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FedRAMP Modernization – November 20

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a draft memorandum on October 27, 2023, outlining its recommendations for modernizing the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). The OMB’s recommendations for modernizing FedRAMP are significant, as they reflect a recognition that the program needs to be updated to keep up with the evolving cloud computing landscape. If the recommendations are implemented, they could make it easier for agencies to adopt cloud services, drive innovation and improve the overall security of the federal government’s cloud computing environment. In addition, the recommendation could reduce the time, energy and perhaps cost of entry into the Federal government for cloud-based technology companies. A potential win-win for Government and Industry  

The need for speed and innovation 

OMB and the FedRAMP program office recognizes that our government must move faster to remain competitive and to stay ahead of our Adversaries Software as a Service (SaaS) remains the fastest growing segment within government cloud acquisitions. The US government is increasing its adoption of SaaS applications at a rapid pace. In 2022, US federal agencies spent a record $6.1 billion on cloud-based and SaaS applications, and this number is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. Factors driving this growth include: the need to improve efficiency and reduce costs, the desire to increase agility and innovation, and the need to improve security.  At the same time the introduction of new technologies/innovation such as Security, Artificial Intelligences, Machine Learning, Back Office Automation have exploded Artificial Intelligence (AI) market is a great example. As of November 2023, there were approximately 18,000 AI companies are based in the United States. This number has been growing rapidly in recent years, as AI technology has become increasingly powerful and accessible. Factors driving the growth of AI in the commercial and Public Sector markets include improved efficiency and reduced costs, desire to increase agility and innovation, and the need to improve security. SaaS providers typically have more resources and expertise in security than government agencies, which can help to protect government data from cyberattacks. 

The OMB recommendations are intended to accelerate the adoption of new technologies by the government.  

OMB key recommendations in the draft memo: 

  • Become more responsive to the risk profiles of individual services, as well as evolving risks throughout the cyber environment. This would involve developing a more risk-based approach to FedRAMP authorizations and considering the unique needs of each cloud service. 
  • Increase the quantity of products and services receiving FedRAMP authorizations by bringing agencies together to evaluate the security of cloud offerings and strongly incentivizing reuse of one FedRAMP authorization by multiple agencies. There is also language around a “No Sponsor “accreditations and the ability for companies implement “Proof of Concepts” up to 1 year for non FedRAMP compliant offerings. This would involve streamlining the authorization process for businesses and making it easier for agencies to adopt cloud services. A determination by the PMO would need to be made on the minimum number of security controls that would need to be implemented and the criteria for which the two approaches can be implemented. 
  • Streamline the authorization process by automating appropriate portions of security evaluations, consistent with industry best practices. This would involve using technology to reduce the manual burden of FedRAMP assessments and make them more efficient. The adoption of technologies and the refinement in approaches (Oscal, Continuous Monitoring.) should make Agencies more receptive to sponsoring new technologies. 
  • Improve sharing of information with the private sector, including emerging threats and best practices. This would help to ensure that both the government and the private sector are working together to protect cloud-based systems from cyber threats. 
  • In addition to these general recommendations, the draft memo also includes specific recommendations for improving FedRAMP’s approach to continuous monitoring, security controls, and risk assessments. 

The OMB’s recommendations for modernizing FedRAMP are significant, as they reflect a recognition that the program needs to be updated to keep up with the evolving cloud computing landscape. If the recommendations are implemented, they could make it easier for agencies to adopt cloud services and improve the overall security of the federal government’s cloud computing environment. 

FedRAMP Accreditation = Success?  

Congratulations, your company has invested the required energy, time, and capital to achieve FedRAMP accreditations. This is not an easy feat, but you now have an enterprise class offering which will be recognized by your potential customers in the Federal Government but also by the commercial markets that you serve (regulatory markets, retail, etc.) However, this does not guarantee your success in the Federal market. Understanding the nuances of the market is the difference between success and failure in this marketplace. 

Failure to develop a business case  

Many companies that attempt to enter the Federal market failed because they didn’t develop a business case. The companies fail because they don’t understand the dynamics of Federal Government market, the unique mission of the customers in order to secure sales let alone gain market share, fail to understand its competitors and their incumbency positions and/ or existing contract vehicles, fail to adapt their business model and/ or understand and comply with regulatory hurdles. Understanding your total addressing market within Federal is critical, it should be the first thing a business does before entering the market. 

By developing a business case, companies can identify and mitigate the risks associated with entering a new market. They can also ensure that they have the resources and capabilities necessary to be successful.  

Deep Water Point and Associates (DWPA) provides a 3rd party, unbiased market/business justification for companies wanting to enter the Federal marketplace. DWPA provides end to end services to accelerate client growth in areas of market research and intelligence, strategy and management consulting, business development services across the entire growth lifecycle. This is why so many businesses rely on the expertise of Deep Water Point and Associates to accelerate their understanding, entry and growth within the Federal marketplace. 

For more information, go to https://dwpassociates.com/ or contact Tom Ruff tom.ruff@dwpassociates.com

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What Is a GenAI Discovery Project? (And why do I need to know?) – November 14

Whether you use GenAI within your organization or you want to add it to services, where to start is a challenging question. Internally, you could run a small, first use at minimal cost and risk. You might even absorb the cost and risk of a somewhat larger trial. But costs and risks are different when you take a product or service to market.

To learn that clients don’t want the GenAI-assisted solution you took to market by taking it to market is costly. It wastes time and money, incurs opportunity costs, and can damage relationships and brand. There’s a way to prevent this and, ironically, it’s in the very unknowns that worry us about adopting GenAI.

The smart start is precisely with the things you don’t know. State all your guesses and assumptions. Turn some into hypotheses. Then test those to gather evidence for decision making. That’s exactly what DWPA’s GenAI Discovery Project does, and that’s what we’ll describe below.

What Will We Discover?

The term discovery in GenAI Discovery Project isn’t just descriptive – it’s prescriptive. It refers to a particular method for turning hypotheses about markets and customers into facts. It’s part of a larger method called customer development, created by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf to answer the question, “Why do startups with great ideas fail?”

In The Startup Owner’s Manual, Blank and Dorf argue startups risk great ideas by conducting product or service development without also conducting customer development. By conducting them in tandem, startups greatly increase their odds of going to market with a product or service customers want, and are ready to buy.

You don’t have to be a startup to benefit from customer development.

Today’s govcon market for GenAI-assisted products and services is so new, we’re all startups within it. Filled with more questions and hunches than facts, adding GenAI to existing services is sufficiently startup-like to benefit from customer development. That’s why DWPA is using the method to turn assumptions into facts for investment decision making. That’s what our GenAI Discovery Project is.

DWPA’s Discovery Process

We started in August by brainstorming every assumption we could think of about customers and the market. We generated dozens and grouped them in Osterwalder and Pigneur’s Business Model Canvas. 

Using that layout, we could see assumptions held about value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, and channels – all outward facing from DWPA to the market. We could also see assumptions we held about inward-facing parts of the business model: Key activities, resources, and partnerships, revenue streams, and cost models.

Next, we turned assumptions into hypotheses. “GenAI will save time” became, “GenAI will get clients to a pink team draft faster by finding and aggregating content.” We literally reworded select assumptions as testable propositions using measures we could discuss or directly observe. To test, we used several capture and proposal tools on a trial basis, and we interviewed clients about their generative AI experiences.

Here’s where it got interesting. Testing didn’t just confirm or disconfirm hypotheses in a thumbs-up or thumbs-down way. Testing revealed new information which suggested new opportunities for support.

Testing the hypothesis that “GenAI will get clients to a pink team draft faster by finding and aggregating content,” for example, became evidence of several things:

  1. Clients will, in fact, save time
  2. We can help them plan time savings in different ways
  3. We can help them use time savings for different purposes
  4. We can help vendors to serve them, their clients, or both

With such evidence we could fashion provisional services and validate them with customers – which is the next step of Blank and Dorf’s customer development process.

We Discover Something Unexpected

Our discovery process led to an ahh-ha! moment we didn’t see coming.

The wording of assumptions read like results or outcomes, as they should: Time saved, money saved, the summary of a section, etc. Tests would demonstrate the possibility, and perhaps the probability, of realizing them. But they demonstrated more.

Tests highlighted requirements for realizing a benefit, and also highlighted steps which would logically follow from a benefit. The view into workflows, benefits and risks, option analysis and decision making – all related to use cases GenAI could support – expanded opportunities for support. Not every opportunity would be a value proposition, but some could be. One unexpected value of hypothesis testing was the broadening of our conversation about value propositions.

Earlier this year, there might not have been a single service in your line of work which included generative AI. There might not have been a single customer wondering how generative AI could benefit them. Today, every customer is probably wondering how GenAI might help, and first offers might be under development by competitors. Customer development is a methodical way you can manage risks in a new and emerging market, and capitalize on its opportunities.

To learn more or launch your own discovery project, contact Lou.Kerestesy@DWPAssociates.com.

ThinkSpace 11-23 GenAI Discovery Project

November 2023 – Vol. 12; Issue 11

Competing for Admissions: Gaining Access to Top Contract Vehicles

Instability in Vehicle Admissions/Acceptance Processes

When selecting the most suitable schools or vehicles to apply to, understanding the structure, scope, and other risks involved in the procurement can help avoid unnecessary setbacks. The cancellation of Alliant 2’s small business track several years ago serves as a formidable example of why establishing a wide portfolio of potential schools to apply to is important. Many applicants who had centered their focus on this vehicle for IT services, found themselves disappointed and exposed to unnecessary uncertainty and a long gap until Polaris began to take shape. Even to today during the pre-award stage of the Polaris solicitation, protests have been filed and uncertainty is increasing. While unclear, the concern for many is that the new Polaris solicitation could be disrupted just like Alliant 2 was. In the situations where government agencies cancel admission of a particular program, two key outcomes typically occur: students and resources are redirected to different vehicles with the same offerings and, to address the demand for specific services, the obligations are distributed elsewhere. These continued issues regarding the government’s ability to consistently provide successful options underscores the importance of prioritizing additional pathways that offer stability and align with an individual or organization’s needs.

Select Your Top Schools and Have Strategic Backups

Many businesses are aware that recent paths from RFP release to award have become increasingly convoluted with changing timetables, multiple amendments, and significant protests. Even getting to submission isn’t a guarantee that there will be an award – see the recent cancellation of the $5.3B Air Force EC2 vehicle. Students on the EC2 degree path who initially hoped to secure their future engagement (and subsequent revenue stream) selling high value cyber solutions are left to explore alternative options and try to recoup their significant B&P investment. Vehicles and schedules with rolling admissions, such as Seaport NXG and the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) can be excellent safety schools in these scenarios. Despite the admissions process allowing the government the right to cancel the application process at any time, the disappointment of the contractors who put their valuable resources and time remains evident. Just getting on a contract vehicle in and of itself, as with applying to different schools, is an expensive proposition. Whether you’re a 2-person 8(a) or a 10,000-person large, the cost can easily run $100k, if not significantly more. Despite the expense, contractors continue to apply and invest knowing that these contracts can serve as a primary revenue source and making it increasingly important for individuals to consider multiple contract types for successful procurement. The cost associated with applying to various contracts or schools presents firms with the opportunity to allocate their resources strategically, focusing on institutions where they have a higher likelihood of acceptance.

Studying your Options

University Case Study: NASA SEWP VI

Even with Ivy League, best-in-class contracts like NASA SEWP, the procurement process can be unpredictable. While SEWP shows promise for continuing to be labeled as a best-in-class contract vehicle, in its current draft form, it still presents several challenges. Unlike some other contract vehicles, SEWP VI doesn’t impose a limit on the number of students awarded, which may change how some agencies and other schools view it. Additionally, if an individual doesn’t keep their grades up and secure a task order within 12 months of receiving an award, they effectively lose the ability to compete further. Moreover, the introduction of IT service categories has left large IT service providers uncertain about whether their related work will fall within that 12-month period or be pushed to the next semester. With the extensive cost involved for any organization to compete for contracts such as SEWP, the pathway to acquiring work remains uncertain. So even when you ask your college advisor if applying to a specific school will be a worthwhile investment, one simply cannot definitively tell. 

Avenues to Admissions: Teaming Arrangements

Contractors considering their options in today’s competitive college landscape for high-value scholarships and contracts can find a variety of pathways to mitigate costs and risks including CTAs, Joint Ventures, and Mentor-Protege Joint Ventures. For instance, Mentor-Protege JVs offer small companies access to the past performance of larger companies, unlocking opportunities they couldn’t access independently for both the large and small firms. CTAs, on the other hand, allow peer companies to combine their unique capabilities to better serve customers. However, despite the multitude of risk-reduction strategies, they can also introduce additional complexities and management challenges. In the highly competitive and uncertain market of procurement, understanding the appropriate amount of attention each application needs can make a significant difference in one’s initial and continued success.

10 Ways to Prepare for Upcoming GWACs

  1. Stay informed on all major vehicle schedules, familiarize yourself with RFP drafts, and begin identifying back-up schools/strategies in the event you aren’t accepted into your first choice
  2. Choose a degree path that is in alignment with your current/future capabilities to avoid having to change majors, or worse, getting kicked out of the program
  3. Use the application evaluation criteria provided in the RFP to determine which completed and/or ongoing projects position you the strongest
  4. Begin compiling your supplementary materials NOW to identify documentation gaps and reach out to COs before the busy application season starts
  5. Contact your previous institution/customer for a new, updated copy of your FY23 CPARS transcript
  6. Ask questions and continue asking until the government answers – it may take multiple rounds of Q&A before you actually receive a clear answer
  7. Get creative with your strategy and consider finding a teaming partner if you’re unsure whether your grades alone are high enough to meet the threshold
  8. Attend industry days and watch webinars from agency/sponsored admissions advisors as crucial information is oftentimes provided, as well as additional opportunities for Q&A
  9. Use advisors, peers, and other “upperclassman.” Consultants with extensive knowledge of the application process, in areas such as benchmarking and teaming arrangements, can help an organization better position themselves for success
  10. Ensure your immunization records including financial systems, facility clearance levels, and organization certifications are up to date and note that administrative/agency priorities may require new certifications in the future (e.g., sustainability)

Stephen Abernathy

Andrew Stringer

Fiona Cronin

October 2023 – Vol. 12; Issue 10

Tracking Federal M&A’s Fall Foliage

The Turn of the Season

DWPA forecasted 2023 federal M&A activity in the March Practitioner’s Perspective. Now, as we enter the fall season and the government fiscal new year, it is time to reflect on the 2023 M&A atmosphere thus far and put on our weathermen hats again. In March, we forecasted that capital markets, private equity activity, technology trends, strategic acquirer activity, and a troubled geopolitical climate would stimulate more M&A activity. Conversely, we projected that higher interest rates and a looming debt ceiling, paired with procurement trends emphasizing Small Business Set-Asides, would cool deal volumes slightly. Heading into the final three months of the year, most – but not all – of our predictions hold true. Overall, transaction volumes were initially cooler than anticipated, with data showing a 21% decrease in closed transactions in the first half of 2023, as compared to the first half of 2022.

Buyers to Face the Cold

As temperatures drop, uncertainty looms over continued risk of a government shutdown and another interest rate hike, we expect buyers, particularly PE and PE-backed firms, to remain active in the market. As of March, we expected legacy consulting firms to remain the most aggressive buyers of scarce/in-demand capabilities to augment their existing federal IT portfolios. However, private equity (funds investing in platforms as well as acquisitions for platforms companies) has constituted the majority of deals closed in 2022 and continues to extend that lead in 2023. We also expected buyer strategy to be split between paying up for F&O businesses and stacking a few highly differentiated small businesses. This forecast was accurate, as many buyers are not willing to take on the risk of majority Small Business Set-Aside work. The hottest commodities have not shifted much since our last forecast—think DevSecOps, AI/ML, Low/No-code, and Cloud as the primary buzzwords, with bonus points for Cyber or Intelligence.

2022 and 2023 deal counts

Select Sellers to Stay Warm Indoors

Less than favorable economic conditions (debt ceiling uncertainty, turbulent credit market dynamics marked by regional bank failures, etc.) have generally not deterred sellers from coming to market by any significant margin. However, select businesses will likely elect to stay indoors this winter. As for small businesses, the OMB’s increase in the small business revenue threshold size has already disincentivized SB owners from wanting to sell, as expected. As for 8(a)s, we do not expect the recently enacted social disadvantage narrative requirement to have any tangible impact on M&A activity, although 8(a)s that must submit new certifications will demand more due diligence from prospective acquirers. Generally, “story” companies that are not obviously attractive assets will be highly scrutinized in a tighter market and will likely wait a few years before trying the market. At a macro level, the chilling effect of procurement delays will continue to be felt – likely more by would-be sellers than buyers, as companies banking on that one recompete continue to wait out the cold.

Vibrant M&A Volumes to Come

We expect M&A foliage to become more vibrant through the end of the year. Specifically, we predict peak foliage for actionable mid-major assets in the market. We expect a resurgence in mid-tier acquisitions by PE platforms to keep warm through the winter. The historic trend of sizable, high-profile deals in recent years and the shortage of mid-tier contractors gives way to an increased appetite for mid-major assets for an autumnal cornucopia. Further, we expect continued PE and PE-backed platform interest in acquisitions through the end of the year. We also anticipate continued emphasis on cybersecurity and intelligence procurements into the new year. Finally, we will be avid leaf peepers when it comes to watching for a potential government shutdown and any impact on deal flow – could the government really move towards tighter budgets after 5+ years of good spending? We’ll continue to monitor the landscape.

Top 10 Drivers of M&A Activity in 2H23

  1. PE interest accounts for the majority of closed transactions
  2. Scarcity of actionable mid-tier targets causing many buyers to reach for earlier stage targets
  3. Interest rate uncertainty impacting total leverage far more than valuation
  4. Sellers willing to take increased structure to prop up multiples
  5. Pivot away from the War on Terror toward peer competition with China and Russia
  6. Concern with tighter federal budgets after 5+ years of good spending enticing those that can come to market
  7. Procurement delays causing those waiting on recompetes or major new business awards to have to stay on the sidelines
  8. Insatiable demand for scarce technical capabilities around cyber, DevSecOps, AI/ML, autonomy, etc.
  9. Looming election uncertainty and choppy debt markets make mega deals hard to execute
  10. Foreign buyers experiencing renewed interest in gaining exposure to the world’s largest defense budgets via M&A

Marty Brennan

Charlotte Brewer

Shera Bhala

September 2023 – Vol. 12; Issue 9

Drafting Your Way to Federal Growth: Strategy vs. Tactics

You’re on the Clock!

The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and laptops are humming as fantasy football owners log back into their long-dormant leagues. While federal contractors simultaneously prepare for the final days of FY23, both groups find themselves asking the same question: how to balance a coherent growth strategy with clear, effective tactics for the coming months? After all, fantasy football drafting strategies set the tone for the season—relying on trades from stingy fellow owners or grasping for straws on the waiver wire are easy ways to end up with an embarrassing tattoo or wearing your rival’s jersey for a day. Just as fantasy owners must carefully select their lineup, contractors must develop clearly defined and reasonably set strategic initiatives to empower federal growth for the year ahead. Prioritization of a small number of high-impact initiatives, reinforced with a tactical approach that includes specific assignments and actions, can help companies create a focused, attainable path to growth.

Sleepers, Bye Weeks, and “Do Not Drafts”

If fantasy owners could perfectly balance ease-of-schedule, high-value players, and a healthy bye week mix, anybody could be Matthew Berry or Field Yates. The fact is every fantasy owner is going to give up something when the draft jingle chimes. In the same vein, contractors cannot expect to pursue every single strategic initiative brainstormed at the annual strategic offsite. Build out a team with uniformly spread bye weeks (or an evenly distributed pipeline), and you may find yourself having to sideline your ease-of-schedule strategy (or focus mostly on big-swing, low p(win) opportunities). Draft Patrick Mahomes in the second round (or make hiring a dedicated capture manager an immediate priority) and you may not have enough depth in skill positions (or enough funds to train internal resources). Weighing the importance, value, and attainability of strategic initiatives against each other is key before diving into pure tactics.

Federal Growth Strategy and Tactics

Setting Your Lineup

Strategies provide overarching guidance—fast, sustainable federal growth is underlaid by a set of dedicated, tactical approaches which outline clear actions and responsibilities. The same is true in fantasy football, where this realization happens quickly—once the dust from the draft settles, Week 1 lineup setting is usually right around the corner. For those “handcuffing” star running backs with their backups, a tactical approach of monitoring the injury report before kickoff will ensure they are never left with a goose egg. In the federal world, smart tactics similarly make up the backbone of an effective strategy. Planning to expand into a new customer? Targeting dates for executive meetings with agency leaders might be a good start. Aiming for $50M in TCV submission before the end of the quarter? Assigning capture and proposal managers to specific deals can make that number tangible. Just as fantasy owners set their lineup each week, companies in the federal market should consider quarterly or even monthly reviews of strategic goals and tactical approaches.


No matter the amount of strategy or tactics, fantasy owners and federal contractors know well that both the fantasy world and the federal market bring their fair share of surprises. A fantasy draft strategy that relies on ease-of-schedule would normally employ a tactic of rotating players during their weeks facing elite opponents. However, when your leading scorer inevitably goes down with an injury, plans will change – suddenly, your tactic of reviewing other teams’ trade needs every Tuesday becomes crucial. The balance of strategy and tactics is useful in promoting flexibility. An overarching strategy can keep a singular focus, while numerous tactical avenues keep things flexible enough to weather nasty surprises. For example, under a strategic goal to win at least 1 of 3 major bids, the tactical decision to implement a weekly review of capture and proposal resource allocation can provide quick response to sudden RFP requirement changes. In the demanding worlds of fantasy football and GovCon, strategy and tactics must coexist in harmony.

Mock Draft of Growth Strategy and Tactics

  1. WR1: Run up the score—strategically anchor company growth goals on clear comparative advantages
  2. RB1: Every-game starters—understand that delivery team needs may require tactical flexibility within growth strategies
  3. WR2: Strength-of-schedule play—lay out the year ahead for major capture efforts and large bids
  4. QB1: Team leader(s)—hold annual exec gatherings that set the strategic and tactical tone for the upcoming FY
  5. RB2: The “workhorses”—assemble a dedicated capture and proposal team that meets regularly
  6. TE1: Unsung heroes—mix in smaller, more attainable strategic goals focused on building internal capacity
  7. D/ST: The elite, competitive edge—“stream” teaming partners when opportunities exceed internal capabilities
  8. K: The longshot—low p(win), high-value wins are rare, but can result in tremendously quick growth

Jack Jacobs

Shera Bhala

Jessica Butturff

Congressional Leadership Remains at Odds with Each Other after the August Recess

Supplemental Aid for Ukraine and Disaster Assistance Splits House and Senate Republicans

Members of Congress were back in session this week after the August recess, and they have begun laying the groundwork for what is expected to be a nasty spending fight through the end of the month. The fiscal year and the government’s spending authority end after September 30th. On October 1st, without a full spending package or a short-term, stopgap spending package passed, the government will shut down, leaving all non-essential government employees furloughed. But before we get to that point, Congress has a few weeks to try and resolve what is shaping up to be a massive budgetary gap between House and Senate spending bills, as well as a variety of political and policy issues.

The Senate is hitting the ground running with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduling the FY2024 MilCon-VA, Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD bills to be introduced on the floor early next week. The Senate versions of these spending bills contain billions of more dollars in spending and lack the “culture war” provisions which the House Appropriations Committee approved. Senators are approaching the appropriations process in a bipartisan way and there is no appetite for a government shutdown.

Meanwhile on the House side, Republicans are running the show on their own; they weren’t able to get a single Democrat to vote for any of the bills in the House Appropriations Committee. Spending in these bills has been cut to well below the number reached in an agreement between Congress and the White House during the debt limit standoff earlier this year. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is now put in the position to somehow wrangle an agreement out of all of this; he stands in the middle between his the far-right Republican Freedom Caucus and the White House and Senate which are mostly in lockstep with each other. Adding to the complexities of this budget deal are the need for a supplemental aid package which the White House and Senate want for disaster relief and to support Ukraine’s military. However, House Republicans want to cut out military assistance for Ukraine is exchange for additional funding and policy changes on the U.S.-Mexico border. Some Republicans have even suggested leveraging their support of any agreement for action by Speaker McCarthy to begin impeachment proceedings of President Joe Biden. As this budget fight continues, keep in mind that any one Member of Congress can issue a motion to vacate and attempt to oust McCarthy from his Speakership.

Here’s what else you may have missed this week:

Department of Defense going on the offensive against Senate blockade of military promotions. Senator Tuberville (R-AL) has been denying unanimous consent to all senior military promotions since February in retaliation for a Pentagon policy which grants leave and reimburses travel expenses for military personnel who cannot obtain an abortion or receive reproductive health care in the state where they are stationed. The backlog has now affected over 300 positions which need Senate confirmation, including those nominated to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Throughout this week the Pentagon has taken the unusual, but not unprecedented, tactic of having its top military leadership write op-eds and conduct TV interviews to try and get Senator Tuberville to budge. They even spotlighted the issue in an article on their front page earlier this week. In taking the case to the American people, they are arguing that Tuberville is negatively impacting military readiness; Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro claimed the Senator was “aiding and abetting Communist and other autocratic regimes around the world.” Despite this effort, the issue is likely to remain at a standstill with Pentagon officials and the White House refusing to budge on reversing the policy, Senator Chuck Schumer refusing to introduce each nominee one-by-one (to avoid creating a precedent in denying nominees for political expediency), and Senator Tuberville refusing to budge in his anti-abortion fight.

FDA and CDC set to approve new COVID booster as hospitalizations spike around the country. The Food and Drug Administration may approve the updated COVID-19 booster as early as today (so keep an eye on the news) which would pave the way for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, to give final approval on the vaccines as early as next week. This update comes as hospitalizations for COVID infections have increased for seven weeks in a row; even First Lady Jill Biden tested positive for the virus (she has since tested negative). The new booster shot will target the omicron subvariant and has been found to give additional protection against other variants as well.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows to finish his term despite health concerns. During the August recess Sen. McConnell captured headlines again after yet another protracted on-camera freeze during an interview which itself included questions about his health. Staff responded to the incident saying that the Senator was dehydrated. McConnell then took the issue a step further this week during a meeting with Senate Republicans where he presented letters from the on-site doctor in the Capitol for members of Congress who concluded that the Senator had not suffered a seizure or stroke. McConnell asserted that he would finish his term as leader, which ends in January, as well as his term in office, which ends in 2027 unless he runs for reelection. For the most part, McConnell has the support of the rest of his party, although Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky who himself is a doctor, has voiced skepticism that he could have really had a thorough medical evaluation. For the time being, McConnell has the important role of keeping his party and the Senate united throughout this appropriations process.

Local Government G-News September 6, 2023

September 6, 2023
Federal Funding Opportunities

U.S. Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fiscal Year 2024 Marine Debris Removal under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law letters of intent due October 27, 2023

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support the removal of large marine debris throughout the coastal United States, Great Lakes, territories, and Freely Associated States. These removal projects should focus on large marine debris, including abandoned and derelict vessels, derelict fishing gear, and other debris that is generally unable to be collected by hand.

U.S. Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fiscal Year 2024 Marine Debris Interception Technologies under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law letters of intent due November 15, 2023

The Marine Debris Program, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support the installation of proven marine debris interception technologies, throughout the coastal United States, Great Lakes, territories, and Freely Associated States. Projects will focus on the installation, monitoring, and maintenance of proven marine debris interception technologies that will capture marine debris at or close to known marine debris sources or pathways.

U.S. Department of Energy; National Energy Technology Laboratory Inflation Reduction Act Transmission Siting and Economic Development Program concept papers due October 31, 2023

This program aims to ensure the timely siting and construction of new or upgraded interstate or offshore electric transmission facilities while providing economic benefits to impacted communities. In order to accelerate and strengthen siting and permitting activities carried out by state, local, and Tribal siting and permitting authorities, this program will support efforts to standardize and streamline siting and permitting processes, coordinate across jurisdictions, and carry out robust public engagement, among other things. In order to provide economic benefits to communities impacted by the construction and operation of interstate or offshore transmission lines, including economically disadvantaged communities and environmental justice communities, this program will provide funds to siting authorities or other types of state, local, or Tribal governmental entities to support a wide range of projects that provide benefits targeted to the needs of impacted communities.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Fiscal Year 2023 and 2024 Wetland Program Development Grants applications due October 24, 2023

Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs) assist state, tribal, territory, and local government agencies and interstate/intertribal entities in developing or refining state, tribal, territory, local programs which protect, manage, and restore wetlands. The primary focus of these grants is to develop or refine state, tribal, and territory wetland programs. A secondary focus is to develop or refine local (e.g., county or municipal) programs. Projects must be performed within one or more of the states, territories, and federally recognized tribal nations of EPA Region 2 specifically within the geographic boundary of New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands to be eligible to apply for funding.

WSW Special Report: Expiring Authorizations, “Must Do” Legislation Highlight the September Legislative Calendar

As Congress prepares to return to action in September, it faces a lengthy and varied legislative to-do list. The gears of Congress have been grinding away throughout 2023, working to reauthorize a host of laws that expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. At the same time, appropriators have been working to advance the annual spending bills which fund the federal government before the start of Fiscal Year 2024 on October 1; absent action on those bills or on an interim funding bill, Congress may also be facing the prospect of a federal government shutdown.

To get a better understanding of how this works and what Congress has on its legislative agenda in September, we have assembled the following primer.

Authorization legislation: An authorization bill is passed by Congress to establish the structure of a federal department or agency and its programs or activities, along with recommended funding levels. Often, these authorizations are set to expire (or sunset) after a set period of time, with many measures requiring renewal within five years. In this case, Congress must pass legislation to reauthorize a given program, at which time Congress has the opportunity to change, reform, or update various federal government activities and keep federal programs current with the needs they were intended to address.

When an authorization is set to expire, it provides the deadline and impetus for Congressional action. If Congress can’t agree on a full-scale reauthorization of a given program, it often will extend the current authorization for a period of time. However, such extensions do not typically allow for new programs to begin or old ones to cease, or for changes in the way federal departments and agencies operate.

Appropriation legislation: This type of legislation permits agencies to take payments from the federal Treasury. Appropriations bills are ordinarily passed each year, with the federal fiscal year formally ending on September 30. However, in recent years, it has been common for Congress to fund the government through a continuing resolution (CR), which allows agencies to continue spending the same amount of money they were spending under the previous funding bill, for at least some period of time until there is agreement by Congress on a funding level for a department or agency for the full fiscal year.

In general, an authorization is required under House and Senate rules, and sometimes under statute, for Congress to appropriate funding for a particular program or activity.  However, unlike when an authorization lapses, if appropriations are not made for a particular activity before the end of a fiscal year, even on a temporary basis under a CR, that department or agency shuts down or ceases to administer a particular program.

The stakes for programs being reauthorized are getting higher, however, as in the 118th Congress, House Republicans have made a priority of programs being authorized to be eligible for continued investment in the annual appropriations bills. Without authorization, related programs could be more vulnerable to cuts in the future as the House and Senate write the annual spending bills.

Key Authorizations Expiring by September 30 Driving the Agenda: Many important programs are set to sunset on September 30th. Here is a selection of those measures that Congress is working to reauthorize before that deadline, and some of the key issues involved in those efforts:

  • FAA Reauthorization.
    • Key issues: Training hours for pilots, self-defense training for flight attendants, and the allocation of additional flight slots at Reagan National Airport.
  • The SUPPORT Act, which is the current framework for the federal response to the opioid epidemic.
    • Key issues:  New ways to respond to and reduce the proliferation of fentanyl, extension of state plan authority for relief from the Medicaid IMD Exclusion, and addressing the growing threat of xylazine.
  • The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), the nation’s main pandemic preparedness law.
    • Key issues: Giving the HHS-Assistant Secretary for Planning and Response new powers in the next public health emergency, including contracting authorities that the Department of Defense facilitated for Operation Warp Speed, and surge staffing capacity, as well as provisions that would address medical equipment and medical countermeasures supply chain resilience, potential new authorities for review and approval of diagnostic tests, and more.
  • The Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program, which funds training for pediatricians.
    • Key issues: Fights over gender appropriate care and attempts to prohibit federal funding from being used at facilities receiving GME funding for such care for people under age 18.
  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
    • Key issues: Protecting policyholders in areas at risk for flooding from outsize premium increases by capping annual increases at nine percent, increasing funding for mitigation grants and modernization of flood maps, and reforms to the claims process in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
  • Farm Bill
    • Key issues: Implementation of new work requirements for beneficiaries, limitations on the growth of benefits, rural development including broadband access expansion, Chinese ownership of US farmland.

Beyond these measures, Congress also is racing to advance the annual appropriations bills or otherwise agree on a Continuing Resolution before September 30. House and Senate leaders intend to bring some of the spending bills to the floor in their respective chambers in September, which could make incremental progress, but Congress is all but certain to need additional time in the fall.

While agreement on a Continuing Resolution of at least a month or two is typically non-controversial, there are some members of the House Freedom Caucus who have indicated they won’t support a CR unless additional spending and policy concessions are made beyond those agreed to in May to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. Once again, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy will be walking a highwire attempting to balance the priorities of competing factions within the Republican Conference, or the risks of cooperating with House Democrats, while also seeking to avoid the drama and blame of a government shutdown.

Ultimately, the imperative of securing aid in response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Idalia and the wildfires in Hawaii may prove instrumental to securing the bipartisan support required to pass a CR.

IHE G-News August 30, 2023

August 30, 2023
Federal Funding Opportunities

U.S. Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Removal Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law letters of intent due October 27, 2023

The overall objective of this funding opportunity is to support impactful, large marine debris removal projects that will improve the resilience of the coastal and marine environment. This competition considers impactful projects to be those that will have long-lasting and transformational benefits to marine and coastal trust resources, coastal communities, and/or local economies. To accomplish this, the Marine Debris Program seeks proposals for projects that remove and dispose of large marine debris, such as abandoned and derelict vessels, derelict fishing gear, and other large debris, and prevent the re-accumulation of marine debris in the environment.

U.S. Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Interception Technologies Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law letters of intent due November 15, 2023

This funding opportunity will support the installation, monitoring, and maintenance of proven marine debris interception and removal technologies to benefit marine and coastal trust resources, coastal communities, and/or local economies. For the purpose of this funding opportunity, marine debris interception technologies include devices, such as litter traps, shoreline removal technologies, booms, skimmers, conveyors with receptacles, floating collection devices, etc., that capture trash, plastics, and other macro-debris. Proven interception technologies are those that are not prototype devices and do not require additional research and development prior to deployment, and have been used successfully in the environment in which they are being proposed. These interception technologies may be utilized alone or together as part of a wider interception strategy.

NEW: Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health Precision Surgical Interventions abstracts due September 21, 2023

The aim of the Precision Surgical Interventions (PSI) program is to catalyze advancements in the surgical field, with the final goals of providing the surgeon with revolutionary tissue visualization and classification tools, thus increasing surgical precision, decreasing reoperations, and improving patient care. PSI seeks to develop technologies that improve surgical outcomes through two technical areas:

  • Area 1 aims to develop systems that image tumors intraoperatively at microscopic scales, and requires performers to develop an end-to-end pathology system that operates at the bedside or in vivo and classifies margins as positive or negative within 15 minutes, without a pathologist.
  • Area 2 aims to develop devices and software to localize and visualize critical anatomical structures (nerves, blood vessels and organs) in three-dimensional during surgery, and requires performers to develop a real-time, end-to-end system that enables visualization of critical structures buried up to one centimeter deep.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities applications due November 1, 2023

This program solicits proposals on behalf of individuals pursuing or planning to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees in relevant space technology disciplines at accredited U.S. universities. Space Technology Graduate Research Fellows will perform research at their respective campuses and at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Centers. Each recipient will be matched with a technically relevant and community-engaged NASA researcher who will serve as the research collaborator on the award. Through this collaboration, graduate students will be able to take advantage of broader and/or deeper space technology research opportunities directly related to their academic and career objectives, acquire a more detailed understanding of the potential end applications of their space technology efforts, and directly disseminate their research results within the NASA community.

National Science Foundation Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases proposals due November 15, 2023

The Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program supports research on the ecological, evolutionary, organismal, and social drivers that influence the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases. The central theme of submitted projects must be the quantitative, mathematical, or computational understanding of pathogen transmission dynamics. The intent is discovery of principles of infectious disease (re)emergence and transmission and testing mathematical or computational models that elucidate infectious disease systems. Projects should be broad, interdisciplinary efforts that go beyond the scope of typical studies. They should focus on the determinants and interactions of (re)emergence and transmission among any host species, including but not limited to humans, non-human animals, and/or plants. This includes, for example, the spread of pathogens; the influence of environmental factors such as climate; the population dynamics and genetics of vectors and reservoir species or hosts; how the physiology or behavior of the pathogen, vector, or host species biology affects transmission dynamics; the feedback between ecological transmission and evolutionary dynamics; and the cultural, social, behavioral, and economic dimensions of pathogen transmission and disease. Research may be on zoonotic, environmentally-borne, vector-borne, enteric, or respiratory pathogens of either terrestrial, aquatic, or marine systems and organisms, including diseases of animals and plants, at any scale from specific pathogens to inclusive environmental systems.

WSW Special Report: The 2024 Campaign Season Begins

On Wednesday night, eight Republican hopefuls took the stage for the first GOP presidential primary debate. As one commentary aptly described it, “The debate marked the end of the 2024 campaign’s preseason, a months-long sprint through fundraisers, town halls and early-state fried food…” The debate itself was fairly unremarkable, though if you want some post-debate commentary, this piece and this one are both worth a read.

The stakes are high in every presidential election year, but 2024’s stakes seem exponentially higher, each side’s detractors more relentless, the environment much more tense. With one party’s leading candidate facing multiple federal indictments and a slate of upcoming court appearances, and the other party’s sitting President facing ongoing intense scrutiny about the legality of his son’s business dealings, the end of the “preseason” will bring those issues even more to the forefront. The looming 2024 election will play a greater and greater role in the policy battles on Capitol Hill as both sides fight to retain or win congressional majorities. Razor-thin margins in both the House and Senate, combined with the internal policy divisions plaguing both congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats, have created an extraordinary setting leading into next year.

The most obvious practical impact of this political battle royale will be the congressional calendar for 2024. Expect to see fewer days “in session” in Washington so Members of Congress can spend time in their states and districts with constituents, and time on the campaign trail. (This provides some great opportunities for your organization to invite your Members of Congress for a site visit, ribbon-cutting, roundtable, health fair, or other event.)

But the impact on the legislative agenda will also be significant as Congress seeks not only to protect their own seats, but to promote their respective presidential candidates. Senate Democrats will look to highlight Biden’s accomplishments, while House Republicans will continue pursuing their aggressive oversight activities targeting the Biden Administration, as well as their “anti-woke” agenda. That makes large-scale, bipartisan legislative accomplishments hard to come by – at least before a potential lame duck session after the election.

Congress will still act on a number of policy and funding measures – look for more details in next week’s newsletter on expiring authorizations and what’s left on Congress’s “to do list.” The process may take longer. It may look different. It may even be downright painful, leaving us all wishing for some comfort food – maybe some of that “early-state fried food” from the presidential campaign trail…? But your WSW team will continue guiding through this extraordinary landscape, finding ways to advance your priorities and achieve your goals.