Digest: Small Contracting Advocacy Group Loses a Court Battle

Blind Justice - ColorFor some time, the American Small Business League (ASBL) has been on a crusade to prove its assertions that small contractors are being shortchanged by rules that give unfair advantage to large corporations. However, on one front a setback occurred.

1) ASBL Loses an Appeal on Subcontracting

We’ve covered some of ASBL’s battles. This particular skirmish involves the mission of an obscure Pentagon department known as Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program. ASBL President, Lloyd Chapman, has long believed that the Test Program’s hidden purpose is to hide the extent to which large contractors win defense business intended for smaller ones.

ASBLFirst, a bit of background. The Test Program was started during George H. W. Bush’s administration and was housed within the Pentagon’s Office of Small Business.

The office’s purpose is to “determine if comprehensive subcontracting plans on a corporate, division or plant-wide basis [instead of for individual contracts] would lead to increased opportunities for small businesses,” according to its website.

So, how’s that been going?

According to GovExec:

The Test Program “has yet to release a single report or data set. And, an array of small business groups have long viewed the project as a wasteful distraction that is actually costing them opportunities by allowing the major firms leeway to get around the governmentwide goal of awarding 23 percent of contract dollars to small business.”

All of which brings us back to ASBL’s latest battle. The advocacy group took the DoD to court to force helicopter contractor Sikorsky Aviation Corp. to be required to disclose to disclose its subcontracting plan. If successful, ASBL hoped precedence would be set to pull the curtain back on what’s really going on regarding awards to small businesses.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against ASBL, stating that disclosure would put the company at a “competitive disadvantage.”

In 2014, a District judge sided with ASBL and scolded the Pentagon for disclosing only partial subcontracting plans and specifically stated the defense that such disclosure would reveal trade secrets was nonsense. The 9th Circuit, however, took the opposite viewpoint.

ASBL’s response:

By seeking disclosure of Sikorsky Aviation Corporation’s participation in the CSPTP, the ASBL sought to reveal evidence that the program allowed the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors to circumvent small business subcontracting goals without penalty, costing small businesses trillions of dollars,” the league said in a statement following the ruling.

ASBL’s Chapman plans to appeal.

Other Contracting News

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We’re launching a new feature this week: The WatchList. News items listed under this banner contain information that indicates future contracts may be forthcoming. So, contractors in associated industries may want to keep an eye on developments.

  1. Defense Maintenance – Outgoing Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stated she would be issuing action items relating to the maintenance of intercontinental ballistic missile facilities. [Defense News]
  2. Computer Software and Maintenance – The Army’s Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care unit purchased 3,750 semi-rugged laptop computers to to help digitally capture medical treatment data on the battlefield. [C4ISRNET]
  3. Data Consolidation – Outgoing Army Secretary Eric Fanning issued orders to close 60 percent of the service’s 1,200 data centers by the end of 2018 and 75 percent by 2025. [Federal News Radio]
  4. Women Entrepreneurship – One of several tech bills passed by the House urges the National Science Foundation to “encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.” [FedScoop]
  5. Four Acquisition Vehicles – OASIS Pool 2 On-Ramp for small businesses, FedRAMP 2.0, Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services, and DHS IT projects are some of the vehicles that contractors should watch. [Federal Times]

 2) Google for the Pentagon

The job of the the Defense Innovation Advisory Board (DIAB) is to think way outside the box and make recommendations to Pentagon leaders about the best way to harness the power of technology in defense of our nation. One of those recommendations is a data storing and delivery system that sounds “uncannily Google-esque.”

That makes sense, since the the DIAB chairman is Eric Schmidt, Executive Chair of Alphabet, the public holding company of Google.

In fact, DIAB is loaded with tech leaders, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“In our meetings with the senior [Pentagon] leadership, they talk about this thing called ‘data fusion.’ The fantasy goes something like: we’re going to have all these different signals; the signals will be automatically detected; the immediacy…will enable the warfighter to make a better decision,” Schmidt said.

Defense One describes the concept like this:

It would work sort of the way Google does, crawling the Web for new information areas, ranking them for relevance, and presenting them when they match a user’s request. The proposal would require a single network that allows any operator in the world to access any and all Defense Department data with a quick query (and based on appropriate permissions levels). Need to pull up drone footage over Kenya two days ago? Hunting for the design specs on a particular IED? If the DOD has it, it should be findable and mineable at scale — but that requires putting the data in fewer places, making it findable.”

AI would be one of the key beneficiaries of a centralized data storage and retrieval system.

There’s no place in the military where the data is centrally aggregated and a lot of organizations either hide the data, don’t know they have the data, lose the data or don’t care about the data,” said Schmidt.  The problem, he said, ”is that the signals aren’t available and they aren’t minable. So, [data fusion is] a great strategy but you have no way of implementing it. The reason we wanted to bring this idea up and then work it through the bureaucracy or whatever else you call it is that without some kind of data repository, set of data repositories…you are not going to be able to achieve that vision. It’s a clear bug in the strategy.”

Security for such a database would have to be immense. Still, if such a tool can be developed, it would give the U.S. military an extraordinary advantage in the future.

Cybersecurity News

  • One new source of heartburn for cybersecurity professionals is “dark social”Which refers to the fact that most social media is not traceable.According to a report published by RadiumONE, 69 percent of all current social media interactions already occur on platforms that either encrypt messages are digitally shed them once the conversation is over, and that trend is growing every day. [C4ISRNET]
  • Man-in-the-Middle” attacks threaten1,000s of federal websites. According to GSA, just 73 percent of the estimated 1,000 active federal “parent domains,” or web addresses ending in agency.gov, and 61 percent of some 26,000 “sub-domains” ending in office.agency.gov either support or enforce HTTPS standards. That leaves about 10,400 government websites especially vulnerable to hackers. U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott had sought full HTTPS compliance by the end of 2016. [Bloomberg]
  • Los Angeles Valley Community College paid a $28,000 bitcoin ransomTo hackers so the college could restore access to its servers in time for registration for the new semester. Just a reminder that ransomware attacks are continuing to rise. Welcome to 2017. [NextGov]

Technology News

  • Drones are becoming a bigger deal for the military all the time
  1. The Pentagon launched a swarm of over 100 drones operating together through artificial intelligence, which is the largest such effort in DoD history. In this test, the drones were launched mid-air by a trio of F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft, then formed up and autonomously executed a series of maneuvers required by the operators. [Defense News]
  2. Meanwhile, the Army wants its ground vehicles to detect drones using infrared sensors. The goal is to “develop an algorithm approach to automatically detect and track small, slow UAS from a moving tactical platform using distributed aperture system (DAS) of uncooled IR cameras mounted on the hull of the vehicle,” the Army said. [C4ISRNET]

International News

  • In a scenario eerily reminiscent of the Cuban Missile CrisisIsraeli intelligence satellite imagery confirms what Moscow-watchers and intelligence analysts have known since March of last year: the deployment of Russian nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in Syria. The imagery “is the first visual evidence of the system’s presence in Syria” and that its revelations were the first to reveal the system’s deployment site. [Defense News]
  • Meanwhile, the Senate rolled out a bipartisan bill outlining sanctions against RussiaIn response to that country’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. The legislation would include new sanctions for transactions with Russia’s two main intelligence agencies and individuals tied to cyber attacks, including freezing any assets within the United States and banning their visas. It also includes sanctions targeting large investments in Russia’s energy sector and the development of Russian energy pipelines, and pass into law recent sanctions that President Obama issued by executive order. [The Hill]
  • As for NATO
  1. The incoming administration will be faced with the largest European arms build-up by NATO partners since the Cold War. Thousands of additional U.S. and NATO troops will soon face eastward toward Russia, stiffened by 87 new tanks, 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, 60 additional fighting and transport helicopters, among many new developments. [Defense One]
  2. However, Britain’s brexit may cause the U.S.’ closest ally to become unseated as Europe’s leading NATO power. Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, said in a Jan. 9 report that “the fact that [the consequences] are already being raised is a clear message that the UK’s role and influence within NATO cannot be entirely ring-fenced from the consequences of Brexit.” [Defense News]
  3. The State Department released information regarding Congressional restrictions on US military aid for Israel as part of thebilateral pact signed nearly four months ago. Details of the $38 billion deal, which covers fiscal years 2019 to 2028, provide context to a fact sheet released by the White House when the agreement was inked on Sept. 14, 2016. What was not included in the White House fact sheet are the specific terms and conditions under which the US aid will be made available to its top Mideast ally. [Defense News]


And, finally …

It’s only January, but some people are already sick of winter. If you’re one of those people, we have two items that may pull you out of you “winter of discontent” …

First, Mashable brings us the “world’s first snowboard backflip on a running car:”

And, if that wasn’t enough, how about a totally new way to take your dogs for a walk in the snow:

Now, admit it. Can’t you feel the rush of new fallen — (interrupted by an incoming snowball) — Hey! That almost hit us in the — ……

Posted under: Acquisition, Air Force, Army, Congress, Contract News, Cybersecurity, Defense, Dept. of Homeland Security, Small Business Contracting, WatchList, Women-Owned

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