On Thursday, January, 22, 2009, Sheppard Mullin co-sponsored a Bisnow event that discussed opportunities for government contractors, particularly those in the Federal IT industry, under the new Administration. Panelists included several government and industry leaders, including: DoD Deputy CIO David Wennergren, Karen Evans (former Administrator of the Office of e-Government and Information Technology at OMB), Navy CIO Robert Carey, ATS Corporation CEO Dr. Edward Bersoff, and SRA International CEO Dr. Stanton Sloane.
The panelists offered several observations and predictions as to what "might" or "could" happen in the next four years in Federal IT procurement:
- Continued demand for effective cybersecurity technologies that go beyond firewalls and anti-virus software and address larger national security threats by more sophisticated groups that are better organized and more heavily financed than individual “hackers”.
- Heightened demand for security systems that are capable of providing the highest levels of security while not impeding one-on-one sharing of information and collaboration. The days of stringent/impenetrable firewalls appear to be numbered.
- Substantial opportunities in such areas as e-healthcare, green technology (for instance, solutions to reduce energy consumption for server farms); and IT systems designed to manage, distribute, and ensure the accountability of Government funds, the latter of which will most assuredly become a prime concern in light of questions already being asked about the tracking of the initial near billion dollar slug of bailout dollars.
- Heightened initiatives among a growing number of agencies for a uniform Federal government identification badge. Businesses should ensure that their products and services are able to accommodate these needs.
- In a similar vein, a shift among some agencies toward a single inter-agency network instead of the prevailing agency-by-agency network arrangement.
- Growing demand for mobile platform-based technologies, e-tools, and cybersecurity programs (a point perhaps best illustrated by President Obama’s recent compromise with his security detail allowing limited use of his BlackBerry).
- Greater need for smaller, more specialized products and services that are capable of immediately addressing a particular agency need or problem. There will be lesser demand for new major IT systems with individualized capabilities and security controls and more emphasis on services. The increased emphasis on services will, we think, apply to developments across the board, e.g., it seems likely that the increased demand for cybersecurity technologies to address larger national security threats will require enhanced service capabilities to operate and maintain the more complex systems, as will mobile platform-based technologies. Technology "systems" will be increasingly understood by acquisition personnel to consist of interrelated human and technological components — a reality long grasped by systems engineers but not always by those who purchase these complex systems.
- Continued movement toward performance based contracts and away from time and material contracts. One panelist speculated that the days of T&M contracts will soon be over, with more contracts being based on benchmarks and tangible results. We suspect, however, that T&M will not die an easy death, since the Government users are the prime drivers for that contract form, based on their inability to define requirements with the requisite level of precision.
- Possible movement to introduce "social networking" functionality to procurement officers and other agency personnel. Panelists speculated that this possible trend offers numerous possibilities, including, for instance, offering procurement officers the ability to have instant and easier access to current and prospective contractors during the bid formation, contract award and contract performances processes. We see numerous issues if social networking becomes the "way of the future," not the least of which would be ensuring that bid processes are conducted in a fair, unbiased, and open manner. Procurement as a “social” exercise is an invitation for chicanery.
- Greater preference for products and services that currently exist and that need not be developed over a period of years. Businesses with existing products and systems that can be implemented in "minus Day 1" will have a competitive advantage.
For an initial synopsis of the Bisnow event, click here.
Matthew W. Clanton