The BDO GovCon Week Ahead - September 2021

September 20, 2021

Cybersecurity Standard Déjà Vu: Do you ever have the feeling of déjà vu while trying to make sense of the slew of supply chain risk management standards  Well, you’re not alone. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Solution for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) subset worked with industry experts to compare two popular sets of standards spearheaded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO). To no one’s surprise, the standards ended up being extremely similar, having up to 89 percent overlap.
Although SEWP did not compare these requirements to the current gold standard set by the Department of Defense (DoD)’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), it did show how the growing myriad of standards are serving to muddy the waters of compliance and can cause confusion as well as duplicative efforts on the contractor’s part. In this review, significant overlap was noted for five of 12 controller enhancements and a 75 percent to 89 percent overlap of the risk controls. The group prepared the Standards Crosswalk ISO 20243 & NIST 800-161 white paper that maps the various ISO and NIST controls to each other and compares their similarities.
Contractors should be aware that by complying with one set of standards, they are likely overlapping with the other sets of standards. This may mean a contractor can add an additional certification to their roster more easily or, if they are required to comply with a new standard, they may already be well on the way.

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Don’t Judge a Tree by Its Size, But by Its Fruit: On September 8, 2021, the DoD issued a notice on the Federal Register, requesting comments and information from small businesses. The DoD is looking to learn more about barriers to entry and to take action to remove those barriers.
Last year, the DoD awarded $80 billion dollars to small businesses, but over the last decade, the number of small businesses in their supply chain has decreased by over 40 percent. To further complicate matters, a recent survey conducted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) revealed that four out of five small businesses have been impacted in some way by the pandemic.
The DoD is specifically seeking feedback from small business contractors that are currently a part of the defense industrial base and from other small businesses that are looking to become a part of it. Feedback and comments are due by October 25, 2021, and the goal is that it will provide the DoD and the Biden administration with information to start removing administrative red tape, keeping the best and most innovative small businesses from seeking Government contracts, and helping to build a more robust domestic supply chain.

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IT Modernization Efforts Are Not Slowing Anytime Soon: Over the last year, we have seen an increased emphasis on bolstering federal IT systems, and it looks like more funding is being added to the pot.  The House Committee on Oversight and Reform adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., that earmarks more than $3 billion in spending on federal IT modernization efforts. “This week, Congress continues our important work in rebuilding from this pandemic and building a 21st century economy that is more equitable, visionary, and sustainable. But the policy prescriptions we adopt will only be successful if our IT can deliver on those promises,” Connolly said in a statement. “The fate of the world’s largest economy rises and falls with the ability of government IT systems to deliver in an emergency and as we recover into the future. And that should galvanize us all.”
The amendment to the reconciliation package extends additional funding to federal IT modernization in three ways.  First, it includes an additional $1 billion to the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which was the original amount it received under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. This amount is roughly 10 times more than Congress had ever allotted for the TMF, and it has been reported that more than 100 agencies have submitted applications for IT projects and they continue to flood in.
In addition to increased funding to the TMF, $2 billion would also be provided to the General Services Administration (GSA)’s Federal Citizens Services Fund, which aims to promote innovation of how Federal agencies engage with the public, as well as other cybersecurity and cloud-based initiatives. Finally, the amendment would allocate another $350 million to the Information Technology Oversight and Reform account within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which would improve how the Federal IT Dashboard tracks IT spending across Federal agencies.

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September 7, 2021

New Space Station? That’s Too Easy for NASA: As the International Space Station (ISS) is approaching its 25th year in orbit, conversations about replacing the historic space destination have started. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently stated they will be looking to the private sector to build the next generation of space stations and other space-based destinations, including both science-based missions and the increasingly popular space tourism industry. “The [ISS] should be able to be operated safely for several years, but eventually we anticipate somewhere in the latter part of this decade, we are going to retire it,” stated Phil McAlister, NASA's Director of Commercial Spaceflight, “… and we are going to need a destination to go to, and our plan is for that next destination to not be government-built.  We want that to be provided by the private sector so that we can just buy services from that destination, just like anybody else.  We want to be one of many customers.”
To accomplish this, NASA recently solicited proposals from industry for the first of a two-phase project it calls the “Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destinations.” The project aligns with NASA’s broader plan for commercial space development, allowing the agency to focus more on deep space exploration: McAlister said that NASA will partner with private-sector companies to develop these destinations, like how the agency has partnered with SpaceX and Boeing through its Commercial Crew Program, wherein NASA invested in the development of—and will purchase flights from—private-sector companies. With the Virgin Galactic and Amazon space flights creating even more buzz around space tourism, commercial space travel may not be as far out as once thought.

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Wait, I Thought I Was Done with Tests after I Graduated from School: While the battle against COVID-19 rages and debates on personal choice continue, the Government has doubled- and tripled-down on their position regarding Federal employees and contractors working on Government sites and whether they are vaccinated. Recent policy stipulates that individuals are to be asked to disclose their vaccination status, and if they decline to disclose or are unvaccinated, states that they must regularly, at least once a week, take a COVID-19 test.
Federal agencies are now being tasked with determining if reasonable accommodations can be made for those who refuse the vaccine and subsequent testing resulting from the refusal to receive the vaccine or disclose whether they have received one. While the agencies work through how to implement these requirements, Federal employees are subject to disciplinary action, should they not follow the testing requirements.
Such disciplinary action is currently limited to Federal employees working on-site, but it is only a matter of time before we see guidance on how the agencies are to work with Federal contractors, and as a result, its subcontractors, working on-site who are unable or unwilling to undergo the required COVID-19 testing.
Stay tuned to the BDO GovCon Week Ahead as additional requirements and/or flowdowns are released.

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Bringing Back American Manufacturing – For Real This Time? “We need to bring back US manufacturing!” – We’ve heard this many times before.  We’ve heard this phrase so frequently, in fact, it seems like an elusive specter that hides somewhere between Government policy and funding, but can never truly be found. Well, a new bill gaining traction may begin to make headway on this seemingly impossible goal.
The Industrial Financial Corporation (IFC) would be a bank owned by the Federal government that would be tasked with filling the “manufacturing gap” and providing finance options for high-tech production. The IFC initiative is spearheaded by a group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, and Republican lawmakers have been showing increasing interest in industrial policy as well, a rare instance of potential bipartisanship.
The IFC would step in where current financial institutions have faltered and would be tasked with making long-term loans, buying equity, and making purchase guarantees for firms in the manufacturing sectors. The bill is being compared with Operation Warp Speed (OWS) as it could provide the backing and confidence for climate-essential technologies and the manufacturing of clean energy systems, semiconductors, and batteries, among other technologies, much like OWS did for the COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
As this bill continues to gain more traction within legislative circles, it presents an unprecedented and potentially game-changing level of opportunity for current and future American manufacturers. We will continue to keep a close eye on the bills progress and respective feedback form legislative bodies.