Last week, the Schedule 84 Suppliers Research Panel participated in reviewing the 2018 contracting year with the GSA Schedule 84 leadership team. Our panel group consists of experienced contractors and consultants meeting for a monthly conference call. Schedule 84 is the GSA Schedules Contract for Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire and Rescue.

Our opinions are part of a research program to provide valuable feedback to the GSA Schedule 84 program and on to the GSA central office. The director of GSA Region 7 Schedules Program, the Schedule 84 Branch Chief and the Category Manager Subject Matter Expert who manages our suppliers' panel gave us their full attention as we discussed the successes of the program, hot topics, problems and the future.

We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort and renewed enthusiasm

Innovative Review Team

We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort, renewed enthusiasm and productive changes building upon the successes of 2017.

There was high praise for the accessibility to the Schedule 84 staff. Their consistent quick response to questions and concerns, thinking outside the box and supporting the program by partnering with their contractors was much appreciated. There has been a renewed spirit of partnering to cooperatively bring the best to agency customers. It seems to be working as per the Center Director sales are growing for GSA Schedule 84.

Advocating For The Security Industry

In my experience, business development starts with the Administrator from Region 7 in Ft. Worth, TX. As the annual Schedule 84 Industry Day at the SSAC begins he is shaking every hand and passing out his cards looking folks right in the eye asking, “how can I help you?” They have the best practices and most organized paperwork. The SSAC director has chosen well in her staff and is hands-on in every endeavor to direct things along when challenges occur or to improve the program.

The new 84 Branch Chief is knowledgeable, innovative, tireless and has been heavily involved in advocating for the security industry

It continues with the center’s CASE Manager encouraging the contractors at events, visiting agency customers and promoting the GSA Schedules Program by helping coordinate the partnering. The new 84 Branch Chief is knowledgeable, innovative, tireless and has been heavily involved in advocating for the security industry for adding new technology, meeting with industry associations, understanding the complexity and challenges of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD12) and advocating for the purchasing Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) utilizing the appropriate standards and the GSA Program among other innovations. As far as the supplier panel, we gave our GSA Schedule 84 team and leaders high praise for 2018.

 

GSA government procurement
GSA also added new categories or SINs for clearly identifying Physical Access Control Products that appear on GSA’s Approved Product List

Changes In The GSA Program

Some changes this year in certain GSA programmes included the creation of a new category of products/services Special Item Number (SIN) for Order Level Materials (OLM) developed to assist with solution procurements. This new SIN was added to Schedules 03FAC, 56, 70, 71, 00Corp, 738X and 84. Under Schedule 84 it is SIN 84-500.

GSA Schedule 84 consolidated many Special Items Numbers (SINs) to make finding products and services less complex

Essentially this SIN allows agencies procuring under the aforementioned GSA Schedules’ programmes to purchase and the contractor to add items and services not known prior to the task as a Contract Line Item Number (CLIN) not to exceed 33% of the order. For more information and FAQs on OLMs go to www.gsa.gov/olm. This is not to take the place of “Open Market” items for adding products only that are not listed on a company’s GSA Contract.

Physical Access Control Products

Previously, GSA Schedule 84 consolidated many Special Items Numbers (SINs) to make finding products and services less complex for the agencies. GSA also added new categories or SINs for clearly identifying Physical Access Control Products that appear on GSA’s Approved Product List according to the standards created under FIPS201. These products appear under SIN 246 35-7 after being tested and approved by GSA. To be qualified to install these products under the GSA Program at least one individual from the GSA Contractor company must complete the class and be CSEIP certified before applying for labor SIN 246 60-5.

Additionally, the company must demonstrate certain qualifications and have past performance for this type of work. The Security Technology Alliance offers the training class and certification. Certified individuals and approved products are listed at www.idmanagement.gov. Companies listed with SIN 246-35 7 and SIN 246-60 5 may be found by searching at www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov.

Updates To Guidance For Procurement

Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide

Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide. The ordering guide posted at www.gsa.gov/firesecurity is a valuable support tool created to assist agencies with understanding the requirements of FIPS201 and procuring a PACS. The guide includes relevant regulations, FAQs, sample systems designs, sample statements of work, a list of key points of contract for additional help and questions.

In partnership with GSA and guided by the GSA Ombudsman group, the Security Industry Association and the Security Technology Alliance members and their contractor companies participated in a GSA Reverse Industry PACS Training Day on September 17, 2018. We presented from an industry perspective important fact on PACS system requirements, procurement planning, providing information on resources and further educating with panel discussions, individual presentations and amusing skits to over 300 Government agency staff and acquisition specialists. You can find some of the unedited recording of the PACS Reverse Industry Day Training on YouTube.

The GSA Schedules Program is a streamlined contracting vehicle incorporating specific Federal Acquisition Regulations for more efficiently purchasing commercial items
Some changes included the creation of a new category of products/services Special Item Number (SIN) for Order Level Materials (OLM)

GSA Schedules Program

A hot topic about the GSA program for 2018 was also an issue for the prior year. The GSA Schedules Program is a streamlined contracting vehicle incorporating specific Federal Acquisition Regulations for more efficiently purchasing commercial items. Companies may apply per a continuous open season for a 5-year contract with three 5-year options to renew. Contractors are vetted for past performance, corporate experience and financial capability. Products and services are considered for offering to Federal, State and Local customers (for Schedule 84) with pricing that is determined to be fair and reasonable through negotiations with GSA.

To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor

To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor as well as the competition of identical or similar item pricing. The most vocal complaint of concern from the contractors was regarding the consideration of competitor contractors offering identical items with out-of-date pricing or holding a Letter of Supply not authorized by the manufacturer.

GSA Pricing Tool

Since the GSA utilizes a pricing tool to determine if the pricing offered is competitive, a rogue competitor can cause a pricing action to possibly be rejected due to out of date information even as the manufacturer offers an update of the product. This is an issue on all GSA Contracts that the supplier panel hopes will be reconsidered by GSA policymakers at the central office.

Most of us believe the Letters of Supply should only be issued by the manufacturer or with documented specific permission of the manufacturer to a reseller. Manufacturers may want to have a better understanding of the Letter of Supply, how it is considered by GSA and more carefully choose their Government partners for experience and compliance.

letter of supply GSA
Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy

Overcoming Challenges For The Security Community

Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract

Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy. GSA eBuy is an online Request for Quotation (RFQ) program that is for GSA Contract holders only. Agencies will post their requirements by Special Item Number for at a minimum 48 hours.

Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract. GSA Participating Dealers may take orders on behalf of a manufacturer if they are authorized under the manufacturer’s GSA Contract. They may also have an online PO Portal to receive orders. But they have no access to GSA eBuy to response to RFQs. Usually, under these arrangements, the manufacturers do not respond directly, so there is a problem using GSA eBuy for opportunities as their GSA Participating Dealers have no access to respond.

GSA Schedule 84 Leadership

In some instances, a contracting officer may allow an emailed quotation. However, with the use of the electronic ordering system, this has become a common problem we hope to bring to the attention of policymakers. Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forward The GSA Schedule 84 leadership has been helpful to explain the challenges to the agencies to try and resolve such issues.

So, what’s up for 2019? GSA modernization is coming. There will be improvements to their tools and more consolidations of SINs and more. There have been discussions of a revival of the GSA Expo. The Expo offered training for contracting staff both Government and private industry.

Valuable Tools For Vendor Training

Equally important is the networking, meetings and the exhibits of the contractors. Expos have been discontinued since 2012 but smaller events have been growing as well as online webinar training. Webinars are valuable tools for GSA and vendor training, but they do not take the place of being able to meet your customers face-to-face. GSA online eOffer and eMod program have made processing actions more efficient.

Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forward. The GSA online website for viewing the items on the GSA Contract and for purchasing items, GSA Advantage could definitely use an update as it has been basically the same for 20 years. Keep an eye on GSA Interact for the latest happenings with GSA.

Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

How Organizations Can Secure User Credentials From Data Breaches And Password Hacks
How Organizations Can Secure User Credentials From Data Breaches And Password Hacks

In the age of massive data breaches, phishing attacks and password hacks, user credentials are increasingly unsafe. So how can organizations secure accounts without making life more difficult for users? Marc Vanmaele, CEO of TrustBuilder, explains. User credentials give us a sense of security. Users select their password, it's personal and memorable to them, and it's likely that it includes special characters and numbers for added security. Sadly, this sense is most likely false. If it's anything like the 5.4 billion user IDs on haveibeenpwned.com, their login has already been compromised. If it's not listed, it could be soon. Recent estimates state that 8 million more credentials are compromised every day. Ensuring Safe Access Data breaches, ransomware and phishing campaigns are increasingly easy to pull off. Cyber criminals can easily find the tools they need on Google with little to no technical knowledge. Breached passwords are readily available to cyber criminals on the internet. Those that haven’t been breached can also be guessed, phished or cracked using one of the many “brute-force” tools available on the internet. It's becoming clear that login credentials are no longer enough to secure your users' accounts. Meanwhile, organizations have a responsibility and an ever-stricter legal obligation to protect their users’ sensitive data. This makes ensuring safe access to the services they need challenging, particularly when trying to provide a user experience that won’t cause frustration – or worse, lose your customers’ interest. After GDPR was implemented across the European Union, organizations could face a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover  Importance Of Data Protection So how can businesses ensure their users can safely and simply access the services they need while keeping intruders out, and why is it so important to strike that balance? After GDPR was implemented across the European Union, organizations could face a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is higher, should they seriously fail to comply with their data protection obligations. This alone was enough to prompt many organizations to get serious about their user’s security. Still, not every business followed suit. Cloud Security Risks Breaches were most commonly identified in organizations using cloud computing or where staff use personal devices According to a recent survey conducted at Infosecurity Europe, more than a quarter of organizations did not feel ready to comply with GDPR in August 2018 – three months after the compliance deadline. Meanwhile, according to the UK Government’s 2018 Cyber Security Breaches survey, 45% of businesses reported breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. According to the report, logins are less secure when accessing services in the cloud where they aren't protected by enterprise firewalls and security systems. Moreover, breaches were most commonly identified in organizations using cloud computing or where staff use personal devices (known as BYOD). According to the survey, 61% of UK organizations use cloud-based services. The figure is higher in banking and finance (74%), IT and communications (81%) and education (75%). Additionally, 45% of businesses have BYOD. This indicates a precarious situation. The majority of businesses hold personal data on users electronically and may be placing users at risk if their IT environments are not adequately protected. Hackers have developed a wide range of tools to crack passwords, and these are readily available within a couple of clicks on a search engine Hacking Methodology In a recent exposé on LifeHacker, Internet standards expert John Pozadzides revealed multiple methods hackers use to bypass even the most secure passwords. According to John’s revelations, 20% of passwords are simple enough to guess using easily accessible information. But that doesn’t leave the remaining 80% safe. Hackers have developed a wide range of tools to crack passwords, and these are readily available within a couple of clicks on a search engine. Brute force attacks are one of the easiest methods, but criminals also use increasingly sophisticated phishing campaigns to fool users into handing over their passwords. Users expect organizations to protect their passwords and keep intruders out of their accounts Once a threat actor has access to one password, they can easily gain access to multiple accounts. This is because, according to Mashable, 87% of users aged 18-30 and 81% of users aged 31+ reuse the same passwords across multiple accounts. It’s becoming clear that passwords are no longer enough to keep online accounts secure. Securing Data With Simplicity Users expect organizations to protect their passwords and keep intruders out of their accounts. As a result of a data breach, companies will of course suffer financial losses through fines and remediation costs. Beyond the immediate financial repercussions, however, the reputational damage can be seriously costly. A recent Gemalto study showed that 44% of consumers would leave their bank in the event of a security breach, and 38% would switch to a competitor offering a better service. Simplicity is equally important, however. For example, if it’s not delivered in ecommerce, one in three customers will abandon their purchase – as a recent report by Magnetic North revealed. If a login process is confusing, staff may be tempted to help themselves access the information they need by slipping out of secure habits. They may write their passwords down, share them with other members of staff, and may be more susceptible to social engineering attacks. So how do organizations strike the right balance? For many, Identity and Access Management solutions help to deliver secure access across the entire estate. It’s important though that these enable simplicity for the organization, as well as users. Organizations need an IAM solution that will adapt to both of these factors, providing them with the ability to apply tough access policies when and where they are needed and prioritising swift access where it’s safe to do so Flexible IAM While IAM is highly recommended, organizations should seek solutions that offer the flexibility to define their own balance between a seamless end-user journey and the need for a high level of identity assurance. organizations’ identity management requirements will change over time. So too will their IT environments. organizations need an IAM solution that will adapt to both of these factors, providing them with the ability to apply tough access policies when and where they are needed and prioritising swift access where it’s safe to do so. Importantly, the best solutions will be those that enable this flexibility without spending significant time and resource each time adaptations need to be made. Those that do will provide the best return on investment for organizations looking to keep intruders at bay, while enabling users to log in safely and simply.

Top Ten Security Industry Expert Panel Discussions From 2018
Top Ten Security Industry Expert Panel Discussions From 2018

The security marketplace is talking about a lot of different subjects. Our website’s Expert Panel Roundtable discussions in 2018 reflected some of the “hot topics” in the industry.  The very most-clicked-on Expert Panel Roundtable discussion in 2018 was about privacy issues and GDPR’s impact on physical security systems. Other hot topics that made the Top-10 list of roundtable discussions included obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials, what’s new “on the edge,” and the value of physical security data. Here is a listing of the Top 10 Expert Panel Roundtable discussions posted in 2018, along with a “sound bite” from each discussion, and links back to the full articles. Thanks to everyone who contributed to Expert Panel Roundtable in 2018 (including the quotable panelists named and linked below). 1. How do privacy issues and GDPR impact physical security systems? "GDPR specifically restricts the capture and use of EU residents’ personal data and is in direct conflict with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) platforms to track individual activities. The challenge for manufacturers will be to design solutions capable of capturing valuable information for security or business intelligence purposes while simultaneously anonymizing retained data.” - Peter Strom, March Networks 2. What are the security challenges of the hospitality market? "The primary challenge the hospitality industry faces is the fine balance between the delivery of exceptional customer service and maintaining a safe and secure environment. The industry sees a range of threats, including theft, terrorism and natural disasters, and more modern risks, such as those related to cybersecurity, liability and compliance." - Jumbi Edulbehram, Oncam 3. Where is it inappropriate to install video cameras? "The most obvious examples would be in bathrooms or bedrooms, but the more interesting cases are those that are not so obvious – such as religious institutions like a church or a mosque. An increase in the boldness of would-be thieves has led to a recent rise in surveillance outside of houses of worship." - Stuart Rawling, Pelco by Schneider Electric 4. What technology will impact security most in the rest of 2018? "The hottest trend we are currently seeing in 2018 is the continued adoption of intelligent devices and automation into the security framework. We have embraced a model where our software and hardware components continually get smarter and easier for security and IT teams to manage and deploy." - Stuart Tucker, AMAG Technology 5. What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control? "Mobile credentials have been slow to take off because legacy readers traditionally did not have Bluetooth or NFC capacity. However, upgrade kits will soon be available from some access control vendors, and customers will be able to easily upgrade their readers." - Derek Arcuri, Genetec 6. What’s new “on the edge” of security and video surveillance systems? "As more powerful in-camera chipsets are developed, edge devices are capable of even more powerful analytics that can inform operators in real-time of events requiring attention. Part of this significant evolution is from a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called deep learning." - Paul Kong, Hanwha Techwin America 7. Are integrators and end users overwhelmed by too many choices? "Being proactive in tracking new developments and networking with like-minded professionals are critical. Find out what your colleagues are using or testing, and get their feedback on what is working well, especially if their organization is similar to yours. Join local groups, attend industry conferences, and connect on social media to compare notes on emerging technologies." - Brandon Reich, Pivot3 8. What role does social media play in promoting security? "Social media can help us reduce false police dispatches by drawing in a personal circle of people that can validate an alarm, whether it be a neighbour looking out their window to see what’s going on, or a family member that knows your travel plans and is taking care of your house." - Wayne Jared, 3xLOGIC 9. How should your security company measure total cost of ownership (TCO)? “When looking at TCO you need to consider the obvious initial capital cost – compared to alternatives – and also the operational costs across the lifespan of the systems, across one, three and five years. On top of this, though, security can add additional value through integration.” - John Davies, TDSi 10. What is the value of physical security data? "While active protection is the primary job of a security system, the data generated by today’s networked solutions can provide a wealth of intelligence to help organisations optimize both their security strategies and their business operations.” - Mark Perkins, Boon Edam

Adapting Servers For IP Video Surveillance Systems: Why Manufacturers Struggle
Adapting Servers For IP Video Surveillance Systems: Why Manufacturers Struggle

Security integrators are often tasked with a multitude of responsibilities which could include a variety of installation, integration or design tasks made up of sprinkler systems, fire alarms, access control, HVAC, video surveillance systems and networks; and then pile on maintenance, training and analytics. Traditionally, most security integrators have installation backgrounds but are now expected to be IT savvy, too. Even the most proficient IT professionals may not fully grasp the complexity of adapting computer servers for use with video systems. It’s not the area of expertise of security integrators as the complexities between IT data and video data are significant. Therefore, security integrators depend on system builders to provide solutions to meet the needs of video systems expertly and with few hassles. It’s a simple enough ask, but not so easy to deliver. Tom Larson, Chief Technology Officer, BCDVideo, lists some of the challenges: The Gap Between Reality And Customer Expectations End users should expect a security integrator to provide services and a wide product line to ensure the right equipment for any size job Sometimes there is a gap between what a security integrator expects from a video surveillance solution (in terms of validation testing, dependability, technical support) and the performance of available choices, especially in the case of low-cost or generic equipment. Extra service and support are needed to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, some manufacturers entering the market have failed to deliver, and integrators (and their end user customers) have paid a price. The Network Is Often Overlooked Security integrators should pay special attention to engineering the network and calculating the bandwidth and storage needed for video projects, especially given how technology evolves so quickly. Security is an appliance-driven business, and integrators who just want to add another server to expand storage or functionality without configuring the network run the risk of i/o bottlenecks and other system failures. End users should expect a security integrator to provide services and a wide product line to ensure the right equipment for any size job. Unfortunately, traditional IT resellers are often married to a singular solution limiting their knowledge of a good fit for the job. Buying a video server based on a low price aggravates the problem, as “Frankensteined” or generic servers tend to generate additional costs over time Servers Are Mistakenly Considered A One-Time Expense One mistake purchasing agents make and security integrators have a hard time quantifying is viewing video storage as a capital expense (as one more component of a security system) rather than considering ongoing operating expenses. Buying a video server based on a low price aggravates the problem. “Frankensteined” or generic servers tend to generate additional costs over time, such as firmware or supply chain issues, and some systems builders have failed to provide support to offset those costs. In fact, the high costs over time of supporting inexpensive servers have been unsustainable for some system builders, who have left integrators and end users holding the bag, and in some cases, the liability. Adapting To Sustainable Strategies “Systems builders to the video surveillance market must adapt and invest to meet the demands of security integrators’ expectations, and they need a business model that enables them to provide a substantial level of support and commitment,” says Larson. “Working with high-quality manufacturers and providing tried-and-tested, certified equipment upfront ensures manageable costs over the life of the system. Products that are fully tested and contain no firmware bugs ensure smoother installations. By providing adequate technical support to the security integrator and managing IT variables over the life of the system, the systems builder makes it possible for a security integrator to specify and install a video server as easily as any other system component.” Keeping IT professionals on staff to deal with server issues is cost-prohibitive for security integrators Taking a longer-term view and considering total cost of ownership is a more sustainable strategy for integrators, says Larson. Investing upfront in a higher-quality server is rewarded by dependability and lower service costs over the life of the system. And the lower costs of supporting a higher-quality server create a more sustainable business model for the integrator, thus ensuring the integrator and end user will have ongoing support. Adapting Server Technology To Video Applications Security integrators deliver a different skill set than IT integrators, who tend to be more hands-on in terms of updating firmware and providing maintenance. Keeping IT professionals on staff to deal with server issues is cost-prohibitive for security integrators, who therefore depend on systems builders to provide that expertise. They develop a long-term relationship with a systems builder they can depend on to meet their needs for each job. Larson says the best scenario for a security integrator is a combination of a high-quality server systems builder that understands the specific needs of the security integrator market. Adapting server technology to video applications requires knowledge of both disciplines. Dependable technology adapted to the needs of the video channel ensures successful installations and happy, long-term customers.