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FCW Insider: Jan. 10

The partial government shutdown is in its 20th day with no end in sight. President Trump and congressional Democrats continued their impasse over funding the government, with Trump stalking out of a meeting with Democratic leaders at the White House and Dems saying their "path forward" requires reopening shuttered agencies. Chase Gunter has the story.

Agency shutdown plans are there to cover brief lapses in appropriations. But with the current shutdown entering uncharted waters, some agencies are rethinking what is essential and who is required to work. Furloughs and unpaid work have "a rotting effect on morale," said one former agency CFO. "That is an overarching concern in reopening after a shutdown of significant length – and I think we're at that point now." Adam Mazmanian reports.

The Pentagon's failed financial audit has given rise to a new database to help track spending and leverage data analytics to help with the next audit. Lauren C. Williams explains.

Quick Hits

*** The U.S. Air Force is moving forward with its plan to tap small businesses to solve its tech problems, and began accepting applications for its inaugural "Pitch Day" Jan. 8.

Selected participants will be chosen to present at the Pitch Day event in New York City, with winners getting deals on the spot.

Competitors will be allowed to submit proposals for three topic areas: command, control, communications, intelligence, and networks, digital technology investments, and battlefield air operations systems technologies.

"The hope is that we learn some lessons and improve it and do it even bigger next time," expanding the topic areas, Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director, DevOps and Lethality, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told FCW following a presentation at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's small business event Jan. 8.

"We've always had outreach with small business… but I think there's more intellectual prowess out there that we're not leveraging today," Higby said. It's unclear how many contracts will be awarded or how many proposals will make it to the final round. But what is certain is the dedication to trying new things outside of traditional acquisition bureaucracy even if they fail.

The Air Force plans to use government purchase cards for these small business awards.

Air Force acquisition head, Dr. Will Roper said in September that the goal would be for 60 to 80 percent of the participants to walk out with contract that day. The Air Force has since put on Startup Days in the run up to the March Pitch Day event.

"The benefit is huge because it finally pulls startups into orbit surrounding our program offices," Roper said, "Even if round one their product isn't ready, they're aware of us as an angel investor. We're not trying to have them work for the government, we just want their products that make sense for us."

About $40 million has been set aside to support Phase I and Phase II awards. Individual Phase 1 awards will go up to $150,000, an Air Force spokesperson told FCW via email. Submissions will be accepted through Feb. 6.

*** Just over half of Americans believe that the U.S. is well prepared to handle a major cyberattack, according to a new survey from Pew Global. According to the survey, 53 percent of U.S. respondents said that the country was very well or somewhat well prepared to cope with a major cyberattack, with 43 percent saying that the U.S. was not too well or not well at all prepared. The result put the U.S. in the middle of the pack in terms of respondents' perception of their country's preparedness. Additionally, 74 percent of U.S. poll respondents said it was very or somewhat likely that a hack will result in election tampering. Globally, large majorities said that cyberattacks will likely result in damage to public infrastructure, exfiltration of sensitive information and election tampering.

*** The Trump administration missed another key deadline in an international transparency agreement, putting the United States' membership status in jeopardy.

In September 2017, the Trump administration opted to continue participating in the Open Government Partnership, a global multi-stakeholder commitment to transparency and democratic reforms started in 2011 under President Barack Obama.

However, as reported by journalist and transparency advocate Alex Howard, the U.S. missed an end-of-year deadline to submit an action plan.

As a result of the second missed deadline, the U.S. will "automatically be placed under 'Review' for procedural violations," Nathaniel Heller, co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, tweeted. "That Review process can ultimately lead to being rendered 'Inactive' in OGP, or resolved with the eventual submission of a [national action plan] in the coming months."

Including the U.S., more than 70 countries have made commitments to the Open Government Partnership. While there have been some bright spots, such as the implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, overall, the Trump administration has a poor record on open data and transparency.

*** Even though 2020 represents the first ever "online" census, paper questionnaires are still a major part of Census operations. And after the Government Publishing Office, which the Census Bureau tasked with awarding its printing and mailing contract, botched its first try, GPO has picked a new company to deliver the questionnaire to more than 130 million American households.

The award, worth more than $114.5 million, will go to R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, a Chicago-based printing and mailing company. GPO initially awarded the contract to Cenvo for $61 million, but the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The solicitation for a new vendor, issued in August 2018, set a maximum value of $140 million.

Census is on a tight schedule, with the nationwide headcount set to begin as early as January 2020. The lawsuits challenging the legality of the citizenship question also complicated the timeline, as printing would need to begin months before enumeration starts.

Posted on Jan 10, 2019 at 1:06 AM


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