The budding Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response aims to deflect cyber, manmade and natural security hazards.

By Brandi Vincent, Staff Correspondent, Nextgov

March 21, 2019

The priorities and efforts of the Energy Department’s nascent Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, or CESER, were laid out by its first acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Adrienne Lotto Thursday.

“We all see the magnitude and sophistication of the threats facing our energy infrastructure. Our nation’s electricity, fuel and delivery systems have become more complex and even more interdependent,” Lotto told attendees of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management’s Cybersecurity Summit in Washington. “As a result, the threat against the sector has become even more frequent and more sophisticated.”

In response, she said Energy Secretary Rick Perry created the new office in February 2018 to elevate the threats to the public and private sectors and allocate resources and a workforce to address those threats head-on. The president included $96 million in the fiscal 2019 budget request to stand up the office.

Lotto said CESER leads the department’s efforts to secure the nation’s energy infrastructure against all hazards, reduce both the risks and impacts of cyber and other disruptive events, and assist in restoration when disruptions do happen—because they inevitably will.

“We address all hazards: cyber, manmade and natural,” she said.

Lotto also went into detail around the office’s early efforts. She said it is developing techniques to enhance the speed and effectiveness of threat and vulnerability information sharing that’s both bi-directional and machine to machine. She said the office has noticed that they’re seeing the threats “not only on the [information technology] side of the house but on the [operational technology] side, as well.”

She said it’s important for “both the federal government and private sector to work towards closing the understanding of that gap.”

Lotto also said that the office is working on a tool called CyOTE, or Cybersecurity for the Operational Technology (OT) Environment, which works to increase situational awareness through an industry-led approach that will share and analyze OT data.  

“That data will be enhanced by insight from the intelligence community and our [Energy] National Labs,” she said.

The office is also participating in exercises with other agencies and industry partners to enhance the security of the nation’s energy systems, and the ability to quickly bounce back after an attack or disruption. Lotto said it recently participated in an exercise with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other key partners on New York’s Plum Island. The office had the opportunity to shut down the island’s grid, and have operators practice “black starting the system,” which is a complex process to re-start a power grid.

“It was really enlightening and the team learned a lot,” she said.

The office is also working with states in both planning and coordination, to ensure they are improving their cybersecurity preparedness framework. Lotto said coordination across all of America’s governments and the private sector is ultimately crucial for success.

“It’s all hands on deck to solve a really big problem,” she said.

Click here for the original article.

Cyber Recruitment: It's not (always) about the money

It's probably no surprise government has trouble attracting young cyber talent, but changes to marketing and hiring processes could help fill the cyber talent pipeline, according to Doug Logan, chief technologist of the U.S. Cyber Challenge. Launched in 2010, USCC holds camps and competitions around the country, helps students burnish their resumes and introduces them to recruiters.

For all the focus on government's inability to compete with private-sector pay, the exact dollar figure, while important, isn't disqualifying, he said.

"The first reason why everyone tells me they don't want to work for the federal government is they think it's boring," he said. "The second reason …  is because they can't find job descriptions that match their entry-level capabilities because [agencies] all want people with a whole bunch of experience. The third reason is because the whole process of applying and actually getting hired in the federal government is horrible and painful and takes forever."

Andrew Meserote, whose team won the Nevada-based USCC camp's capture the flag competition last summer, plans to join the Department of Defense civilian cybersecurity workforce, pending a security clearance. He said the "the recruitment process [for government] is definitely slower than private industry." The slow hiring process means "there's still the chance that even if you get your clearance, the job's not there anymore."

Nicholas Bruno, whose team won the competition in Delaware back in 2016, currently does cyber and programming for a private company, but he said that he'd be open to part-time position -- or a stint in government -- if moving back and forth between government and industry was more viable.

The most appealing aspects about working in government he cited include the training government jobs could provide, the work he wanted to do and the prospect of obtaining a security clearance as a badge for proving trustworthiness.

USCC National Director Glenn Hernandez said not enough emphasis is put on marketing federal cybersecurity employment to job candidates.

"OPM doesn't advertise these positions because they leave it to agencies to push their own things, and there's not that type of recognition that these types of folks that are coming into the workforce need to have a different culture in order to attract them," Hernandez said.

Once new hires are on board, it's important to challenge them with interesting work.

"If they're staring at a screen for eight to 10 hours a day, you just lost them. Within months," he said.

The administration is piloting ways of getting those already in government to fill those vacant positions. Department of Education CIO Jason Gray said the early interest among current federal employees on learning cybersecurity skills via the Cyber Reskilling Academy is a good starting point.

Gray, who also chairs the CIO Council's IT Workforce Committee, said the pilot’s "real goal" was to see if the model of cybersecurity training was something that would generate interest.

The reskilling effort is "really focused on enhancing the employee, and in many cases, the employees will probably get the education and bring it back to their organization and further the cyber efforts," he said. "It's really a win-win, regardless of whether they transition out of the work that they're in right now."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

By Chase Gunter

March 25, 2019

Letter from The President

2019 promises to be an exciting new year. AFFIRM’s mission remains strong with the focus on scholarships and education programs. AFFIRM provides these robust programs through the continued support and sponsorship of our sustaining partners and volunteers.  We would like to extend a sincere thank you for a successful 2018 and to continue the momentum in 2019.

As AFFIRM enters its 40th year, we hope you will join us to support the government’s use of information technology as a catalyst for transformation.

  • AFFIRM’s accomplishment are many: Our scholarship efforts make a difference in the lives of students pursuing technology education and careers. 

  • Thanks to our industry partners and our strong programs, AFFIRM has been able to donate nearly $500,000 to organizations supporting and educating technology students.

  • Our all-volunteer board represents the best and brightest from both industry, government and academia.  Contributing time and expertise, these leaders are the critical element to our success. 

  • Educational programs served over 2,000 government managers, with a draw of nearly 40% attendance from government.  Certified Professional Development Units (PDUs) from PMI add further value to participants.

    Through our combined efforts, we bring the commitment to drive home our mission. We invite your contribution to the government community in the following ways:

  • Become an industry sustaining partner and sponsoring partner for the high-value programs throughout the year.  Sponsorships are available throughout the year and early-bird special opportunities until March 30th, 2019.

  • Volunteer for a committee to support AFFIRM’s goals to grow our scholarship contributions.

  • The ability to review, discuss, and make an impact on IT policy by understanding “what makes government work”. This is done through the luncheon series, after hours programs, and other events throughout the year

Program, Events, Membership and Sponsorship information

Don’t forget to sign up for the monthly luncheons and information for upcoming events at

For Individual Contributions please go to;gofundme

Don’t miss the exciting program lineup for 2019 Programs;

·       After Hours Events – Scheduled throughout the year

·       Speaker Series – Monthly Luncheons (mid-month)

·       US Cyber Challenge Summit – March 21, 2019

·       CFO/CIO Summit 2019 – May 7, 2019

·       Annual Leadership Awards – May 23, 2019

·       IT Career and Shadow Day – April,2019

·       AFFIRM Annual Golf Tournament – October 21, 2019


Washington, DC, December 15, 2018 — The Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) has selected RMK Productions as its association management company.  This move continues the association’s drive to maintain its 40 years of service as an educationally-based association supporting the government sector.

“RMK Productions brings the right mix of experience, dedication, and knowledge of the public sector to AFFIRM,” said Adrian Gardner, President of AFFIRM.  “As the long-term association management company for organizations like Women in Technology and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, RMK has the right team to support AFFIRM’s year-round series of training events.  This allows our all-volunteer board and committees to stay focused on our mission of improving information management in the Federal government.”

Reggie M. Kouba, founder and principal of RMK Productions, noted, “We are proud to work with the talented AFFIRM board as AFFIRM’s full service association management company.  As a team, we have earned our reputation for careful planning and execution, financial accountability, highest-quality client services, and long term relationships, and we are pleased to be selected to bring our brand of support to AFFIRM.”

About RMK Productions

RMK is a full-service, woman-owned, association management and event planning company with over 12 years’ experience serving the needs of associations, corporations, foundations, and non-profit organizations.  Learn more at


The Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) is a non-profit, volunteer, educational organization whose overall purpose is to improve the management of information, and related systems and resources, within the Federal government. Founded in 1979, and based in the Washington, DC area, AFFIRM's members include information resource management professionals from the Federal, academic, and industry sectors.  AFFIRM is a PMI R.E.P and delivers certified PDUs to support the project manager career field in government and industry.  Stay in touch at and @affirmtweets.

Tuskegee University ROTC Hall of Fame Inducts 13 including AFFIRM President Adrian Gardner During Annual Ceremony

Tuskegee University (original article from

ROTC Hall of Fame Inducts 13 During Annual Ceremony

More than 350 years of combined military service, nine Legion of Merit Awards and four Bronze Stars — just a few of the characteristics that define the 2018 class of inductees into Tuskegee University’s ROTC Hall of Fame. The class includes one major general, seven colonels, two lieutenant colonels, two Navy captains, and one federal Senior Executive Service officer.

Established in 2016, Tuskegee’s ROTC Hall of Fame honors individuals who have exemplified the attributes of leadership, integrity, moral courage and self-discipline commonly associated with military service.

“The ROTC Hall of Fame highlights the professionalism and dedication demonstrated through our inductees’ service to our nation,” said Col. Anthony C. Aiken Sr. (Army, ret.), who helped establish the hall of fame and now chairs its annual induction ceremony. “They have served our nation with dignity, duty and honor, and we are proud to celebrate their careers in this significant way.”

Tuskegee graduates and former students who are or have been commissioned into the U.S. armed forces, participated in the university’s ROTC programs, or earned a commission upon graduating and pursued military service as a career are eligible for induction — provided they meet other rank or meritorious service requirements.

This year’s inductees (biographies below) — combined with the 53 inductees comprising the 2016 inaugural class of honorees, and the 19 class of 2017 inductees — bring the Hall of Fame’s membership to 85 retired and killed in action servicemen and servicewomen.

“We are proud of those Tuskegee alumni who have leveraged their degrees to educate, lead and serve our country,” said Tuskegee President Lily D. McNair. “Our university’s impact on the nation’s peace and security is demonstrated in each of this year’s hall of fame inductees, and by the thousands of Tuskegee graduates who have served bravely in defense of our freedoms.”

The Junior Infantry Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, commonly known as ROTC, was established in February 1919 at what was then Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. At the time, all male students 14 years of age or older who were in “good physical condition” were required to enroll in the unit, which included only Army programming. During World War II, the Army Air Corps contracted with then-Tuskegee Institute to conduct primary pilot training for African-Americans — with Moton Field serving as the only site for training black aviators.

In 1946, when the Air Force ROTC was established, Tuskegee was among the original 78 colleges and universities to host Air Force programming. In 2013, the university added Navy ROTC to train qualified young men and women for service as commissioned officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Col. Patricia A.F. Clay ’76 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Clay was commissioned in 1976 and served in the U.S. Army until her retirement in 2003. During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, Meritorious Service Award (with three oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), and the Navy Superior Unit Commendation Medal.

Capt. Hattie Elam ’61 (Navy, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Elam was commissioned in 1961 and served in the U.S. Navy until her retirement in 1991. During her military career, she earned the Meritorious Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Navy Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Defense Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), and the Navy Marine Corps Overseas Ribbon.

SES Adrian R. Gardner ’86
After earning a bachelor’s degree in biological science and ecology from Tuskegee, Gardner was commissioned through the ROTC program in 1986. During his continuing military career, he has earned the U.S. Air Force Training Ribbon, the Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, and the USAF Outstanding Unit Award.

Col. James C. Jackson ’54 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tuskegee, Jackson was commissioned in 1954 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in 1978. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award (with one oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star (with one oak leaf cluster), Air Medal (with three awards), Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal.

Maj. Gen. Frederic Leigh (Army, retired), honorary inductee
Commissioned in 1963 as a member of the U.S. Army, Leigh later served the Tuskegee University ROTC cadre from 1966 to 1969, and retired in 1994. During his military career, he earned the Army Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters); the Legion of Merit Award (with three oak leaf clusters); the Army Commendation Medal (with one oak leaf cluster); the Combat Infantry, Parachutist, Air Assault badges; and the Ranger tab.

Capt. Shirley Lewis-Brown ’68 (Navy, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Lewis-Brown was commissioned in 1968 and served in the U.S. Navy until her retirement in 1996 During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, the Navy Commendation Medal (with one gold star), the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Col. Aubrey J. McAlpine ’63 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tuskegee, McAlpine was commissioned in 1963 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1986. During his military career, he earned the Defense Meritorius Service Medal, Legion of Merit Award, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Col. Donna L. Pilson ’93 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Tuskegee, Pilson was commissioned in 1993 and served in the U.S. Air Force until her retirement in Sept. 2018. During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, the Defense Meritorius Service Award, the Meritorius Service Award (with two devices), the Air Force Commendation Award (with one device), and the Army Commendation Award.

Col. Aaron L. Richardson Jr. ’75 (Amry, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in architectural science from Tuskegee, Richardson was commissioned in 1975 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in 2005. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award, Bronze Star, Meritorious Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), and the Army Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters).

Col. William R. Saunders ’77 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee, Saunders was commissioned in 1977 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1977. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with five devices), the Air Medal (with one device), and the National Defense Service Medal (with one device).

Col. Casmere H. Taylor ’86 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in health physics/radiologic technology from Tuskegee, Taylor was commissioned in 1986 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in June 2018. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award (with three oak leaf clusters), the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with five oak leave clusters), and the Army Commendation Medal (with V device).

Lt. Col. James A. Tinsley Jr. ’58 (USAF, retired), honorary inductee
After earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Tuskegee, Tinsley was commissioned in 1958 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1988. During his military career, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Lt. Col. Robert L. Tinsley ’55 (USAF, retired), honorary inductee
After earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Tuskegee, Tinsley was commissioned in 1955 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1975. During his military career, he earned the Bronze Star (with two oak leaf clusters), Meritorious Service Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), Air Force Commendation Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (First Class), and the Vietnam Service Medal (with six battle stars).

© 2018, Tuskegee University

How to Win Funds and Modernize Technology

Federal Computer Week

By Derek B. Johnson
September 13, 2018

Congress will soon decide whether to add more dollars to the Technology Modernization Fund next year, but the board in charge of making awards has learned plenty of lessons in its first year of operations.

At a Sept. 13 luncheon hosted by AFFIRM, members of the board reflected on their first year of operations and agencies alterations to their proposals to modernization. They also discussed how the board's dealings with federal agencies and Congress on the first set of awards has impacted future rounds of consideration.

Alan Thomas, a TMF board member and commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, said one of the biggest lessons he tried to impart to agencies after the first round of proposals came in was "don't wait to tell us the good stuff."

"Right away, get to the impact of your project, what's the outcome?" Thomas said. "It's always amazing to me how people will write two to three pages down … and at the last paragraph they've got the sentence buried in there, the 'Aha!' Don't make the board search hard for that stuff, put it right up front."

The board announced the first round of awards in June, doling out $45 million to the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development. Each project -- a customer experience portal, email cloud migration and mainframe application migration respectively -- was picked in part to serve as a model for other government agencies.

Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the TMF board, said that with a limited amount of money, the board considers not just whether a project will improve mission delivery or contain the right details for paying back award funds, but also whether the agency has demonstrated that it can't fund the project through other means.

"We definitely want to make sure when people come [with pitch proposals] that this is the best solution for funding their project," Cain said. "We want to know what other avenues they've investigated."

Maria Roat, another board member and CIO for the Small Business Administration, said the board has "sent some proposals back because we felt the agencies could self-fund what they were requesting."

While the TMF has broad bipartisan support in Congress, funding for next year has been thrown into jeopardy as lawmakers complained that the board and the Office of Management and Budget were not providing enough transparency around how projects are selected and how the board operates. In public and in private, board members have expressed confidence that OMB and Federal CIO Suzette Kent are actively addressing those concerns.

"In terms of Suzette's [communications] on the Hill, she's gone up and told them just about anything they want to know about the fund, how it's operating, what we're doing, what we're focused on," said Thomas. "In my estimation, we've done all we could in that area without launching every board member out to talk to every individual member [of Congress]."

Thomas also said that the board "did not take into account whether or not we were going to get another tranche of money" next year and that members are solely focused on doling out the remaining $55 million still on hand to the most deserving agencies.

Spokespersons for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees told FCW that lawmakers are still negotiating a final agreement on the General Government Appropriations bill that houses the TMF. A staffer on the Senate side said it will likely take at least a few more days to reach an agreement. 

The board has also faced pushback from agencies on what they perceive as overly restrictive rules around repayment. Members of Congress have stressed that the repayment plan is critical to the long-term success of TMF, with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) saying that the money "is not a slush fund" and that agencies must use savings to help seed future modernization efforts.

At a Sept. 13 roundtable on technology modernization hosted by FCW, one senior IT leader in a cabinet-level agency said his chief financial officer was strongly opposed to the use of TMF funds because of the aggressive payback schedule. The worry is that if savings from IT modernization fail to materialize, the money to pay back the central fund will have to come from program budgets. Many other CIOs at the event (which was on-the-record but not for attribution) cited this as a key flaw in the current TMF structure.

That dynamic could explain why the board has not seen as many agencies submitting proposals as initially expected.

"I think when TMF fund awards were announced, we all expected a barrage of proposals coming in, and we've gotten a lot of proposals, but I've been surprised at how many agencies did not apply," said Mark Kneidinger, a member of the board and deputy director for the National Risk Management Center at the Department of Homeland Security.

Click here for the original article.

TMF Board Focused on New Projects While Congress Weighs Funding

By Carteen Cordell
September 13, 2018

Even though the House and Senate haven’t decided whether they’ll provide more money for the government’s Technology Modernization Fund in fiscal 2019, Alan Thomas said he and the TMF Board are still busy looking for its next projects.

“There’s a pipeline of existing projects that we’re looking at. You’ll be hearing about some decisions soon,” the Federal Acquisition Service commissioner said at an AFFIRM event Thursday discussing the fund. “We did not take into account whether we were going to get another tranche of money.”

The fiscal 2019 budget for TMF, which offers financing for agency IT modernization projects on a revolving basis, has been a question mark since August, when the Senate voted not to include the fund in its appropriations bill, citing a lack of information from agencies on why more funding is needed.

Because the House version of the bill included $150 million in funding, both appropriations committees sought to craft a negotiated bill in conference Thursday, leaving the possibility that TMF could still receive at least some appropriations when fiscal 2019 begins Oct. 1.

Thomas, a member of the TMF Board that determines which agency projects receive funding, said that because agencies are expected to pay back any funds received within five years of award, the board will continue to evaluate proposals, congressional funding or not.

“One of the key things we’re looking at for projects is the ability to pay back,” he said. “We haven’t had a single discussion about, ‘Hey, what about the next tranche of money?’ We’re solely focused on a pipeline of projects and the merit of those projects.”

Headed by a seven-member board that includes Federal CIO Suzette Kent, the TMF was established with $100 million initial funding passed in March as part of a fiscal 2018 omnibus package. In June, the fund awarded $45 million to the departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development for modernization projects.

The initial installments of those awards began dispersing in the past month-and-a-half, said Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the TMF Program Management Office. Agencies have one year to make their first repayment installation, or six months after the completion of their project.

That means even without congressional appropriations, the fund should be able to sustain itself as agencies begin to pay it back.

But given the fund’s integral role in the administration’s IT modernization efforts, working with Congress will be essential to the long-term success of the TMF.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said last month that officials didn’t provide enough information about the program’s positive results and return on investment to justify more funding.

“I wasn’t going to allocate $210 million to something that we don’t know that it’s working,” he said.

Thomas said that while Kent continued to work with Congress as the TMF Board’s representative, the modernization projects underway need time to develop before showing such results.

“It’s just a tad premature to talk about ROI, because we just funded three projects that are about half the fund,” he said. “I think those kinds of metrics, like ROI, you see over the next 12 months. Let’s see how those projects perform.”

Click here for the original article.

Lawmakers Have One More Shot To Raise Modernization Fund Ceiling

By Aaron Boyd
September 13, 2018

As the 2019 appropriations process wraps up, lawmakers will have one last chance to add money to the Technology Modernization Fund or effectively cap it at 2018 levels.

Congressional appropriators from the House and Senate met Thursday to conference on the Financial Services and General Government minibus spending package, which covers a number of agencies and programs, including the TMF, managed by the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration. The House-passed version of the bill included an additional $150 million. But Senate appropriators zeroed out the line item, citing a lack of transparency from the administration.

“We have not seen results on that program yet and we don’t have any data on it,” Senate Appropriations Committee member James Lankford, R-Okla., said July 31 during floor debate on his chamber’s version of the bill.

Congressional watchers were expecting the conference committee to come to an agreement on the Financial Services minibus Thursday but no announcement had been made as legislative work wrapped. Lawmakers will be off for a week, with the next vote scheduled for Sept. 25.

The last-minute allocation is key for the fund, as the Modernizing Government Technology Act only allowed for appropriations in the 2018 and 2019 budgets. No additional funding would cap the revolving fund at $100 million in the absence of new legislation.

The TMF Board has already awarded $45 million to three projects, all of which have received the funding and are in the process of beginning their IT modernization projects. The three agencies—the Energy, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development departments—now have five years to pay back the fund.

The board currently has “about a dozen” proposals on its table at varying levels of review, according to Elizabeth Cain, acting executive director of the TMF program management office based out of GSA.

“We have a bunch of proposals that are in various stages of review right now, in both the pre-submittal phase and the full project proposal phase,” Cain said during a Nextgov webcast Wednesday.

“We’ve got a busy fall,” she said, adding the next set of awards “should be in the near-term but not too near-term.”

More For Your Money

The board members aren’t just buying better IT for select federal agencies; they’re also buying experience, which will be presented in the form of modernization playbooks.

“Each of the teams that received the award, in addition to the funding they have a solemn duty to get back to the rest of the community with their lessons learned and inform the larger playbook,” Cain said Thursday at a lunch hosted by the Association For Federal Information Resources Management, or AFFIRM.

She cited Energy’s consolidation to a single cloud email platform—which will add more context to a well-worn path in modernization—and Housing and Urban Development’s mainframe migration—which will include the difficult task of moving from decades-old Cobol coding language to something modern.

For Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner and board member Alan Thomas, the playbooks are a central value-add.

“We’re looking to create models—100 million bucks is not enough to modernize the federal government,” he said Thursday. “But we are looking for models that we can show and highlight and other agencies can say, ‘Ah, OK, I see how to do this,’ or, ‘I see a path to do this,’ and then get some additional benefit beyond the $100 million we have.”

Click here for the original article.

Technology Modernization Board to Stay the Course Regardless of Funding

Federal Times
By Jesse Bur
September 13, 2018

Though fiscal year 2019 appropriations for the Technology Modernization Fund are not a guarantee, the board that manages the funds intends to keep moving forward with its planned awards, according to Alan Thomas, commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service and Technology Modernization Board member.

“We have not had a single discussion at the board meeting about, ‘Hey, what about the next tranche of money?’” said Thomas at a Sept. 13 Association for Federal Information Resource Management event.

“There’s a pipeline of existing projects that we’ve been looking at. You’ll be hearing about some decisions soon. We did not take into account whether we were going to get another tranche of money in there. One of the key things that we’re looking at for projects is the ability to pay back, so there’s a revolving fund.”

The TMF was originally awarded $100 million in FY18 appropriations, less than half of the $250 million that the original legislation establishing the fund called for.

And while House appropriations attempted to make up that difference with $150 million for FY19, members of the Senate said that they were unwilling to allocate more money until the fund had shown some results. That’s a tall order for a program that awarded its first grants only in June 2018.

According to Elizabeth Cain, acting executive director of the Technology Modernization Fund Program Management Office at the General Services Administration, the first TMF funding transfers to agency accounts only occurred within the last month and a half.

“It’s just a tad premature to talk about [return on investment], because we literally just funded three projects that are about half the fund. We have another set of projects that we’re getting ready to fund, and some things in the pipeline,” said Thomas.

“So I think those kinds of metrics, like ROI, you’ll start to see over the next 12 months. Let’s see how those projects perform.”

The board initially awarded $45 million to the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, leaving just over half for future projects.

And though the funding is designed to be repaid as agencies reap the benefits of newly modernized IT, agencies that received the first awards aren’t scheduled to fully pay back the funding for five years.

According to Maria Roat, chief information officer for the Small Business Administration and TMB member, the second round of proposals has proven more mature than the first, largely because agencies have learned from the first round how to better put together proposal documents and pitches to the TMB.

Still, some agencies have requested large sums of money for upcoming projects, that would wipe out the fund in one fell swoop.

“We did have one that came in for a big chunk of change, and we went back to them and said, ‘We’re going to fund up to this. You show us that you met this and then we’ll give you the next tranche,'” said Roat.

She added that some proposals are also sent back to agencies, because they can be funded with existing appropriations within that agency.

Congress is scheduled to vote Sept. 13 on a general government appropriations bill that could or could not include additional funding for TMF.

Click here for the original article.

First TMF Funding Disbursed; Remaining Funds Won’t Disappear

September 13, 2018

Members of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) board and the fund’s executive director today provided a wide range of TMF updates regarding funding and coordination with lawmakers, on the same day that House and Senate conferees met to reconcile differences in appropriations bills that will ultimately decide the fund’s spending power for FY 2019.

The TMF officials discussed those topics as part of a panel discussion organized by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management, and indicated that as the final funding hour for the next fiscal year draws near, it’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s why.

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

TMF’s funding approved by Congress for FY 2018 won’t be disappearing. The end of this month marks the end of the Federal government’s fiscal year, but it won’t spell the end for the $55 million remaining in FY 2018 TMF funding, out of the $100 million total appropriated by Congress last year.

“It doesn’t turn into a pumpkin on September 30,” joked TMF Executive Director Elizabeth Cain today.

She said Wednesday that roughly a dozen projects remained in the TMF pipeline, adding that awards could be coming soon, without committing to a date.

It appears that the TMF board will have more time to find projects deemed worthy, as the current funding is not subject to a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy by the end of FY 2018.

For Those Who’ve Already Made the Cut

The check is in the mail. Cain relayed her excitement that–over roughly the past month and half–the first disbursements of TMF funding have gone out to the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy.

“We effected the first transfers to all three of the awarded agencies, so they’ve gotten their first incremental funding amount. It’s in their account and they’re on their acquisition right now to get started on their projects,” Cain said.

This doesn’t mean that the three agencies now have all $45 million in total awards lining their pockets. HUD received an initial $5 million transfer, DoE roughly $2.26 million, and USDA $4 million.

TMF disbursements, as the board’s representatives and award winners have explained, are part of a benchmarked process in which agencies will have to demonstrate progress against established milestones for their projects before more funding is doled out.

What They’re Telling Congress

We’ve got one message. Given calls from the Senate for more transparency over the TMF process before they decide to fund the TMF next year, the panelists explained that they’re presenting a unified front, with Federal CIO Suzette Kent as the sole point of contact.

“I think it’s always important to communicate with one voice to the Congress,” said Alan Thomas, commissioner of the General Service Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service and a TMF board member. “From a board perspective, individual members have not been running off and talking to Congress. Suzette’s the point person. She’s the chair of the board. She’s a great leader, and a good communicator, and she’s been the conduit to work with the Congress.”

He suggested that the board isn’t pulling any punches, and that Kent is open to relaying any informationCongress needs to make its decision.

“In terms of Suzette’s comms with the Hill, I think she’s gone up and told them just about anything they want to know about the fund and how it’s operating,” Thomas said.

While the board says it remains transparent about the process, Thomas pushed back against suggestions that Congress should be seeing the fund demonstrating tangible returns at this early stage.

“It’s just a tad premature to talk about ROI [return on investment],” he said. “I think those kind of metrics like ROI, you start to see over the next 12 months. Let’s see how those projects perform.”

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AFFIRM Approved as Registered Education Provider by Project Management Institute

AFFIRM has announced its selection as a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) for the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s largest project management member association. The selection became effective August 1, 2018. R.E.P.s are specially selected organizations approved to help project managers achieve and maintain the Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and other PMI professional credentials. These organizations have met PMI’s rigorous quality criteria for course content, instructor qualification, and instructional design.

Professional certification is important to the project manager career field which now has global median salaries that exceed $81,000 (USD). Designated R.E.M.s are critical to obtaining and maintaining those certifications and AFFIRM will now be an educational resource for PMI professionals.

“AFFIRM is honored to be selected as a PMI R.E.P. and is eager to assist project managers in the Washington DC area in achieving and maintaining their certifications,” said Adrian Gardner, President of AFFIRM. “Our educational forums bring senior leadership from across government to encourage innovation, modernization, and effective technology management across the federal government.”

AFFIRM joins more than 1,500 R.E.P.s in more than 80 countries. These organizations include commercial training providers, academic institutions, and corporate training departments within corporations and government agencies.

Project Management Institute is the world's leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management professions. Founded in 1969, PMI delivers value for more than 2.9 million professionals working in nearly every country in the world through global advocacy, collaboration, education and research. PMI advances careers, improves organizational success and further matures the profession of project management through its globally recognized standards, certifications, resources, tools academic research, publications, professional development courses, and networking opportunities.

Early returns on GSA’s EIS contract, IT modernization is not in play

Federal News Radio
Jason Miller
August 27, 2018

The idea of iterative or agile development hasn’t quite come to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.

If the initial handful of fair opportunity soliticiations are any indication of what’s to come, the pressure on agencies to transition to the new $50 billion telecommunications contract run by the General Services Administration by May 2020 is pushing them to take a “winner take all” approach.

And industry experts say that approach likely means the Trump administration’s goal of using EIS to jumpstart IT modernization efforts will be overlooked.

Diana Gowen, general manager and senior vice president for MetTel’s federal program, said based on what she’s seen from the three solicitations so far, agencies are mostly taking a “like-for-like approach and asking vendors to tell them how they would modernize in order to get going. It’s not unlike Networx. So despite OMB pushing and all that stuff, it looks like same old same old, which is unfortunate.”

Denny Groh, executive director for corporate relations for Accelera Solutions, an IT services firm, and a former GSA executive who managed the FTS 2000 and FTS 2001 long distance contracts before retiring in 2003, said while agencies may be motivated to transform through EIS, he estimates less than one-third will actually do anything different.

“A lot of agencies don’t necessarily have all the buy-in of their sub entities and that makes it tough to get a unified front to figure out what they have and what they will do,” he said. “Many will do like-for-like, or they are going to transform in some moderate way.”

Both Groh and Gowen pointed to the three fair opportunity solicitations that are out today as an initial small sample size of the direction EIS may be heading.

The departments of Labor and Justice are among the first out of the gate and both solicitations are taking the “winner take all” approach for voice, video and data.

Justice is taking an interesting approach, Gowen said. The agency issued one solicitation, but it has three sections: one for the FBI’s voice and data where the vendor needs a top secret facility clearance, one for just the Bureau of Prisons telecommunications needs and finally one for the rest of DoJ. Vendors can bid on all three or any combination of the three.

The Social Security Administration, which was the first agency to release its request for proposal, wasn’t much better, looking for a vendor to provide data and voice services, which accounts for a majority of the agency’s needs.

The fact that these agencies seemingly are not transforming or modernizing through EIS doesn’t bode well for GSA’s situation that is getting tougher by the month. The Networx contract ends in May 2020 and GSA has said many times it doesn’t want to extend the contract so agencies have to get their transitions done.

Kay Ely, GSA’s assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) in the Federal Acquisition Service, opened the door slightly to an extension saying in July that if agencies can show they are transforming more than transitioning to EIS, then an extension may be possible.

“If an agency says all I can do between now and May 2020 is like-for-like, then extensions are off the table,” Ely said at an AFFIRM event on July 26. “But if they are doing a hybrid or partial transformation and there is only so much work that can be done, we know in the back of our minds an extension is still out there. But agencies need to put all their efforts into transformation.”

But Groh Gowen and others say an extension is all but assured.

As of Aug. 8, GSA reported four of nine EIS vendors have completed the business support systems testing, and all nine contractors will not be done until early November at the soonest.

After the BSS functional testing, all vendors’ systems must go through the final security approval process.

“GSA is now beginning to be concerned about how get everyone through that authority to operate (ATO) hurdle. They are thinking about how do they expedite this ATO process,” Gowen said. “One of the things that has been suggested is for those awardees who want to work on sprint can nominate themselves to get to the FISMA moderate accreditation faster. We certainly would raise our hands.”

Gowen said given the timeline of vendors not getting ATOs until the spring, GSA likely will have little choice but to extend Networx.

“As we are working with agencies we suggest, as they craft proposals, that they factor in whether all of their modernization goals are achievable within the targeted transition timelines. Timeframes are going to be aggressive,” said a Verizon spokeswoman by email. “When agencies are making their decisions, they should consider past performance to determine if the vendor they are selecting is capable of executing on an aggressive transition. Agencies must balance the urgency of transition with the necessity of modernization.”

The Interior Department may be one of the IT modernization outliers under EIS.

Tim Quinn, Interior’s chief of enterprises infrastructure, said at the Network Modernization Forum in June sponsored by ACT-IAC, that the agency started discussing what transformation would look liked under EIS more than a year ago.

“Go big means citizen delivery,” Quinn said. “If we have better, more complete big data driven, high performance computing heavy model driven interoperability between what USGS does with ground water and surface water with what NOAA does with its weather models, we can get much better predictions of things like [the flooding] in Ellicott City, Maryland. So when I talk about going big with EIS ,in order to do those things I have to be prepared to deliver 100,000 sensors over the next few years. So going big is putting your business first.”

Quinn said Interior is looking for technology that industry may not be ready for today but since EIS is a 15-year contract there are a lot of possibilities on the horizon.

“We have tremendous change capacity built into the contract. I can write and award a new fair opportunity a year later,” he said. “We continue to write fair opportunities under Networx. We made changes along the way. One we did was a broadband fair opportunity through Networx and brought in a technology we didn’t even think about when we started Networx. I think it’s been a good thing for both Interior and government.”

Quinn said that approach is the future of EIS as well where agencies can bring on new technologies as they are ready.

“We want to get off Networx as fast as humanely possible, but we also want to change as fast as possible,” he said. “I have customers who view me as a dinosaur. We are behind and we need to be innovative so we need to partner with everybody to help each other get there faster.”

Gary Hall,  the director of strategy, planning and operations at Cisco, said transformation for many agencies doesn’t have to mean a full scale revolution, but more of an evolution.

“They should transform themselves from a perspective of providing operations and maintenance of on-premise gear to brokering the services they need, however they need whether on-premise or in the cloud,” Hall said.