Maximizing the IT Ecosystem in Times of Crisis to Support Government Customers
by Joshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Perspecta

The new normal
Our daily lives as we knew them have drastically changed over the last several months. Our nation is taking preventive measures to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, test and treat those affected, and support our nation’s health care system. In doing so federal, state and local governments are activating continuity of operation (COOP) plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency declarations, stay-at-home orders, essential services only, testing, quarantines, flattening the curve and telework have become the new normal. This “new normal” forces government and industry to maintain critical and essential services, while also balancing employee health and limited resources. 
   
Unprecedented measures
Businesses and governments are confronting significant and unique challenges. Our country has witnessed an unprecedented mobilization of public and private resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also seen significant policy changes. The president of the United States has invoked the National Defense Production Act. The Department of Defense (DOD) issued a memo increasing the allowable amounts and relaxing the reporting requirements for Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs). On April 15, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a Commercial Solutions Opening  Pilot (CSOP) for Innovative Commercial Products in Support of COVID-19, which will serve as an umbrella rapid acquisition structure for DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides stimulus to individuals, businesses and hospitals during the pandemic, including appropriations and provisions to help government respond to the pandemic. 

Adapting
Responding to COVID-19 requires leveraging existing plans while also adapting to unique strategies that allow for sustained operations to support response and relief efforts. Data from the Federal Procurement Data System1 shows $6.5 Billion in COVID-19 spend since March. A large portion of the spending focuses on health equipment such a personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, N95 masks, gowns, ventilators, etc.  However, there are other trends with the IT spend related to the COVID-19 response as well:
1. More than $1 billion in IT related spend currently being procured specific to COVID-19, since March 1, 2020;  
2. The IT spend represents over 15% of the overall COVID-19 spend from the federal government; and   
3. Many federal agencies have submitted contract modifications to allow for telework for contractors due to the COVID-19 response, including some who have traditionally avoided it. 

These numbers represent only the spend data entered and tagged in FPDS using the National Interest Action value “COVID-19 2020” or code “P20C”; DOD reports spending data on a 90-day delay, so the actual spend in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be significantly higher when all data are available.   

The reported data shows increased spending for telework or remote work capabilities, cybersecurity services, end-user devices (laptops, mobile devices, etc.), hardware and software, network services and analytics, to name a few.  The data demonstrates that IT is playing a significant role as agencies adapt to the pandemic. These technologies have already saved countless jobs, helped slow the spread of the virus by supporting shelter-in-place orders, and allowed businesses and government to maintain a level of normalcy during the crisis.

Moving forward
While overall spend and IT spend in response to the pandemic is trending upwards daily, the real question is what will happen when the COVID-19 pandemic ends? Our analysis suggests this pandemic created a tipping point for digital transformation in the workplace, for both industry and government.  Moving forward we expect to see:     
1. Where practicable, a significant increase in telework and remote work  
2. Modernization of existing IT infrastructure, applications, and tools in order to meet the demands of a more mobile workforce, which has allowed many businesses and government agencies to pivot their typical place of performance  
3. Expansion of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for the entire federal government and leveraging a zero-trust framework as the new standard for cybersecurity; and   
4. Increased use of data by leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, visualization and data science to inform policy and practice.

The post-pandemic world
COVID-19 has had unprecedented impacts on the United States and the world. As we move past the initial impacts of COVID-19, the “new normal” will require agile working models, a greater affinity for more secure anytime/anywhere access to IT, using data more frequently to gain insights, and allowing agencies and the public to be better prepared for the next crisis—all made possible by technology.   

1 Data from the Federal Procurement Data System has of April 24, 2020. 

 
Joshua is a senior strategist in Perspecta’s civilian, state and local business group and has 20 years of experience in public, private and non-profit organizations. 

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This article was published in the Spring 2020 edition of PSC's Service Contractor Magazine.