This is the first installment of a new feature at G2Xchange FedCiv called G2X Insight, which will examine a Civilian agency through the eyes of a leading executive in the Federal IT & Consulting community. Tim Harvey, G2Xchange FedCiv’s Senior Director of Digital Content & Engagement, recently had the opportunity to discuss the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with David Yang, Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation with iTG (Incentive Technology Group). David has worked for a variety of Federal IT and Consulting firms during his 20+ year career and he also serves as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT Captain with the Prince George’s County Fire Department, which gives him additional insight into the critical mission of DHS first responders.
What are the some of the disruptive technologies that you see DHS embracing in 2020?
When you’re talking about IT, obviously the move to the cloud is changing DHS and its ability to respond to new threats and mission requirements. You’re seeing agencies like USCIS and ICE moving their software development and operations into the cloud allowing for much more flexibility and interoperability. Migrating legacy applications onto modern platforms such as low-code and BPM platforms is also transforming the way IT is delivering services to the field — both in terms of reducing the cost to develop those systems and maintain them, but also giving the mission the ability to meet dynamic requirements much more quickly.
On the operational technology side, look for things like multimodal biometrics and advances in drone and sensor technologies. I also think 5G is going to be big. Not only all the opportunities that come with 5G in terms of replacing the older infrastructure, but also all the potential new applications like augmented reality, virtual reality and other applications that will provide real-time situational awareness to first responders and will also address gaps like secure and reliable digital communications in remote areas. These applications will be disruptive and then you layer the need for cybersecurity over all of these new advancements. CDM has begun to get traction as more agencies adopt its tools to enhance Government IT security but you are also going to see a demand for increased IOT security as new devices, applications and sensors will be deployed across high-bandwidth networks.
You touched on first responders. Can you talk more about emerging technology in relation to DHS first responders and law enforcement?
I’m a first responder, so I’m hoping all of these new capabilities will enhance real-time situational awareness. For example, augmented reality overlaid onto an emergency scene can give first responders real-time, synchronous data versus serial updates we get now via radios. Also, drone technology can provide video of the scene and a 360 degree view of the scene before we arrive. 5G will allow these technologies be available on our mobile devices and in our apparatus as we are in route. And this is just me thinking of the advancements to first responders. The potential impact on law enforcement and border security will be even greater using the same kind of applications.
As Eagle II winds down, what contract vehicles do you see DHS utilizing in 2020?
NIH NITAAC’s CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 Small Business continue to be among the leading assisted acquisition vehicles.
Also, GSA Alliant 2 Small Business, when it gets awarded, should continue GSA’s solid track record of assisted acquisition for complex IT procurements. In addition, both GSA 8a Stars II and GSA VETS 2 will continue to provide opportunities for small and Veteran-owned businesses.
Overall, though, I expect the NITAAC vehicles will probably see the most increased use.
Is there anything internally that DHS will use contract vehicle wise or are they looking toward assisted acquisition like many other agencies?
DHS procurement has been promoting the aforementioned GWACs. I’ve been hearing that agency specific contracts are not really the preferred route at this time. Personally, I’m seeing more contracts go the assisted acquisition route — using NITAAC, NASA SEWP, DOI IBC and GSA — because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for agencies to build up and maintain contracting competencies and stay ahead of all the changes. More of them are choosing to outsource both to balance their workload and for expediency.
What are the “can’t miss” events for someone trying to do work at DHS?
I think any and all DHS component industry days that are open to the public are a must attend. Sometimes they’ll do industry days that focus on IT, such as what FEMA used to do over 2 days. And sometimes they’ll do industry days specific to all types of procurements to include non-IT services. It’s important to register to attend these in person if possible before they limit onsite attendees. Face time with potential clients is always invaluable.
The Government Technology Services Coalition holds great industry days. You do have to pay to go to those, but they are also provide valuable insights into agency procurments. They are generally focused on IT and border security so they are good for getting smart on agency missions and priorities.
As far as annual events, there is AFCEA Bethesda’s Law Enforcement IT Day, the Border Security Expo, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Technology Conference. These events are usually considered must-attend events for the DHS and law enforcement space. CES Government has always been a well-attended event focused on new technologies in the Homeland Security sector with substantial participation from US state and local jurisdictions, and US and NATO partner nations.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to break into DHS?
You definitely need to understand the DHS mission before you start calling on them. You need to understand what the folks in the field and the folks in headquarters are up against before you start pushing your solutions and services. You may have a great solution, but it may not be right for the mission. You also need to stay up on what’s happening in the DHS space. Obviously, subscribing to the newsletters like GTSC and staying up to speed on agency news is important. I’m always tracking what’s going on with DHS, not just in terms of leadership changes, but also any acquisition, procurement and policy changes. And then for small businesses, take advantage of the resources that are in place to get you in front of buyers. Go see the OSDBU (Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization) team. Let them know about your capabilities and then use that resource to get in front of as many people as you can. It’s good practice to learn what resonates and what doesn’t per agency and per directorate.
On the capabilities side, people want to hire capable companies right off the bat. The days of learning on the job — or having clients paying for you to train your people — are over. Especially as we see more specialized skill sets. You need to invest in your workforce. And you have to keep up with all the certifications. You can’t build a capable practice on the cheap because it shows. And more importantly, it impacts this mission, and these there is much less tolerance for failure.
And finally, can you tell us more about iTG?
We only do digital transformation. You see a lot of companies that do digital transformation, but they will also do Cyber, PMO or IV&V. We only focus on digital transformation, which is migrating legacy applications onto modern platforms. And then in the transformation space, we really only focus on the application development side of the house. That kind of focus gives us credibility and expertise and scale to tackle some of these larger modernization efforts. It also helps us with branding, recruiting, and everything else. For me in business development, it’s easy to say, “we just do one thing.”
We are partners with ServiceNow, Appian, Salesforce, AWS, Pivotal and Okta, which are leading edge tools and technology platforms in the digital transformation space.
We’ve been able to deliver on digital transformation for our clients and we are proud of our track record of customer success which only comes when you can focus, hire the right people and achieve the right outcomes for your clients.