The BDO GovCon Week Ahead - February 2021

The BDO GovCon Week Ahead - February 2021

February 22, 2021

Don’t Forget to Change Your Password: Picture this: You are finishing up work for the day and an unknown operator begins remotely moving your cursor, opening files, and checking emails.  Terrifying, right? Now imagine this scenario happening on a much larger scale; a Florida city’s water supply to be exact. On February 8, 2021, this was almost the case.
Hackers were able to access the computer system used to monitor and control the Oldsmar city’s water supply. The hackers were trying to raise the levels of sodium hydroxide, an agent used in small quantities to regulate a water supply’s pH, to a dangerously high level. Early detection was able to stop the incident before it could become more serious or even deadly, as sodium hydroxide is extremely dangerous in large quantities (it is used as the main ingredient in drain cleaning products).
This near miss outlines an even larger and more troubling issue: The U.S. infrastructure system is dated and is a target for malicious actors. This attack will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to the government and encourage federal agencies, specifically the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to step up in protecting critical infrastructure from increasingly skillful attackers.
As our infrastructure systems continue to age and hackers become increasingly sophisticated, it will be interesting to see how CISA and other federal agencies work with government contractors to bolster the critical infrastructure system from the water supply to the electricity grid.

For more information, please click this link.

Out with the Old, in with the New: The General Services Administration (GSA) is set to roll out its two-phase effort to combine the System for Award Management (SAM) portal with the existing website in April 2021. The integration is part of the GSA’s efforts to modernize and consolidate the environment of the ten Integrated Award Environment (IAE) systems into one platform. To date, three IAE systems have migrated into completely and some functionality from a fourth system has also merged into the new environment.

Phase one of the integration is scheduled for April 26, 2021, and will change the optics and layout of the current website. This will give current users of the system a chance to get used to the new design before the functionalities of the system fully integrate. Phase two is scheduled for May 24, 2021, at which point the functionality of will be integrated into the newly designed and the term “beta” will be retired.

The IAE announced that they will hold an online forum in May which will walk users through the integration, design changes and functionalities of the new platform.

For more information, please click this link.

A Dose for All – And Opportunity of All: As COVID-19 vaccinations begin to ramp up across the country, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have penned massive deals with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.  These multi-billion-dollar contracts will facilitate the purchase of an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for $2 billion and 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine for $1.65 billion.

These latest contracts bring the total number of vaccines purchased from the two companies to 600 million doses. In conjunction with this new contract, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are working to scale up manufacturing to deliver 300 million doses through the end of July. To date, the government has awarded Pfizer-BioNTech nearly $6 billion and Moderna $5.75 billion for their vaccines and required services surrounding production.

This latest round of federal funding for COVID-19 relief reflects the new administration’s willingness to continue to accelerate the infusion of capital for contractors working in the fight against the pandemic. Although these big-budget contracts often grab the headlines, it is important to note the trickle-down economics that this steadfast commitment to COVID relief funding affords.  Even if a government contractor is not directly part of the vaccine production and distribution, there are endless opportunities in the supply chain—be it logistics, IT, regulatory compliance or other fields—to assist in the vaccination scale-up efforts.

With the new administration and a massive COVID-19 relief bill on the horizon, it is expected that billions of dollars more will be directed toward contractors, big and small, assisting in pandemic relief efforts.

For more information, please click this link.

February 15, 2021

For Your Eyes Only - How NIST is Advising Contractors to Handle Sensitive Information: At the beginning of February 2021, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a new publication intended to guide contractors on the handling and protection of controlled unclassified information (CUI). NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-172 is a supplement to oft-discussed NIST SP 800-171, which reflects the government’s renewed focus on improving the country’s cybersecurity.

NIST SP 800-172 lays out 35 security requirements intended to protect CUI from advanced persistent threats. While system administrators at many contractors already have many of these requirements in place, it’s worth double-checking, as federal agencies are now able to include select requirements in their contracts and the Department of Defense is incorporating some into their Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.

For more information, please click this link and this link.

And Soon to Be Three? Following in the footsteps of peers Pfizer and Moderna, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has submitted its application for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike the current offerings from Pfizer and Moderna, which require two injections separated by a few weeks, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires a single dose.  Given the slow progress of vaccine distribution, this single-dose vaccine would be a welcome relief to many.

In preparation for its submission for EUA, Johnson & Johnson announced that its vaccine is 66% effective overall at preventing moderate and severe illness and 85% effective at protecting against severe cases of COVID-19. Given this efficacy, it is expected that the EUA will be granted.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson’s CSO, Paul Stoffels, has said that the company is ready to ship doses immediately, should it receive EUA. Although Stoffels did not specify a number, government officials have noted that initial shipment could be in the millions.

The FDA has announced that a panel of outside experts will meet to discuss the vaccine and its recommendation at a public meeting on February 26, 2021.

For more information, please click this link.

What Do Meteorologists and the Federal Government Have in Common? The love of clouds. Dad jokes aside, according to the latest Bloomberg Government spending analysis, total federal cloud computing expenditures increased from $6.1 billion in government fiscal year (GFY) 2019 to $6.6 billion in GFY 2020. Civilian agencies accounted for roughly $4.5 billion of the total $6.6 billion, led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Veteran Affairs, while the U.S. Air Force accounted for nearly 25 percent of the $2.1 billion spent by defense agencies. Infrastructure and platform-as-a-service continued to make up the majority share of all federal cloud computing spend, but software-as-a-service and other cloud support services did see a significant increase as government customers continued to advance their cloud technologies.

The year-over-year growth in cloud spend decreased slightly due to acquisition delays during the pandemic, including the pending outcome of the multibillion-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud competition. However, the report states that cloud spending growth is expected to rebound significantly through GFY 2023, due to the “new normal” of remote work, thousands of expiring task orders and an increased interest in packaged “enterprise IT as a service” contracts. Bloomberg states that this uptick in demand could lead to “expected growth of about 9-to 10 percent annually,” resulting in projected cloud spending of $8.5 billion in GFY 2023.

For more information, please click this link.

February 8, 2021

Biden’s Gambit - Checkmating Foreign Manufacturers: During his first week on the job, the President delivered an opening intended to help American companies and workers gain control of the board with the “Made in America” Executive Order. On January 25, 2020, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” which urges federal agencies to purchase more American-made goods and services.

This EO lays out the following plans and actions to be taken, among several others:

  • Creation of the “Made in America Office” and appointment of a director who will review proposed waivers
  • Development of a General Services Administration-operated website to publicize all proposed waivers and their status and decision
  • Agency status reports on the Made in America laws implementation, within 180 days of the EO
  • Proposed changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council, within 180 days of the EO.

BDO will continue to monitor the proposed rulemaking progress.  Keep reading the Week Ahead for more information on when the comment period(s) will open to find out how the proposed changes may impact you and your business.

For more information please click this link and this link.

Science Knows No Country: At the end of January 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum on restoring trust in government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policy making. The memo calls for a shift toward independent, data-driven policy making and establishes new leadership positions across multiple federal agencies.

“It is the policy of my administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data,” the memo states, calling for the establishment of new policies, frameworks, a White House-level task force and agency Chief Science Officers. The new Chief Science Officer role is required for any agency that funds, conducts or oversees any scientific research, and agencies have 90 days to establish scientific advisory committees to support the new role.

The CSO, along with the scientific advisory committee, will lead their respective agencies in all science and research issues and ensure the programs are “scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity.”

For more information, please click this link.

DoD Doubles-Down on Space Force Support: Since its inception in December 2019, the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the United States Space Force, has spurred opportunity and excitement in the contracting and civilian communities alike. To double down on its commitment to the USSF, the U.S. Air Force is working to reorganize existing acquisition processes and departments to streamline and consolidate procurement practices.

As part of this restructuring, three individual directorates were established to oversee areas essential to the advancement of the USSF: Acquisition, Architecture, and Policy and Integration. The establishment of these new directorates is part of an overarching goal within the military to make the space acquisition process more efficient. Fragmented leadership and inefficient processes within the Department of Defense have been widely criticized for delaying national security and mission critical capabilities.

As part of the 2020 defense authorization bill, the DoD is required to appoint a space acquisition executive. This position has yet to be established but is required to be created by October 2022. Along with the new directorates, this position would coordinate with the USSF service acquisition executive to streamline the acquisition and procurement of space systems.

In government FY2021, the USAF received $153.6 billion in funding with $15.4 billion directed to USSF. This value is likely to increase with the FY2022 defense budget, which is expected to be unveiled in early February. As the DoD and Congress continue to show strong support for the USSF, new opportunities may arise for the contracting community.

For more information, please click this link and this link.