How ‘Amazon,’ 5 other acquisition provisions changed in final defense bill

If you are keeping score at home, chalk one up for industry in the battle to keep Amazon from dominating how agencies buy commercial products. But don’t expect this to the final score by far.

The Senate convinced the House to modify the so-called “Amazon” amendment in the 2018 National Defense Authorization bill during the conference negotiations. And industry is pleased.

The NDAA includes the provision to set up more than one online marketplace for agencies to buy commercial products using a two-year phased-in approach.

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WPI Celebrates 30 Years of Service to Wisconsin Businesses

The State of Wisconsin’s federally-designated Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), better known as the Wisconsin Procurement Institute (WPI), recently celebrated 30 years of service to the Wisconsin economy and business community at a luncheon hosted by TAPCO, Inc.

WPI has been a leader in assisting Wisconsin businesses to bring more Federal dollars to the State of Wisconsin. WPI opened its doors in 1987 as the Aspin Procurement Institute under the leadership of then Congressman Les Aspin. The initial mission focused on helping Wisconsin’s businesses obtain defense contracts. WPI has grown over the years to supporting businesses seeking local, state and federal contracts. 30 years ago, most of the Federal contracts to the State were for manufacturing from the Department of Defense.  Today those dollars are broadly diversified to include engineering and environmental services, medical services and equipment, loan services, technology and construction.

Each year WPI serves over 1,200 business and organizations throughout the State and provides training at over 80 events and conferences. Building on its years of success and growth, WPI announced additions to its Board at the 30th anniversary luncheon.

WPI is pleased to announce Todd Bentley, President of Bentley World Packaging, and James Kerlin, President and CEO of Beyond Vision, as its newest Board members.  In addition, Andrew Bergholz, VP of Sales and Marketing of TAPCO, accepted the position of Vice Chairperson for WPI.

“WPI continues to grow and serve Wisconsin businesses. Over 30 years numerous business leaders have lent their time and expertise to WPI’s mission.  We are grateful Mr. Bentley and Mr. Kerlin have joined WPI’s Board and welcome their contributions,” said Bill Hughes, WPI Board Chairman.

WPI also announced 2 new additions to its Advisory Board – Craig Anderson, Executive Director, American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin AICCW / First American Capital Corporation (FACC), and Daryl Zahn, Manager, Contracts and Compliance, DRS Power & Control Technologies, Inc.

“WPI is a critical resource for Wisconsin businesses.  We look forward to continuing our work in support of bringing more Federal dollars back to Wisconsin,” added Aina Vilumsons, CEO, WPI.

Federal Probe Into Puerto Rico Power Scandal Expands

A second federal contract with a company hired to rebuild Puerto Rico’s all but collapsed power grid is coming under scrutiny, drawing the attention of federal investigators and even members of Congress even as most of the hurricane-ravaged island remains without power. The news of a second faulty contract is also raising questions about the contracting process for the island’s government-owned power company, the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

Puerto Rico’s crumbling, aging electrical grid was at the heart of the island’s crippling debt and infrastructure problems even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into it over a month ago. But now, in the wake of recent scandals over contractors hired to fix that very grid, some experts expect the timeline for full recovery to last well into next year.

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Defense Authorization Bill Allows Pilot Program on Curbing Bid Protests

Buried in the $700 billion fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization bill that House-Senate conferees unveiled on Wednesday is a compromise on disputed language aimed at reducing the number of time-consuming contractor bid protests.

Contractors, contracting officers and staff of the Government Accountability Office—which adjudicates the protests filed by companies that lose out on an award—had been awaiting the fate of language in the Senate version that would have required companies larger than $100 million in the previous year’s revenues that protest unsuccessfully to pay the costs of processing the protest at Defense and GAO.

Too many “frivolous” protests cause delays in the procurement of weapons systems, the unnamed senators argued.

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Agencies Continue to Struggle With Accurate Spending Reports, Underreporting by Billions

Most federal agencies are required by law to have uploaded their financial data on, but complying with the federal transparency law has been a little messy, watchdog reports show.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act, required agencies make their spending data available to the public online by May 2017. The yearly spending—about $3.7 trillion—is displayed on The act also tasks the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget with overseeing agency reports, and requires agencies’ inspectors general to assess the quality of the data they upload.

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What is the Stafford Act and why might it be making disaster relief worse?

After the U.S. and its territories were slammed by natural disasters ranging from catastrophic hurricanes to deadly wildfires this year, one law is coming to the forefront of emergency response talks: the Stafford Act.

The nearly 29-year-old bill was created to bring a systematic way for the federal government to assist state and local governments during a natural disaster.

But as the U.S. braces for the possibility that hurricanes like Harvey, Maria and Nate will become the rule rather than the exception due to changing climates, lawmakers and government officials are rethinking some of the provisions in the Stafford Act.

One provision of the law that Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long thinks needs to be changed is section 404, the part of the bill dealing with disaster mitigation.

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GSA gets fiscal 2018 rolling with major procurement initiatives

The General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service is kicking off fiscal 2018 with a bang.

FAS released three requests for information and made a major governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) award in just the last week. And this is just the first few weeks of the fiscal year, while industry expects the fall and winter to remain busy.

Let’s start with the award, because that’s a sure thing.

GSA hired 70 small service-disabled, veteran-owned firms for the $5 billion Veterans Technology Services (VETS 2) GWAC.

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Who should use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

The Cybersecurity Framework provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was published in early 2014 as a set of guidelines to strengthen cybersecurity for organizations that engage in elements of the critical infrastructure of the United States.

While it initially focused on engagement with the federal government, the framework, because of its comprehensive approach to security, is being adopted across all industries. Organizations not adhering to it should quickly consider it as a way to develop their own security best practices.

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Report: 1 in 4 Emails that Appear to Be Dot-Gov Addresses are Phishing Attempts

About one-fourth of emails that purport to be from federal agencies are malicious phishing emails spoofing federal addresses, according to a Thursday report from the cybersecurity company Agari.

The study was based on Agari clients that use an email security feature called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, or DMARC.

The Homeland Security Department gave federal agencies three months to install DMARC on their email systems Monday as part of a larger email and web security drive.

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SBA hopes to cut back on the hoop jumping for government contractors, WOSBs

The Small Business Administration is closing in on a proposed rule that will lighten the load for both its contracting officers, and the women-owned small businesses (WOSB) looking to work with the federal government.

Sean Crean, director of SBA’s Office of Government Contracting, said SBA is about 30-60 days away from putting a rule out for public comment, establishing a WOSB certification process.

“What will eventually happen, after this process is complete, we will implement a policy where contracting officers no longer have to go into an electronic file cabinet, they’ll be able to rely on the fact that SBA has now got an approved certified firm and it’ll be on parity with the other certification programs that we have like HUBzone, as well as the 8(a) program,” Crean said during said Thursday’s ChallengeHER event in Washington, hosted by SBA, Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), and American Express OPEN. “And then their choices as a contracting officer become very simple.”

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