Archive for category Government Work

DIY: Starting Up A Business–10 Things To Ask Before Pursuing A US Government Contract

Over the years, folks that have small companies or wanted to start companies, have asked how you get government contracts. Specifically overseas government contracts in the war zones.

Well, to be honest, I am not at all an expert on this side of the business. I do not own a security company, nor have I ever pursued government contracts. I am a security contractor that has been hired either as an employee or as an independent contractor, by companies that have already won government contracts overseas in the war zones. But I have never contracted with the government directly.

With that said, I am always willing to share what little knowledge I have on the subject of government contracting. So when I find cool articles like this, I like to share them because they are educational to me–but also to the community as a whole. Especially to those interested in getting into the game. Plus folks can add to it in the comments, to make this more tailored to overseas stuff.

The deal I would like to add to this post is that in order to get started, you can get all sorts of great information for free by scheduling an appointment at your local Small Business Administration office. Call them up, tell them you want to get into government contracting, and they will connect you with a government contracting mentor/specialist. Someone that is already established and is willing to mentor you on what you need to do.

You can also do this on your own by just contacting a contracting specialist with a company, and asking them what they know. Become a student of government contracting, and seek out as many sources of current information as you can about the process. Talk it up with those that are in the game and have actually won contracts for companies, and copy what they do.

Another idea is to just pay for the services of a firm or firms that specializes in getting you started. The article below mentioned writing proposals and how important that is to getting a contract, or using the services of a Insurance Broker to find the right insurance for your company. If you do a search on Google for ‘government contracts’, you will see companies in the paid for ads highlighted in yellow at the top of the search page, whom specialize in getting you started. Like with anything in life, there are some things you can do yourself, and there are other things that are just smarter and more cost effective to pay someone else to do.

I cannot comment on who is the best at this, and it will require you to do some shopping around as to whom to go with. But you can pay someone to get you started, and especially with all of the paper work required. Also, if you live in a state that is not exactly close to the contracting world back east, then these firms might be the ticket to get you in the game.

As for my international readers, obviously this post is directed at my US readers. But for those companies that have US offices and are able to use local US surrogates to get into this game, then I am sure there are a few more layers of bureaucracy and regulation to go through. If anyone has information on that process, I am all ears. I also imagine a good contracting specific lawyer would be handy for that.

Anyways, check it out below and for you experts/contracting officers or CEOs that know the process intimately, definitely speak up if you have some tips. The WBJ will be doing future posts on how to choose a public relations officer and commercial insurance, and a big hat tip to them for putting this out there. –Matt


10 things to ask before Pursuing a government contract
Washington Business Journal
Friday, October 5, 2012
We asked several experts what new entrepreneurs should think about when pursuing a government contract. Next up in our biweekly manual of sorts for startup businesses: how to choose a public relations firm and commercial insurance broker.
1. What types of contracts are there? Types of government contracts include fixed-price contracts, which generally provide a firm price for the work, and cost-reimbursement contracts, which provide payment for allowable incurred costs. Other types are incentive contracts, time-and-materials contracts and sealed bidding contracts. Research them to see what effect each would have on your company’s finances.
2. Will you look at my past performance? You must be an expert in the area related to the contract you are pursuing. If you want to be a government technology contractor, for instance, you should be able to show proof that you excel in your technology through previous contracts and work. In recent years, governments have been putting more emphasis on a company’s past contract performance when selecting contractors.
3. What are the contract requirements? Read the solicitation thoroughly and make sure you can fulfill the requirements. For example, you might be required to sustain your business financially until the contract expires, maintain Applicant Flow Logs, which record various details about your job applicants and hires, and send annual letters to recruitment sources.

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Military News: Military Retirement Is More Generous And Expensive Compared To Private Sector

Hat tip to Thomas Ricks over at Foreign Policy for pointing this one out. Data like this seems to be missed when we discuss the costs of a standing government army, versus the private industry.  So stuff like this really points out the differences between public and private.

I have yet to work in a company that had any security contractor retirees. Hell, I would be lucky to have a retirement package offered, and most gigs these days seem to be all independent contractor stuff. That is the reality of today’s ‘disposable workforce’. So for me, I just assemble my own retirement plan and continue put into it from the various contracts I work.  Sometimes I was lucky enough to work a contract with a 401K plan, but those were few and far between.

The government seems to be the only industry left that actually has folks that work 20 years or 30 years, and has retirees under that system. It is actually a pretty good deal and many retirees collect pensions and go on to work other jobs.

In the security contracting industry, you see a lot of retired military folks who do exactly that.  They collect a nice pension after working 20 years in the military, and then go on to be a private contractor and make even more money.  So I could understand why the Pentagon and today’s cash strapped US government is taking a second look at this system. You could also guess the reaction of guys in the military that would construe this study as a threat to their good deal. The question to ask is will the government modify the current military retirement system to match that of the federal government, and get a few more years of service out of their soldiers? Or will they succumb to the politics of the matter, and realize that a ton of military retirees and current soldiers vote.

Who knows, but I do know that the US government is in the process of making some adjustments to the budget and spending. So they are looking at all and any options of cutting costs, and the military is no exception.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I certainly hope these statistics are factored into future cost benefit analysis between government military forces and private military forces.  There are so many costs to consider when maintaining a standing army during times of peace and war.  Not to mention that all of these retirees in the military are also drawing healthcare benefits, and the legacy costs of that must be equally as high.  I mean if a guy retires at age 40 give or take, and the average life expectancy of a human these days is around 75, then that can add up to a lot of money that tax payers will be paying over the course of that individual’s life.

Here is the report that goes into more detail about military retirement and it’s costs. –Matt

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Government Work: What’s It Like For Federal Employees Working In Iraq Or Afghanistan?

Actually, it is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. lol Now I am sure some of you are saying, why is FJ promoting government work?  It is true that I tend to lean towards private industry initiatives and reducing the size of government, but I am also into pointing out what works or what is a good deal in government for folks looking for work. In other words, I support personal choice, and if government work is your thing, then here are some ideas.

Below I have posted two articles that deal with government work in the war zones. The first describes the kind of conditions and salary you can expect, and the second is a job description for Security Protective Specialist or SPS with the DoS.

To me, the SPS position is probably the most relevant position to our industry, because these are the guys that command over the motorcade operations.  In other words, if you are a WPS certified contractor working for DoS providing diplomatic security, your company boss would be working hand in hand with an SPS for mission planning. The SPS is the guy that insures the State Department gets the type of security service it requires for whatever missions. So this is a very important position.

I guess the other thing to point out is do not get sidetracked by the initial salary.  That is the base salary, and the important figure to look at for salary is the uplifts, or overtime and danger pay.  There are other uplifts in pay and benefits, but as you can see with both articles and this section from the DoS site, the potential salary for overseas work is not that bad for government work:

SPS Initial salary will generally be at the FP-04, Step 1($57,678) which includes 8.82% overseas comparability payment.
    •    Post Differential – based upon post of assignment. Afghanistan – 35% of base pay; Iraq – 35% of base pay; Peshawar, Pakistan – 30% of base pay.($77,865)
    •    Overtime – OT may be expected and is paid at the rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate. May request compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.
    •    Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA) – while assigned to unaccompanied posts, SPS employees are eligible for SMA. The SMA is an annual grant determined by the number of dependents and ranges from $6,000 for one child to $20,200 for an adult dependent with 4 or more family members. The SMA is non-taxable.
    •    R&R – Kabul, Peshawar and Baghdad are under a generous leave/R&R allowance program (usually taken at 50-90 day intervals). Kabul and Baghdad allow 2 R&Rs and 3 Regional Rest Breaks (RRBs) or 3 R&Rs and no RRBs. Peshawar allows 2 R&Rs and 1 RRB. R&Rs provide round-trip transportation to any point in the United States. Time usually allowed is approximately two weeks. In addition to the Annual Leave allowance, posts often permit administrative leave to be used while on R&R.
    •    Annual Leave – federal employees earn Annual Leave (AL) based upon the following formula:
(a) If less than 3 years federal service – 4 hours a pay period (26 pay periods in a calendar year) (b) If between 3 and 15 years federal service – 6 hours a pay period (c) If more than 15 years federal service – 8 hours a pay period.
    •    Former Military Service – time spent in the US military is credited towards the annual leave allowance unless the employee is retired from the military. If retired and receiving retired pay, then form SF-813 (Verification of a Military Retiree’s Service) must be submitted before a determination can be made as to the amount of creditable service for leave accrual purposes.
    •    Sick Leave – all employees receive the same allowance – 4 hours per pay period.
    •    Life Insurance – employees automatically receive basic life insurance unless they waive it. They may also select from a variety of options to include up to a maximum of 5 times base annual salary.
    •    Health Insurance – employees may choose from a variety of options. Employees have 60 days to elect coverage. Coverage begins the pay period after the application forms are received in the DS HR Office.
    •    Retirement Plan – all SPS employees are enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and contribute to Social Security.
    •    Thrift Savings Plan – employees may contribute up to the IRS limit ($16,500). USG matches up to 5% of employee’s contribution.
    •    Tax-free Housing – while SPS may be assigned to any foreign service post abroad, current requirements exist in Kabul, Afghanistan; Peshawar, Pakistan and Baghdad, Iraq. At all posts overseas, housing is provided at no cost to the employee.
    •    Application for Special Agent (SA) Position: There is no direct transition from the SPS to the SA position.

And just to re-emphasize some of the good deals here, the overtime is one area that you can do really well with.  In a war zone, it is not unheard of to work odd and very long hours.  With the SPS position, you can make a lot of overtime. Note that if you were to combine all of the benefits up top, to include retirement and medical benefits, then that ‘total benefit package’ starts to look pretty comparable to private industry.

If you would like to apply for an SPS position, you will have to go to USA Jobs or/and sign up with DoS’s email alerts.(currently the SPS positions are closed) I would also suggest getting in shape and working on your shooting game, because there is a pretty extensive train up and vetting process for this position. You should also make sure your background is good to go, so you can actually get the clearance required for this position. As with most government work, there are a ton of hoops to jump through to finally get on the job. But good things come to those who are patient and prepared. –Matt

What’s it like working in Iraq?
By Ed O’Keefe
Ed O’Keefe is on temporary assignment as The Washington Post’s correspondent in Iraq. In addition to traditional war zone reporting, he is keeping tabs on what it’s like for U.S. troops and government officials living and working in Iraq.
BAGHDAD – Interested in working for the U.S. government in Iraq? Though the dangers are obvious, the pay and perks can be pretty good.
Federal employees and contractors serving here face an almost-daily barrage of rocket attacks, the inability to travel freely, scorching hot temperatures and other cultural and linguistic limitations. But workers with the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal agencies keep on coming, especially as the U.S. presence here becomes more of a civilian affair.

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Jobs: Foreign Service Security Protective Specialist, OCONUS

     This is cool. I signed up for job alerts with the DoS awhile back, and they sent me this one today. I have gotten other job alerts from them for all sorts of interesting stuff, but this is the first security related job. With that said, this would be another deal you could add to your job seeking machine.

     Of course this job is geared towards my American readers, and that is the way it goes. And based on the DoS’s current plans with WPS, they are going to need a ton of these SPS’s to help keep everything running smoothly.

     Also, don’t let the pay throw you off either.  With this kind of work, it is all about the over time pay/danger pay/post differential pay, and all of that can add up pretty nicely. I am not the POC for this job, and please follow the directions below if you want to apply.  Good luck and let me know how it goes. –Matt


Announcement No: SPS-11-01

Opening Date: December 20, 2010

Closing Date: January 20, 2011


Grade and Starting Salary Range: FP-06: $44,737 per annum*

Additional Benefits: Tax-Free Housing Overseas; Danger Pay; Post Differential; Overtime Compensation; Holiday Pay and Holiday Premium Pay; Night Shift Differential; Accrual of Annual and Sick Leave; Life Insurance; Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHB); Participation in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS); Separate Maintenance and Educational Allowances; Compensation for Disability or Death (Details available online at Compensation and Benefits.)

Number of Vacancies: The Department of State is developing a rank-order register to fill a limited number of Foreign Service Diplomatic Security Protective Specialist (SPS) vacancies. The specific number to be hired will depend on the needs of the Foreign Service. Applications are accepted ONLY during the period specified above.

Area of Consideration: All Sources.

Location: All assignments will be directed by the Department according to the needs of the Service. Assignments may be to any high or critical threat Foreign Service post abroad. Initial training and orientation will be held in the Washington, DC area.

* Includes the 16.52% Overseas Comparability Payment.


Please go to for application instructions.

Successful applicants are appointed to the Foreign Service as Limited Non-Career Appointment (LNA) employees with a federal benefits package.

Appointments will be made for an initial 13-month period and may be renewed annually up to a maximum of five years.

Overseas tours are unaccompanied.

There is no conversion mechanism to a career Foreign Service position. SPSs are encouraged to apply to become a Foreign Service specialist, but must meet the applicable qualifications and complete the standard application and assessment process.

The appointment may be terminated by the US Government at any time upon at least 30 days notice unless the termination is for cause. In this case, the 30 days notice is not applicable.

The SPS may terminate the appointment by written notification at least 30 days in advance.

Benefits Package

The following are some of the more significant benefits to employment in the Foreign Service:

1. Danger Pay – based upon post of assignment: Afghanistan – 35% of base pay; Iraq – 35% of base pay; Peshawar, Pakistan – 35% of base pay.

2. Post Differential – based upon post of assignment: Afghanistan – 35% of base pay; Iraq – 35% of base pay; Peshawar, Pakistan – 30% of base pay.

3. Overtime – OT may be expected and is paid at the rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate.

4. Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA) – while assigned to unaccompanied posts, SPS employees are eligible for SMA. The SMA is an annual grant determined by the number of dependents and ranges from $6,000 for one child to $20,200 for an adult dependent if there are 4 or more family members. The SMA is non-taxable.

5. R&R – Kabul, Peshawar and Baghdad are all under a generous leave/R&R allowance program (usually taken at 50-60 day intervals). Kabul and Baghdad allow 2 R&Rs and 3 Regional Rest Breaks (RRBs) or 3 R&Rs and no RRBs. Peshawar allows 2 R&Rs and 1 RBB. R&Rs provide round-trip transportation to any point in the United States. Time usually allowed is approximately two weeks. In addition to the Annual Leave allowance (addressed below), at post discretion, a limited amount of administrative leave may also be authorized to be used while on R&R.

6. Paid Annual Leave – federal employees earn Annual Leave (AL) based upon the following formula.

If less than 3 years federal service – 4 hours a pay period (26 pay periods in a calendar year);

If between 3 and 15 years federal service – 6 hours a pay period;

If more than 15 years federal service – 8 hours a pay period. Former military service – time spent in the US military is credited towards the annual leave allowance unless the employee is retired from the military. If retired and receiving retired pay, then form SF-813 (Verification of a Military Retiree’s Service) must be submitted before a determination can be made as to creditable service.

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Industry Talk: The Israelification And Privatization Of US Airport Security….Again

     “Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take s— from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”

     That, in a nutshell is “Israelification” – a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death. 

     First off, I will say that I can totally relate with what the TSA guys are going through. In this business, you will find yourself doing pat downs and screening folks on some contract at some point in your career. Believe me, it isn’t fun for the guys that have to do it and I am sure police and military folks can relate as well. The folks you are screening can get testy and annoyed as well. But that is our job, and our primary objective is to protect our people, and stop the bad guys from doing harm. We still think about alternatives though.

     So is there a system that protects life and limb without annoying people to death? That is the million dollar question, because even if this latest protest against TSA pat downs and revealing full body screenings actually causes more airports to choose the privatization route of security, the screening force will still be up against this very question.

     Or perhaps there is something else. Maybe private companies can better maintain customer service and satisfaction?  Maybe they can be as intrusive or as thorough as the TSA, and still not annoy travelers to death? Because at the end of the day, they still have the same job to do as the TSA, and that is screen out the bad guys and bad things.

     Now in the past, I have discussed the same issues that have been brought up currently, and it seems like every year travelers just get ticked off more by the new rules at airports. We are also experiencing record unemployment, foreclosures, and a recession and this has no doubt caused some folks to be angry and lash out at stuff like this.  Al Qaeda and company is not helping things out either by implementing their ‘system disruption’ attacks. All of these factors provide the perfect storm for outcry and protest, and I am wondering where it will all lead too?

     What will be interesting is if this outcry will translate into more privatization or even the ‘Israelification’ of airport security?  If this does happen, and private companies will be tasked with implementing this more mentally intrusive form of screening called ‘profiling’, then what will be the possible outcome there?  Will US travelers be alright with someone asking them twenty questions before boarding a plane, versus getting their ‘junk’ viewed or groped via full body scanners or pat downs?

    I have also had the opportunity to experience Israeli airport ‘profiling’ that everyone talks about, and I was impressed. For the most part, they just ask you a bunch of questions to see how you react to them. No one touched me, and no one put me through a full body scanner.  The big difference here is that I did not feel like I was mindlessly going through a screening system. I felt like there was a thinking security apparatus that really wanted to know what I was up to, and that they knew how to read me and all of my behavioral cues very well.

    If things do switch to behavioral profiling, or some form of profiling, and it is done by private security, then I think the training for such a technique would be pretty damn interesting. Who would teach the techniques, what legal mechanisms would be in place for protecting a screener/guard or the traveler, and how long would it take to achieve this proficiency are all questions I have.  Most important though, is it scalable and can we achieve the same quality of screening that the Israelis have?

    For that, I wanted to really emphasize the federal-private model below, because this is important. We have already witnessed the federal-private model as it applies to overseas contracting, and the issues have been identified as to how to properly regulate it.  But the problem for the overseas model has always been a lack of legal mechanisms and a lack of sufficient oversight and regulation (either due to poor funding, poor training or lack of manpower). Also, Best Value contracting would be the optimum way to contract companies for this, if any airport authorities are reading this.

     With that said, the TSA would have to switch to being more of a regulatory body than an actual security/screener provider. They will be up against the same scrutiny and issues that plague any of the other various government groups that deal with private industry, both domestically and abroad. The TSA has many lessons to learn from in order to get that federal-private model just right, and because they are still a relatively new agency of government, they still have time to get it right. –Matt

Opposing view on air security: Expand federal-private model

The ‘Israelification’ of airports: High security, little bother

National Opt-Out Day

Opposing view on air security: Expand federal-private model

By John Mica

When Congress established the Transportation Security Administration after 9/11, I helped craft airline passenger screening provisions.

Two models of screening were established. The principle model established an all-federal TSA screening force. The second model provided that TSA would certify, regulate and oversee private contractors to perform screening functions.

Initially five airports — one in each size category — were selected for the federal-private model. Those chosen and operating successfully since 2002 are San Francisco; Kansas City, Mo.; Rochester, N.Y.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Tupelo, Miss.

The Government Accountability Office independently conducted performance evaluations of both models. GAO’s initial evaluations found that the federal-private model performed statistically significantly better than the all-federal model. Subsequent evaluations have shown the federal-private model performing consistently as well as the all-federal model.

Two years following the 2001 law’s enactment, all airports were permitted to apply to opt out of all-federal screening. Under this option, airports qualified by TSA can also take over screening functions, as Jackson Hole has done.

Sixteen airports currently operate successfully under the federal-private model. More airports have submitted applications, and others are considering opting out.

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Industry Talk: Legislation Would Federalize Private Guards Who Protect US Government Buildings

“Again, it’s because you can fire a bad contractor, but you can’t fire the government. I think TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around.” -John Stossel


     Interesting move, but I have this picture in my head of TSA-like guards standing post at these buildings. Whatever forces that cause TSA folks to do a poor job, will also impact these federalized private guards. A lack of leadership, a lack of funding, a lack of motivation to do well, and a feeling of being part of a government machine that has numerous loopholes that allow bad employees to continue working.

     It would not surprise me if this move will cost more as well.  With federal employees, you have a lot of benefits the government has to pay for.  I would love for these guys to get good pay, and great benefits, but if these legislators start going over the cost of such a thing, I think they might get some sticker shock. Especially when they look at the retirement costs or medical insurance costs.

     Politically speaking, this has all the trappings of government just trying to get bigger.  Candidates who are running on anti-big government platforms will have plenty of ammunition if this type of stuff passes.  Especially if it costs more than what is currently going on and if the unions are involved.

     Now I do like the ‘nationwide training and certification standards for private guards’ concept.  That makes sense, and it also makes sense to ‘hire contract oversight staffers to monitor the firms employing private guards’.  Both of those actions will pay real dividends. But I would still like to see private industry do this stuff, because once government takes it over it just seems to get even worse. –Matt


Legislation would federalize private guards who protect U.S. government buildings

By Ed O’KeefeTuesday, September 14, 2010

Private security guards protecting the nation’s federal buildings might one day earn a government paycheck and could face new national training and certification standards if legislation introduced Monday advances in the coming months.

The proposals unveiled by members of the House Homeland Security Committee come more than a year after government auditors embarrassed the beleaguered Federal Protective Service by penetrating 10 major federal facilities with materials to construct a bomb. The FPS provides security for about 1.5 million federal workers at 9,000 federal facilities with a mix of about 800 full-time federal inspectors and 15,000 private security guards.

The legislation would require the FPS to hire 550 new federal inspectors, a figure that is “really not enough,” but all that the agency can handle right now, said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.). The new hires should help the agency move toward federalizing most, if not all, of its private guards, she said.

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