecting readiness, training, civilian personnel, military families, services and support, all of which would seriously affect DoD technology investments.

Over the next five years, the DOD will focus on integrating its IT infrastructure by merging telecommunications, satellite communications, networks, wireless systems and computers into a single architecture. Part of this activity includes ongoing efforts to consolidate data centers and move to a cloud computing environment, Haas said.

The Federal IT forecasts are part of new report being released at a conference Oct. 17 that provides detailed predictions of future information technology spending for all major civilian and defense agencies as well as the General Services Administration. It also provides an outlook of IDIQ contract vehicles and other acquisition trends.

The report outlines five possible scenarios of how Congress might tackle the looming Budget Control Act cuts, summarized in the following slides:

Charts courtesy of TechAmerica Foundation.

The federal sector is tightening its budget belt in search of savings. Efficiency is the new modus operandi. But as is often the case, the appearance of potential savings in federal spending aren’t always what they might seem.

In November, the White House issued Executive Order 13589, “Promoting Efficient Spending,” directing agencies to identify efficiencies. Section 5 of the Executive Order specifically directs a reduction in printing costs. The execution of printing efficiencies, however, is not always easy. The decision to get efficiency is only the first step. Keep reading →

UPDATED Dec. 13 with video synopsis. Despite the looming threat of significant, across the board budget cuts for federal agencies, there are still major government contracting opportunities that will remain vibrant into the near future. And regardless if you’re a large government contractor, small business or agency program manager, you need to know where to look before you can take advantage of these opportunities.

That was the underlying message at a monthly luncheon forum on Government Acquisition Trends and Techniques Dec. 8, hosted by the Association For Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM). Keep reading →

The White House has informed government procurement executives they must take new steps to avoid establishing or renewing certain types of procurement contracts that potentially duplicate existing contracts for goods and services agencies commonly buy.

The memo, issued by Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Dan Gordon Sept. 29, takes aim at missed opportunities by agencies to leverage the government’s buying power.

It also is intended to curtail what many regard as the wasteful practice of establishing new contracts that overlap or duplicate existing contracts for billions of dollars of supplies and services.

“For too long, each agency was on its own in contracting,” said Gordon, in a White House blog post also released Sept. 29.

The action by OFPP was generally welcomed by the contracting community.

“The number of GWACs has declined in the past few years while agency-specific contract vehicles are increasing; it seems that everyone likes to have their own contracts,” said Steve Charles, co-founder and executive vice president, immixGroup (and a contributor to Breaking Gov.)

“So with no intervention like this from OFPP, interagency contracting would eventually wither along with all the benefits. It was high time for OFPP to act,” he said, “but look for a short-term surge of agency-specific vehicles between now and 2014. Then the pendulum will swing and I predict interagency contracting will surge again around 2017,” he said.

Under the new guidance, agencies planning solicitations for new acquisitions will be responsible for developing a business case to support the establishment or renewal of three types of acquisition contracts:

Governmentwide acquistion contracts, which are multiple award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts often used for buying technology systems and services. Starting after Dec. 31, 2011, business cases are required for all GWACs regardless of estimated value.

Multi-agency contracts, which provide a wide variety of supplies and services to agencies, managed by the General Services Administration. In cases where interagency use is expected to be significant (exceeding 25% or more of total obligations over the life of the contract), agencies will also have to make a business case beginning in 2012.

Agency-specific contracts or blanket purchase agreements. In cases where a contract or BPA would create a significant overlap (where more than 25% of the total obligations over the life of the contract would include supplies or services covered by the government’s SmartBUY program and Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiatve), agencies would again have to make a business case beginning in2012.

“Business cases shall be approved by an authority no lower than the agency’s senior procurement executive (SPE) or equivalent official,” the memo said.

“In the business case, agencies are required to balance the value of creating a new contract against the benefit of using an existing one, and whether the expected return from investment in the proposed contract is worth the taxpayer resources,” Gordon said in his blog.

“Insisting on that cost/benefit analysis in the business cases should go a long way to avoiding duplicative contracts,” he said.

Gordon also said the new guidance should increase information-sharing among agencies.

“There have been some who have said that interagency contracts are a problem. We disagree. We have seen firsthand that interagency contracting – done intelligently, and in a way that reduces duplication – can help us leverage the federal government’s buying power to get better prices,” he said.

“The progress we’ve made in this area is a key reason why we think GAO should take interagency contracting off its ‘high risk’ list,” he added.

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When the Administration took office, it was clear to us that for too long there was not adequate oversight of contractors, leading to wasted taxpayer dollars, repeated delivery delays, and unacceptable contractor performance. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in wartime contracting during the last decade. That’s why this Administration has focused on cutting waste in contracting, boosting oversight, and strengthening accountability of contractors. And more broadly, earlier this summer the White House launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, a government-wide drive to crack down on fraud, waste, and abuse.

On August 31, the Commission on Wartime Contracting released a report on these challenges. We welcome the report and commend the Commission for shining a spotlight on waste in contracting, on the need to strengthen the contracting function at agencies, on the value of increasing competition in contracting, and on the importance of holding contractors accountable for their performance. Keep reading →