News in Brief

IG slams VA official, Palantir wins ICE contract and more

IG report slams VA health official's dealings with FedBid

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General said an official in the Veterans Health Administration's Procurement and Logistics Office and officials from online reverse auction provider FedBid pressured VA contracting officers to steer work to FedBid.

According to a report issued Sept. 26 by VA's OIG, Susan Taylor, deputy chief procurement officer at VHA, "engaged in conduct prejudicial to the government when she pressured contracting staff under her authority to give preference to and award a task order for reverse auction services to FedBid Inc."

The report also says Taylor "engaged in a conflict of interest when she improperly acted as an agent of FedBid in matters before the government, improperly disclosed non-public VA information to unauthorized persons, [and] misused her position and VA resources for private gain." Auditors also accused Taylor of removing a subordinate for disclosing Taylor's alleged violations and interfering with the OIG's review of a FedBid contract.

The OIG said it made a criminal referral of the conflict of interest and false statements charges to the Justice Department, which declined to prosecute.

In a statement emailed to FCW, FedBid said it has cooperated fully with the OIG's investigation.

"We believe FedBid took appropriate actions to protect its ability to lawfully perform the business services it was contracted to provide with VHA," the statement reads. "Additionally, our company has always been transparent about its fee structure and the savings the FedBid marketplace can facilitate when buying commodity goods and simple services. It is important to point out, as our data demonstrates, that this report does not dispute that the FedBid marketplace stimulated competition that resulted in lower prices for VHA."

Palantir wins $41.6 million contract to build case management for ICE

Palantir has received a $41.6 million contract to build a cloud-based case management tool for the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The news was announced Sept. 26 on the government contracting website FedBizOpps.

The company -- a privately held Silicon Valley tech firm that was launched in part with seed money from the CIA's venture capital fund In-Q-Tel -- is known best for analytics and business intelligence tools that are used in law enforcement, threat and fraud detection, and identification of terrorist networks for military and spy agencies. Now Palantir has been tapped to provide a commercial off-the-shelf case management system for ICE, whose past efforts to develop a custom system have run off the rails.

ICE issued a solicitation in February for a commercial solution to run on the DHS cloud, store documents and other materials, and host investigative intelligence tools to help law enforcement professionals develop leads and build cases. Because of past development problems and the need to replace legacy systems dating back to 1987, ICE specified that the project be developed using agile methodology, with extensive testing, delivery of functionality in short increments and a planned January 2015 "code freeze." The goal is to release the new system in September 2015.

FCC's Rosenworcel calls for new incentives for agencies to give up spectrum

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, wants to see expanded incentives for agencies that give up spectrum or make their operations more efficient in order to cede valuable airwaves to the commercial marketplace.

In reclaiming spectrum from federal users, Rosenworcel wants more carrot and less stick in the form of "structured, consistent incentives," she said during a Sept. 29 discussion hosted by Mobile Future.

That approach would allow agencies to use funds generated by spectrum auctions for their own operations rather than just for relocating spectrum-dependent activities, as is the case under current law. In addition, she recommended reforming the Miscellaneous Receipts Act, an obscure federal statute that inhibits agencies from negotiating directly with commercial entities who win spectrum auctions over how that spectrum will be cleared and shared.

Rosenworcel said a modification to the act could allow agencies and spectrum rights holders to expedite plans and even help agencies "update federal systems that are past their prime" and thereby further concentrate their spectrum use by taking advantage of more efficient hardware.

Navy Cyber Command Reserve deputy commander headed to Texas

Rear Adm. Daniel MacDonnell is headed to Texas to lead the Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command, the Defense Department announced Sept. 26.

MacDonnell currently serves as Reserve deputy commander for the U.S. 10th Fleet -- the Navy's Cyber Command based at Fort Meade, Md.

His replacement at the 10th Fleet will be Capt. Gene Price, who has been tapped for promotion to rear admiral (lower half) and previously served as deputy senior inspector for the Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command.

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