It’s a constant complaint in the world of working for the federal government. Filling open positions isn’t an easy process when the time to hire is so long that only the most patient candidates are willing to stick it out. Federal agencies have recently received push back with their increased reliance on direct hire authorities. According to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), in FY 2018, federal agencies made 28,000 appointments with the use of direct hire authorities. The DoD makes up 47% of the direct hires in the federal government. While OPM has supported the addition of direct hire regulations in order to meet gaps in critical skills, some argue that over use of this feature instead of competitive hiring procedures can lead to unfair advantages. Despite the pushback, advocates argue that hiring with either approach provide diverse results, but using direct hiring authorities can help meet critical hiring needs – especially in IT jobs.

Layoffs Impacting the Cleared Industry

United Steelworkers (USW) After a deal with Howmet, the plant will be able to stay open for another two years, in hopes of a full aerospace recovery. While layoffs of about 50 employees are expected to happen by March, the doors will still remain open.

“Because of the downturn in the market, this is probably the best case scenario for us, for the long-term viability of this plant,” USW President Terry Thirion said. “It is awful we are going to have layoffs. It is something that is not good at all, but the outcome is we think we have helped secure the long-term viability of this plant.”

Hiring impacting the Cleared Industry

Perspecta With the addition of a new IT contract with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for $201.5 million, Perspecta – or Peraton – will be in the market for professionals to support them with content delivery, network optimization, and information assurance services. The data center work will take place in the U.S. and worldwide. Perspecta currently has 14,000 employees, with many recent federal contract awards in the past year, including a $824 million contract with National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

With the Peraton acquisition set to finalize later this year, the new company (with the Northrop IT division) is set to be a contender in the defense market. When asked about finalizing the deal, Peraton Chairman and CEO Stu Shea said  “Perspecta brings highly skilled talent and differentiated technology expertise across a broad range of customers in the government markets which will complement our offerings and enhance our ability to drive innovation.”

As Shea remains as the CEO for the major merger, it will be interesting to watch the three different companies mold into one integrated force.

iWorks Corporation DCSA just awarded iWorks an $86 million contract for supporting personnel vetting and insider threat risk mitigation. Contract work supporting the Vetting Risk Operations Center (VROC) and DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoD CAF) will be performed in Ft. Meade, MD.

iWorks CEO Jothi Radhakrishnan stated “We are honored to be selected by DCSA to support their personnel vetting mission. We look forward to continuing our more than 9 years of support in this mission space for this new customer.” iWorks COO Charlie Sowell added “This contract allows us to deliver mission-critical support to DCSA’s dedicated workforce. We are excited to play a key role in the federal government’s background investigation and adjudication mission with our partners Xcelerate Solutions, Inquiries, Inc., and Absolute Business Solutions Corporation.”

Cleared Employer at Work: Leidos

Leidos is the type of company within the national security sector that employees can forge a personally tailored career path. Mission support goes hand in hand with personal fulfillment at Leidos. Growth is only possible when there have been successful leaders at the helm over the years, and Leidos continues to have leaders that put the organization on the trajectory of growth and success.

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Opportunity to Watch

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is pushing artificial intelligence forward in the DoD. JAIC is collecting proposals through March for their $249.5 million AI test and evaluation contract vehicle. JAIC plans to award 15-25 blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) for service procurement.

“One of the ways to avoid the valley of death and one of the ways to get this technology into the warfighters’ hands is to be able to at least readily connect those vendors, those industry partners that have the technology to the warfighter,” Jane Pinelis, JAIC testing and evaluation chief said. “And that connection is funding and that connection is a contract vehicle, and that’s the connection that we’ve been working really hard on providing to the rest of the department.”

Additionally, JAIC has called on Indiana Innovation Institute (IN3) to help them set up and manage a prototype business process called Tradewind. In an earlier statement, JAIC says that the goal of Tradewind is to “build a collaborative ecosystem partnering with commercial, academic, and industry partners that will work with the DoD to develop, design, and implement AI capabilities.”

“Tradewind will provide a user-friendly framework for our private sector partners to work more efficiently with the DoD to scale and implement AI for the warfighter and consumers across the military,” said William Roberts, JAIC Chief of Acquisition. “We want to learn from this initiative to improve the way DoD works with all types of private sector and academic partners, and inject the much needed speed and agility necessary to scale artificial intelligence and transform the department.”

It’s clear that JAIC has multiple irons in the fire in order to make the right connections and rapidly acquire AI capabilities.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.