Federal Update – August 6, 2017
Future DHS Cyber Opportunities Point to Ports, Airports
Congress is sending a strong message to the Department of Homeland Security that it’s past time to increase cyber capabilities at ports and airports. Increasingly concerned about people and things entering the country, Congress is looking to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) to play an expanded role in that area.
This could lead to significant new opportunities for contractors in FY’18 and beyond. The new emphasis is coming from the House-passed DHS reauthorization bill. In addition to TSA, it directs the Coast Guard to also use its resources to ensure port security and for DHS to use data mining on information already gathered from travelers as part of meeting its overall security mission.
Regardless of whether this specific bill becomes law, the directives in it are very likely to play a significant role in where Congress appropriates actual money and in DHS’s development of cyber priorities. Contractors should plan accordingly.
Congress Thinks IT Modernization Is a Good Idea, Isn’t Funding It So Far
Despite agreement between Congress and the Administration that modernizing the IT infrastructure of federal agencies is needed, no new money is yet being made available for that purpose. FY’18 spending bills now being considered by the House give a nod to the importance of those projects, but that’s about it. Even money to support an IT modernization bill already passed by the House is absent. While we are still a long way from final FY’18 spending plans, contractors may want to take notice.
First, contractors supporting modernization initiatives should reach out to their elected officials to let them know how important this topic is. Second, contractors need to plan accordingly in case modernization, like innovation, gets a lot of hype, but little actual support. There’s no question changes in the federal IT space are more evolutionary than revolutionary. As such, it’s likely there will be limited opportunities for truly bold thinking, but plenty to do on “routine” matters.
Contract Protests Up, Spending Down
Government contract protests are up 17% since 2012, according to a recent article by NCMA Executive Director Michael Fischetti. That’s no surprise, given total federal spending is down since that time.
Contractors want to ensure they have made every effort to get fair consideration for an award or, if they’re an unsuccessful incumbent, extend work during a protest to keep revenue up while planning for a transition. The traditional concern of upsetting a current or potential customer over a protest is waning, and frankly, it should be.
Contractors need to understand that there is nothing wrong with filing a protest when there is a legitimate reason to do so. While successful contractors and buyers may find protests annoying, each group also now anticipates a protest as part of any decent-sized acquisition. Protest timelines are built into many acquisition lifecycles. While being a “serial protestor” is counterproductive, too many companies are afraid to protest at all. Don’t be one of those firms.
If you have a concern about an RFP, RFQ, or contract award that can’t be answered in some other way, a timely protest can help you and the agency ensure a proper procurement and a good award decision.