Help The Government Solve Problems

Although the federal government is made up of hundreds of agencies, the few that we seem to hear about in the news are the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the Intelligence Community. There are more than three million federal employees - - all of whom are facing daily challenges. These challenges are compounded by rules and regulations that Congress has imposed upon them to protect the American taxpayer. At the same time, some federal employees are facing a possible job change as a result of A-76 competition. This is a situation where contractors like you and I get to compete with the federal employee for their job. Unfortunately, the foregoing does not make for a comfortable conversation in our first sales meeting with a potential customer.

We define the "end user" as the employee facing a problem and whose job security is in jeopardy if the problem isn't resolved. If you are in IT, this would be the IT manager solving a data, hardware or internet issue for their customer, "the stakeholder." The stakeholder could be anyone in the government such as a department director or a soldier in the field.

Consider approaching your customer or "end user" and sharing with them some of of the technologies that are working in the commercial marketplace. Many end users appreciate this type of outreach. It may take time for you to establish this business relationship and for you to train them on the latest (or your latest) technology but the result will be the same. The end user will walk your technology into their boss and use it as their idea. What a perfect scenario or introduction for you into the upper levels!

Now, how do you find the agencies and the end users that need you the most? Read the papers! We here at check the following sites on a daily basis: Federal Computer Week (, Government Computer News (, Government Executive ( and Military ( The sites send out daily emails giving you all of the news inside the government. Frequent topics include discussions of upcoming projects, funding for projects, projects losing money, people losing their jobs and people receiving promotions. They are free publications which can keep you updated on the recent issues concerning the federal government.

Read the papers in a whole new way. Instead of looking at the papers and having shock over the situation, ask this question, "How can my company or any of my partnering companies help?" If there is a solution to the government's problem, you need to pick up the phone, contact the end user who is in the most trouble about the reported situation and approach them in this manner, "I don't know if you're the right person, but maybe you can point me in the right direction. I read this story in the paper and I think I have a possible solution to your situation." If they can't help you, they will point you in the right direction. In fact, you might close an appointment right away. Sometimes, you run into rejection. Keep on top of the opportunity. You have nothing to lose. Just "touch base" every day, or week, or so and see if they've solved the problem.

If there is pain and you can resolve the situation, the government employee will be all ears. This is the time to approach them. When we watched the news during the Katrina disaster, it always struck me when a contractor said, "I can fix this problem, but I called FEMA and they never called back." Leaving a message is not the solution. Also, if you plan to contact the government in the middle of an emergency of national significance, you can forget about receiving a return phone call. However, if you let the situation die down a little, consider contacting them during the winter to prepare for the next hurricane season. While the large primes are solving the government's pains in Louisiana, the government will need you in other areas of the country to pick up the leftover business.

Here is a perfect example of a company who uncovered a need at an agency and created a solution:

"HHS Awards Contract for Radiation Countermeasures," February 15, 2006 From Global Security Newswire

The Health and Human Services Department on Monday announced a Project Bioshield contract for two radiological countermeasures. The five-year, $21.9 million contract was awarded to Akorn, Inc., which is expected to deliver 390,000 doses of Ca-DTPA (Pentetate Calcium Trisodium Injection Sterile Solution) and 60,000 doses of its Zn-DTPA (Pentetate Zinc Trisodium Injection Sterile Solution). These drugs combat internal exposure to plutonium, americium, and curium, according to an HHS statement.

The number of doses requested by HHS is based upon a threat assessment of the medical affects of a nuclear or radiological attack by the Homeland Security Department as well as the inter-agency Weapons of Mass Destruction Medical Countermeasures Subcommittee.

Under the contract, an additional 500,000 doses of each drug can be purchased.

"Protecting the American public in a radiological or nuclear incident is a major priority of my office and Project Bioshield in particular," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Stewart Simonson. "Today's contract award is part of our effort to expand the nation's stockpile of medical countermeasures against this threat."


By just reviewing the news recently, here are some of the "pains" and "problems" the government has reported that they need improvement. Maybe you can help:

PAIN #1-12:

"Pentagon shares some lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina," February 10, 2006, By: Chris Strom,,


"Senior Defense Department officials on Thursday outlined some of the critical lessons the Pentagon has learned from Hurricane Katrina that could help improve the federal government's response to future domestic catastrophes.

The officials told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee that the department is still in the midst of completing a full report, but that some of the issues that need to be addressed are already evident.

"U.S. military forces executed the largest, fastest, most comprehensive and most responsive civil support mission ever," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense, in written testimony to the committee. "In a domestic relief operation unprecedented in scale, over 72,000 federal military and National Guard forces flowed into the Gulf Coast region over a 12-day period to assist fellow Americans in distress."

McHale testified along with Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

According to McHale, the government should:

  • Improve its ability to obtain accurate assessments of damaged areas immediately after a disaster.
  • Establish a unified command and control structure to coordinate the efforts of multiple federal agencies when they converge on an affected area.
  • Assure the ability to effectively communicate with first responders and emergency management personnel.
  • Integrate the capabilities of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve forces through pre-event and on-location operational planning.
  • Re-examine Defense roles and resources for responding to a catastrophic event.
  • Need for mobile, secure communications that are "survivable and flexible" and have both voice and data capabilities.

Additional lessons include the need to:

  • Designate a single Pentagon official to communicate with the government's federal coordinating officer
  • Train local and state employees to fill emergency management staffing shortfalls
  • Pre-allocate space in state emergency operations centers for federal personnel
  • Develop a continuity of operations plan for government functions
  • Pre-arrange support contracts for required resources
  • Acquire power


PAIN #13-19:

"DHS slow to enact border security recommendations," February 15, 2006, By Jenny Mandel,

Synopsis: "GAO has issued 18 management-related recommendations for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program since May 2003, the report "GAO-06-296" Link: said. The suggestions involve cost-benefit analysis, cost estimates and justifications, testing plans and human resource plans.

The department has made some progress in adopting the recommendations, the Congressional auditors found, but has been slow in many areas.

GAO found that DHS has fully implemented two recommendations:

  • Defining staff roles and responsibilities
  • Hiring an independent contractor for validation and verification.

But auditors found that implementation was "partially complete" on another 11 recommendations, with activities in place to address them but results not documented.

These recommendations include:

  • Development and implementation of security
  • Risk management and testing plans
  • Cost-benefit analysis of program components
  • Performance of privacy impact assessments
  • Development of acquisition controls
  • Assessments of completed work

DHS officials rejected many of the auditors' criticisms. In a lengthy response letter, Steven Pecinovsky, director of DHS's GAO/Inspector General Liaison Office, argued that many of the auditors' assessments failed to examine relevant documentation, overlooked US VISIT staff coordinating roles that address concerns including security and privacy, or otherwise failed to acknowledge the full extent of the department's implementation.

According to the program director, the pace of progress is attributable to competing demands on time and resources," he said. "The longer that the program takes to implement the recommendations, the greater the risk that the program will not meet its goals on time and within budget."


PAIN # 20:

"First responders detail emergency communications problems," February 15, 2006, By: Michael Martinez, National Journal's Technology Daily

A lack of equipment standards, inadequate funding and turf wars among federal, state and local officials have made it increasingly to difficult to achieve interoperable emergency communications, a panel of "first responders" said at a House Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology Subcommittee hearing.

"The status quo is intolerable," said Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Reichert said the "inadequate response" to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that work toward interoperability after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have not been effective. He said strong leadership is necessary to resolve the complex problem.

"Interoperable communications is about much more than spectrum and money," he said.

A law signed by President Bush last week would allow the Federal Communications Commission to auction spectrum in January 2008. But Harman said she is urging her peers to consider a measure, (H.R. 1646) Link: that would quicken the deadline for broadcasters to transition to digital signals.


PAIN #21:

"Better training needed for emergency purchases, procurement chief says," February 13, 2006, By Jenny Mandel,


"Government officials need more training to respond effectively to sudden purchasing demands in emergency situations, an Office of Management and Budget official said Monday.

Shortcomings in contingency contracting capabilities surfaced during last summer's hurricane season, said Robert Burton, acting administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, at a conference hosted by the Arlington, Va.-based Performance Institute. A lack of staff, particularly of managers and people experienced in handling emergencies, was a key problem at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies, he said.

FEMA had 36 contracting professionals last summer, and had a request pending to add 200 over the next five years. Moreover, "Our folks were not necessarily trained well in contingency contracting," he said. People had little knowledge of what contract vehicles were already in place at different agencies that could have been used to quickly buy supplies for areas affected by the hurricane.

Without that knowledge, duplicate procurements were made in some cases, and in others, supplies were delayed, Burton said.

He noted that the Chief Acquisition Officers Council, a group of procurement chiefs, has established a working group on contingency contracting that is developing an outline of best practices for agencies to follow, as well as directories of individuals with expertise in em"


PAIN #22-27:

"Chertoff announces major changes for FEMA," February 13, 2006, By: Daniel Pulliam,,


"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Monday acknowledged that his department's response to Hurricane Katrina was "unacceptable" and announced measures intended to strengthen the government's emergency response capabilities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will establish a permanent workforce focused on disasters and will decentralize its disaster relief centers when a significant number of people are displaced, Chertoff said in remarks at the National Emergency Management Association's midyear conference.

"I also have the responsibility to fix what went wrong," Chertoff said. "As the president has said, the results of our response to Katrina were unacceptable. Some things worked well, but some things which should have worked well did not."

Chertoff said that FEMA can no longer "rely primarily on volunteers to provide services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster." He said the agency will develop a "highly-trained nucleus of permanent employees to serve as its core disaster workforce," and that volunteers will continue to be an important part of the FEMA team.

Department spokesman Russ Knocke said he would not dispute an Associated Press report that 1,500 new full-time employees would be hired for year-round disaster coordination.

"We have to build a robust permanent staffing capability for the agency so that we're not in the type of situation where with every storm you're replacing them," Knocke said. "Volunteers have a critical role to play, and they will continue to play that role, but I think to the extent that you have a more robust trained . . . staff, the better the general capability of the agency will be."

He also outlined various additional changes to improve FEMA's ability to respond to disasters:

  • Develop a pilot program for deploying mobile disaster assistance trucks to temporary housing so victims can receive assistance closer to home, he said.
  • Launch a streamlined logistics management system so equipment and material shipments can be tracked and redistributed if needed during a disaster recovery, Chertoff said
  • FEMA's Web site and 1-800 call-in number capabilities will be upgraded to handle 200,000 disaster registrations per day, double the previous capability.
  • Debris removal contracting process will be streamlined so reimbursements can be processed faster, and communications capabilities will be improved to survive the loss of power, infrastructure damage and severe weather, he added.
  • Reconnaissance teams made up of personnel from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will be formed so information can be sent back to the department for incident management coordination and information sharing.


In summary, as sales people and as citizens, we need to read the news in a whole new way. These stories are unconscious cries for help and we can assist, but it will take time, investment and a persistent sales team to find the person -- your end user -- whose job is on the line without you. If you can develop a trusting relationship with this person and train them on the latest technology (your products and services), they'll carry you over to contracting and offer to help get you in the door. Once you help the contracting officer fulfill the contracting requirements, and deliver perfectly every time, you'll win business from the government for years to come.

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