Inside the Reporter's Notebook: A new job for a former VA senior official; Countdown to cloud credential pilot begins

Friday - 8/16/2013, 7:08pm EDT

"Inside the Reporter's Notebook," is a biweekly dispatch of news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and the like.

This is not a column nor commentary — it's news tidbits, strongly sourced buzz and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

As always, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at jpmiller@federalnewsradio.com.


S cott Gould didn't take too much time off since leaving as the deputy secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department in May.

But what's surprising is where he landed. Gould signed on with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield as its executive vice president of medical affairs.

A CareFirst spokeswoman confirmed Gould will oversee the company's patient- centered medical home program. He also will manage all aspects of provider contracting and CareFirst medical policy and care coordination activities.

It's an interesting move for Gould for several reasons.

First, Gould spent most of his career with government contractors or in the government itself. He served as vice president at IBM global business services and chief operating officer at Exolve, a technology services firm. He served in the Navy and worked in senior financial management positions at the Commerce and Treasury departments during the Clinton administration. So, moving to a healthcare company is a jump for him based on his history. But then again, he was VA's chief operating officer, which is the nation's largest healthcare provider, so he's got the qualifications.

Second, by moving to CareFirst, he's potentially positioning himself for a final tour in government should a Democrat get elected in 2016. Where you might ask? Probably not Defense Secretary, but maybe VA Secretary or another high level position.

One VA observer said it's a good move for CareFirst because Gould could help them out on several levels. But the source said the Obama folks will be less than happy with Gould's decision after CareFirst announced it was pulling 54 of 62 plans from the healthcare exchange in Washington, D.C. set up under the Affordable Care Act.

As for VA, they remain without a deputy secretary or even a nominee and without a permanent chief information officer.


Be on the lookout next week for a big contract award for cloud computing and identity management.

Several sources inside the government confirmed the Postal Service is on the cusp of hiring a contractor to develop and run the Federal Cloud Credential Exchange (FCCX) pilot.

USPS released the solicitation in January and observers have expected an award for the last few weeks.

The goal of the FCCX is to let citizens log onto federal services using usernames and passwords from third parties, such as Google or PayPal, as long as those companies meet federal standards under the Federal Identity Credential and Access Management framework (FICAM).

USPS volunteered to run the pilot under its Digital Solutions Group.

According to a slide presentation from June posted on IDManagement.gov, the FCCX would create a single interface between agencies and identity service providers, speed up integration and reduce costs and complexity.

USPS told industry that the FCCX should be able to support 135 million customers and up to 1 million customer transactions per hour. The FCCX pilot is expected to last one year, the Postal Service said.


The Defense Department is finally offering some meaning to its concept of "should cost" for acquisitions.

Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote in an Aug. 6 memo that managers at every level should implement "should cost" management in acquisition of products, services and programs.

Kendall said component acquisition executives and program executive officers "will review and approve 'should cost' targets, monitor progress and direct or recommend allocation of realized cost savings as appropriate. All acquisition managers should routinely analyze all cost elements and consider reasonable measures to reduce them, with prudent, cost-benefit based considerations of associated risks. Immediate short-term savings should not come at the expense of long-term degradation of effectiveness or suitability; investments that result in long-term returns in production or sustainment efficiency should be considered and are appropriate uses of 'should cost' related savings. Managers should also apprise their leadership of opportunities for life-cycle cost savings that are outside their span of control."

DoD introduced the concept of "should cost" as part of the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative.

"Should cost" is the idea that DoD officials should manage programs in accordance with what they should cost, not what history has suggested they will cost.

The memo tells acquisition officials to use savings demonstrated and realized from "should cost" initiatives on the "most pressing unfunded requirements, or may reinvest this funding within the same programs to accelerate the acquisition, fund cost-reduction initiatives or cover critical unfunded requirements."

Interestingly, Kendall wants "should-cost" case studies sent to the Defense Acquisition University. DAU will include the write-ups in its training and Better Buying Power repository established to collect and share best practices.

Additionally, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy is developing policy for services acquisition requirements review boards, which is expected to be completed by Oct. 1.

The idea of "should-cost" hasn't been well received by industry, both for its confusing concept but also because of the focus on cost. For more than a decade, the government preached best value over cost. But over the last year, the focus on cost has reached alarming levels for industry, especially with the consistent application of the "low-cost, technically acceptable" approach to many acquisitions.


The White House's open data policy created significant buzz and excitement in the federal community back in May. The requirement for agencies to release data that is open and machine readable had been the missing piece to the administration's open government push.

The Office of Management and Budget is now giving agencies additional guidance to meet five near-term requirements by Nov. 1, as detailed in the memo.

OMB released a new supplemental guidance on implementation, which detailed to agencies "how to take inventory and publish their data assets, new FAQs about how open data requirements apply to federal acquisition and grant- making processes and a framework for creating measurable goals that agencies can use to track progress," according to a blog post by Nick Sinai, deputy chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dominic Sale, supervisory policy analyst in OMB's Office of E- Government and IT.

The document provides agencies with more clarity on the specific actions they should take to create an enterprise data inventory framework.

It also gives OMB a way to measure and evaluate agency progress toward meeting the goal of the Open Data Policy.

OMB will use a maturity framework that defines three levels of open data — "expand," "enrich" and "open." The guidance instructs agencies in creating their data inventories by Nov. 1 to include all data sets posted to Data.gov before Aug. 1, ensures the inventory contains one metadata record for each dataset and uses common core "required" fields, which in part indicates whether the department will make the data public.

"This guidance seeks to balance the need to establish clear and meaningful expectations for agencies to meet, while allowing sufficient flexibility on the approach each agency may take to address their own unique needs," the document stated.


O ut&About

The Northern Virginia Technology Council is launching its NVTC Veterans Employment Initiative Tuesday. It's a new program designed to connect veterans to employment opportunities within Virginia's technology community.

The Digital Government Institute is offering a 3-for-1 conference on Wednesday at the Washington Convention Center. DGI is hosting the 930Gov showcase, the IPv6 and Tactical IT conferences. The folks at Government Executive are also hosting a breakfast on Wednesday, which looks at DoD's cyber priorities in the face of budget cuts.

On Thursday, FedScoop is hosting a half-day event focusing on lowering the cost of IT government.

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Aug. 2 — Inside the Reporter's Notebook: Shining a light on GSA contract awards; Congress continues battle over E-Gov Fund

July 12 — Inside the Reporter's Notebook: DHS cyber contract awards delayed; musical chairs in federal IT ranks

June 24 — HUD buying into shared services; renewed push to merge DoD's CIO