By the Numbers, By the Book

SEWP’s Data Collection Supports Compliance and Accountability.

In fiscal 2018, federal agencies spent a record $64.7 billion on information technology. Agencies rely on data about those purchases to comply with acquisition regulations and be accountable to taxpayers. The program office for NASA’s Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement (SEWP) governmentwide acquisition contract supplies agency acquisitions officials and other leaders with datasets that enable informed decision-making. 

 “We’re collecting data from all of the orders that come through [SEWP], and we’re not looking to share this information throughout the world,” said Theresa Kinney, SEWP’s deputy program manager. “We collect the data and what we’re doing is helping the [chief information officers] of agencies with reporting so they have the information at a one- stop shop.” 

 Agencies’ chief executive officers can request reports on purchase history, product classifications and client line item numbers to see what was bought, when and in what quantity. This data is important because it can help agencies eliminate wasteful spending in the form of duplicative purchases, choose the most reliable contractors and ensure that agency organizations are spending responsibly. 

 “All they have to do is get on our schedule for however often they want them – if they want weekly reports, monthly reports, quarterly, annual report – and we will give them all the information for their agency on orders that have come through,” Kinney said. “I think we started the reporting in SEWP IV and it was toward the end of SEWP IV, but it’s really been up and running and become quite a helpful thing to the CIOs throughout the federal government throughout SEWP V.” (SEWP V is the latest iteration of the 26-year-old contract.) 

New Tools 

The program office is working on a tool that would allow agency decision- makers to access current reporting data online instead of waiting for SEWP to send a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, said Joanne Woytek, SEWP program manager. 

 At present, the office provides agencies with 15 to 20 reports. 

 “Right now, they have to do all of the analytics, and our goal is to provide them with at least some of the analytics within a reporting tool that they can build upon,” Woytek said. “The CIO is supposed to know a lot, but unfortunately the tools out there don’t give them a lot, so we’re trying to support their needs to do this Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act-type oversight of what is being purchased by their agency and who is doing it and if they can save money in any way and are they meeting requirements.”

FITARA, passed in 2014, overhauled federal IT acquisition and management practices and gave CIOs more control over IT investments. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee releases FITARA scorecards annually to show agencies’ compliance with the law. 

SEWP also shares with government customers data that includes contract holder information, such as past performance concerns, business size and designation, supply-chain details, and strategic sourcing options. It also shares compliance with government initiatives, such as Energy Star, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool and Trade Adjustment Assistance. TAA is a program that aims to alleviate market areas frequently affected by imports. 

To give government customers the fullest picture, SEWP also collects data from other publicly available sources, such as products approved for the General Services Administration’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which standardizes the approach to assessing, authorizing and continuously monitoring cloud products and services. Purchases of cloud services were expected to reach $6.5 billion in fiscal 2018, up from $4.9 billion in fiscal 2017. A big driver of the surge was a governmentwide push for IT modernization that focuses on cloud, codified in policies such as Cloud First and Cloud Smart. 

FedRAMP Compliance 

Last year, SEWP launched a new webpage dedicated to FedRAMP that lists products and services from providers not currently listed on SEWP. From a single table, agencies – and the public – can see products and services that are FedRAMP- authorized or pending authorization. They can also ascertain which of the program’s security levels items have (low to high) and what model (Infrastructure-, Platform- or Software-as-a-Service) they fall under. Another column in the table lists agencies that have documented authorizations for the FedRAMP- compliant product. 

SEWP enters the information manually, Woytek said. “Rather than rely on bots, which may cause security issues or risks, ... we have assigned a SEWP staff member to regularly review the main public FedRAMP site and note any updates to the information posted there and then update the information on our summary table accordingly,” Woytek said. “It is not that we are obtaining any special, private data; just that we are packaging that data in a way that is more easily consumed by the government customer.” 

Anyone can look at SEWP’s FedRAMP page, but only federal agencies can register to see the prime contract holders. “That is not something we share with everyone,” Kinney said. “We’re very careful about proprietary information. We keep a very nonbiased view on our prime contract holders here in this office so we never want to look like we’re favoring one over the other. We’re just providing information.” 

Additionally, SEWP’s government customers can log in to see a list of the SEWP products identified as FedRAMP-compliant. To order one, they can use the Quote Request Tool to get details on availability and pricing. SEWP updates information on the FedRAMP page weekly, Kinney said. 

508 Compliance 

SEWP has also worked to improve its data on products and services that comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make all IT accessible to people with disabilities. Recently, NASA named a single employee to be in charge of 508 compliance for not just the space agency, but also SEWP. 

Additionally, SEWP is working to stand up an at-a-glance 508 page similar to the FedRAMP webpage. The program already has a frequently-asked-questions-type page dedicated to helping customers navigate the law. 

“Data is only as good as the quality is so we are increasing that,” Woytek said. “We have a much more robust team reaching out to agency folks so we can better understand and work with them. It allows us to increase the services we’re providing to customers and we still have more plans to do more with that probably in the next year of getting more services to them and better services in terms of the quality of our data and the reactivity.” 

Government customers aren’t the only ones benefitting from SEWP’s data and compliance work. Vendors say the ease of use also benefits them. 

“SEWP is always at the front of the line in terms of tailoring their contract towards the current market trends,” said Jeff Trent, vice president of federal government sales for Connection, a global IT solutions provider. “The hot topic in government these days is around cloud – and product-based services and SEWP is able to help customers meet those needs.”