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FCW Insider: Oct. 11

With just days remaining for vendors submit bids in on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year cloud solicitation, IBM announced it was filing a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office. IBM is the second vendor to protest the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement on the basis of its requirements, which it argues are tilted toward a single vendor. Oracle also is protesting the deal. IBM also plans to bid on JEDI, but it appears the company's real plan is to try to extract some change to the requirements that would allow for multiple clouds. Adam Mazmanian explains.

The $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Services contract began life as a telecom upgrade vehicle under the Obama administration, and agencies are playing catch-up as the Trump White House looks to use the vehicle as a full-blown modernization tool. Mark Rockwell sorts through the challenges facing agencies who want to modernize but also need to keep the phones on.

The path to the U.S. Digital Service usually includes a stint in Silicon Valley at a startup or one of the big consumer tech companies like Google or Facebook. But Steve Kelman found one USDSer whose journey to the innovation hub started at a traditional government contractor.

Margaret Weichert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and now the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, says that workforce issues are stalling progress on IT modernization and the strategic use of government data. Chase Gunter has the story.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is emerging as a top advocate for the new Army Futures Command. In remarks at the AUSA conference in Washington, Shanahan urged attendees to build momentum for the new command, but also cautioned that proven innovators are needed to make the new enterprise work. Lauren C. Williams reports.

Quick Hits

***The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs signed a joint statement committing their organizations to develop an integrated electronic health care record. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie pledged to "develop a more efficient overall construct and plan of execution" of their respective implementation of the commercial electronic health care record Cerner. DOD started its implementation, led by integrator Leidos, in late 2017. The effort to reach an initial operating capacity has hit more than a few snags that it is in the process of ironing out.

VA is much closer to the beginning of the process. The agency opted to go with Cerner on a sole-source basis in June 2017, but it took until May 2018 for the $10 billion contract to be signed.

Lawmakers have taken notice that while the plan is for VA and DOD records to work together with 100 percent interoperability, there is no single entity or individual charged with being a single point of accountability for making sure that happened. The Interagency Program Office that led efforts to create a read-only platform for exchanging records called the Joint Legacy Viewer doesn't have the authority, budget or staffing to take on the role of enforcer.

While the joint statement doesn't create that single point of accountability that many in Congress were seeking, it does promise an " accountability mechanism that facilitates coordinated decision making and oversight," and an "organizational structure that supports the delivery of a single, seamlessly integrated EHR that maximizes commercial health record interoperability," with "optimally coordinated" workflows and data dictionaries.

*** Amid all the talk of emerging tech and dramatic digital transformation, federal CIO Suzette Kent wants to be sure agencies don’t overlook the basics. "There’s a lot of priorities, but we have to be firmly set on a few things," she said at FCW’s Oct. 10 IT Modernization Summit.

One of those few things is email, Kent said -- stressing that 61 percent of email accounts at federal civilian agencies are now cloud-based.

"A year ago we were less that 30 percent," she said. That shift may not be sexy, but it "drives better cost efficiencies," increases protection against phishing and other threats and "gives us the ability to… leverage collaboration tools," she said.

*** Managed service providers should be paying close attention to talk of supply chain security reforms on Capitol Hill, the General Services Administration's Bill Zielinski said at the same FCW event.

"There are tons of proposals coming from the Hill," he said, noting that Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have drafted one bill, while Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have proposed another.

"While the intent is to protect [agencies] from risks in the supply chain, there are very clear consequences for industry," Zielinski said. "I keep urging anybody and everybody from industry to really pay attention to anything having to do with supply chain risk."

*** Commercial data is helping to power the view of the job market at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Online career websites like Monster and Indeed are bolstering BLS data sources, according to Michael Dalton, a research economist in Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics at the agency. BLS keeps tabs on the job market through its monthly survey of turnover and job openings at 16,000 employers.

"That can be a huge burden on establishments when you ask them repeatedly and ask them over time,” Dalton said.

To mitigate this burden, BLS doesn't ask everything they want to know on every survey. The private sector data can fill in some of those gaps. One caveat is that there is hidden bias in job site data. Individuals who use these platforms have some computer literacy and access to the internet, and employers often maintain job postings continuously for positions that experience high turnover.

"There is a lot of potential to learn things that otherwise would be very difficult to measure," he said.

Posted on Oct 11, 2018 at 1:26 AM


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