House Advances Bill to Curb Contract ‘Bundling’ that Favors Large Companies

Citing a shortage of accurate data on small business contracting, a House panel last week approved an umbrella bill (H.R. 1481) aimed at forcing agencies to curb practices seen as freezing out smaller bidders and requested a new Government Accountability Office study on small business goals.

“We know that when small businesses compete for federal work, it creates jobs, improves the quality of work, and saves taxpayers’ money,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “This bill is a commonsense approach to make sure that Washington is working with Main Street – not locking it out of the procurement process altogether.”

Combining six separate bills, the package would restrict “bundling” of services or goods previously provided under separate contracts to the detriment of small business and curb use of so-called reverse auctions, in which contractors bid electronically for contracts at progressively lower prices.

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BYOD to the Pentagon? Pilot to Begin This Summer

You’ve no doubt heard the acronym BYOD.

It stands for “bring your own device,” and BYOD strategies typically consist of an organization’s policies toward employees using personal laptops, tablets and other mobile devices for work-related purpose.

Government has been far more stringent with its BYOD policies than industry counterparts. Indeed, one hears the alternative definition of BYOD — “bring your own disaster” — often at Beltway tech conferences.

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Investing in U.S. global leadership good for our economy

When Ghana, the small African nation, wanted to buy 104 fire trucks, they turned to an unlikely place: Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Increasing the entire country’s firefighting capacity by 50 percent, they had many options about where to spend their money. Their decision? To “Buy American.” They placed a $31 million order with Oshkosh Corporation.

Oshkosh companies show that you don’t need to be big to be global. As President and CEO of the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of investing and competing in markets that provide the best return for America.

It may be surprising to some, but many of the fastest-growing markets around the world aren’t our traditional trading partners. Developing countries already account for more than half of America’s exports, and that number will only increase. As 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside of the United States, it’s clear that our access to international markets is absolutely crucial for a strong domestic economy.

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What is Coming From DARPA in the Next Few Years

To reduce the price of weapons and other gear by creating new solutions to old problems–or “rethink complex military systems,” as deputy director Steven Walker of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency puts it–is among DARPA’s focus areas for the next few years. This week, the agency highlighted potential solutions to this and other problems, describing a menagerie of magical technologies that are entering a new phase of research or development.

Some are listed in the agency’s biannual Breakthrough Technologies for National Security report, released this morning to coincide with DARPA director Arati Prabhakar’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. Others have been highlighted by DARPA officials who recently spoke around Washington. They include:

Zombie Pods Of the Deep

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House budget targets federal benefits, seeks smaller civilian workforce

The Republican-led House passed a Fiscal Year 2016 budget plan Wednesday that counts federal employees and their benefits among its many targets.

Passed on a party-line vote of 228-199, the House budget plan aims to balance the budget within 10 years by making cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and funding for non-Defense agencies. The proposal also repeals the Affordable Care Act.

The 265-page House Budget Committee report that accompanies the bill offers suggestions for specific cuts, although it will be up to the committees with jurisdiction over the issues to take them or leave them.

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NASA tests smart glasses for astronauts

NASA is continuing to build upon its plans to harness virtual and augmented reality for space exploration.  The space agency and Osterhout Design Group announced they are exploring the use of ODG’s Smart Glasses for terrestrial and space-based activities.

ODG’s Glasses allow users to do everything they would also do with a tablet, the company said. They could let astronauts remotely access documents and/or charts, decreasing the weight of materials they carry into space and allowing hands-free work.  As a NASA spokesperson told Computerworld, commercial airline pilots carry around 15 pounds in manuals, but in space exploration, every pound saved counts.

With the augmented glasses, astronauts could conduct line-of-sight checks with digital markers overlaid on machinery, keeping the user’s eyes focused on the task, according to a release by Osterhout Design Group.

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DARPA awards shipboard UAV contracts

DARPA has awarded two contracts in its plan to use ships as floating UAV platforms.

AeroVironment and Northrop Grumman were selected as prime contractors for Phase II of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) project, which aims to use small ships as forward-deployed launch platforms for medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft.

“To offer the equivalent of land-based UAS capabilities from small-deck ships, our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new unmanned air system intended to enable two previously unavailable capabilities: one, the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states and two, the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions,” said DARPA program manager Dan Patt in a DARPA news release.

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House OKs Budget Plan With Defense Hike

WASHINGTON — The US House approved a $3.8 trillion budget blueprint that includes $20 billion extra in war funds sought by defense hawks.

Asked if the vote is a major victory for House defense hawks, Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter replied: “No.”

“I think it’s as things should be,” Hunter told reporters during the budget vote series Wednesday. “It’s still not the best way to do so” because the additional military budgetary authority is in the war account and not the base budget.

Hunter said the budget blueprint and its construct should be viewed “in the context of one year.” He added: “Next year we’ll look at it in the context of next year.”

In a statement, the White House criticized House Republicans for voting “in favor of locking in draconian sequestration cuts.”

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14 Cost-Cutting Strategies That Feed Big Spending at Defense

As I look back through many years of military, defense contractor and civilian service, I am struck by the lack of documentation on all the things we have done to keep our defense budget big and growing every year. Particularly hard to find are lessons learned from strategies that have simultaneously driven higher costs and lowered productivity. Our success at increasing the tail-to-tooth ratio seems to be an unintentional event.

Here are some examples of some cost-saving approaches and their unintended effects:

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DOD report shows decline in the military’s spending portfolio

Scaled-back spending is being felt across the Defense Department’s major acquisition programs, which saw a collective reduction in spending of $9.1 million, or 0.6 percent, between December 2013 and December 2014, according to a just-released DOD report. But although many of the programs reviewed saw decreases, some others did increase, according to the Selected Acquisition Reports, which are prepared along with the president’s budget, and compared the December 2014 reports to those of a year earlier.

In a similar vein, a recent Government Accountability Office report found that in the past year, DOD’s major defense acquisition program portfolio decreased from 80 programs to 78, while the estimated cost has decreased by $7.6 billion. “The size and cost of the portfolio is currently the lowest in a decade”” the report said. “The decrease in current portfolio cost is due primarily to significant quantity decreases on two programs—most other programs actually experienced a cost increase over the past year.”

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