Meet James Meany

James Meany is a senior at Wake Forest University majoring in Political Science and History on the pre-law track. He is originally from Wilton, Connecticut and attended Wilton public schools from kindergarten through his senior year of high school. This past Summer and Spring, James worked at two different law firms, learning the basics of corporate, real estate and municipal law.

At Wake Forest, James has worked in Alumni Outreach Departments and as the Fundraising Chair for his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He is a member of the Political Science Honor Society while and he also volunteers for campus initiatives that fundraise for cancer research and environmental protection. James spent this past Fall 2017 semester studying in Barcelona through Wake Forest University’s Barcelona Business and Global Studies program, where he was able to gain meaningful knowledge and experience about politics and economics on a global scale and experience a whole new culture and lifestyle.

At the McKeon Group, James hopes to apply his academic studies to real practice through exposure to business development and research opportunities. His responsibilities include: coverage of hill meetings and drafting corresponding memos, as well as monitoring defense policy legislation relevant to ongoing clientele operations. After finishing with the McKeon Group for the Summer, James will be transitioning to work in the Office of Senator Blumenthal where he hopes to further skills developed through his academics and extracurriculars.

Meet Kathleen Nugent

Kathleen Nugent joins the McKeon Group as an Education Policy and Government Affairs Intern for the summer of 2018. As a former teacher, Kathleen brings a nuanced perspective and understanding of both local school issues as well as policy issues.

Kathleen is pursuing her Master of Public Administration through the Romney Institute of Business at Brigham Young University with an emphasis on state and federal government. Prior to her graduate work, Kathleen taught high school chemistry and general science. She taught in traditional public schools for seven years in New York and in public charter schools for five years in Utah.

During her tenure as an educator, Kathleen had the opportunity to engage with students, parents and teachers in a variety of school responsibilities. Her breadth of experience provides Kathleen a unique ability to advocate for a multitude of education-related issues.

Kathleen had the privilege of working with students from a variety of educational and cultural backgrounds. She co-taught biology with a special education teacher for six years in New York.  Kathleen’s experiences as an educator developed her passion for advocacy to ensure equity and access for all learners.

Kathleen is excited to work at the McKeon Group and to increase her knowledge and expertise of federal policy, particularly in the education realm.

Tension Grows as Congress Seeks to Reauthorize America’s Farm Bill

Reauthorization of the Agricultural Act of 2014 known as the “Farm Bill” shuttered to a halt this month when the House voted down the bill with a vote of 198 to 213. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) requested a motion to reconsider; and another vote is expected by June 22.

Historically, the Farm Bill has benefited from bipartisan support. It includes 12 titles that encompass programs ranging from commodity price and income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, energy, and foreign and domestic food programs. In the past few years, the major domestic food program included in the Farm Bill — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — has caused ideological divides between political parties. SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, currently provides nutritional assistance to around 45.5 million individuals and has been part of the Farm Bill since 1973. The program traditionally helped guarantee votes on the Farm Bill due to its broad reach to constituencies, until recently when SNAP reform became a priority for Republicans with the goals to both reduce federal outlays and increase work requirements for beneficiaries.

During the 2013-2014 Farm Bill reauthorization, the House had to regroup after a failed House vote which stemmed from proposed dramatic cuts to the program. Eventually, both parties compromised to cut SNAP benefits by one percent over ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the results of cuts in current law have led to lower-than-expected enrollment in SNAP and total outlays are projected to be $26 billion less for the five-year authorization period. While this is good news overall, it doesn’t satisfy budget hawks.

This year, Democrats balked over the bill’s added work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries; however, this was not the only challenge to House Leadership as the bill came to the Floor. House Freedom Caucus members rejected the bill outright which led to the failed vote. The Freedom Caucus argued that the bill did not go far enough to tighten work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries and they demanded legislative action on an immigration bill they argue must be enacted. When their demands were not met, they voted down the Farm Bill, surprising House Leadership who are now scrambling to work out deals on both the Farm Bill and on immigration in June.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee are joining heads and drafting a bipartisan Farm Bill that is expected to be introduced as early as June 6. Chairman Roberts, cognizant that the bill needs 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, has said the bill will not make any dramatic changes to SNAP.

The recent cycles of Farm Bill reauthorization call into question if the Farm Bill will continue its bipartisan legacy in the coming years.

McKeon Group Monitors DoD Cloud Computing Efforts

The McKeon Group is closely monitoring recent Department of Defense efforts to accelerate and streamline the acquisition of cloud computing services at multiple security levels across the Department.

On April 16th, the Department released its second JEDI Cloud RFP, renewing debate over its call for a single winner-take-all, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. This has prompted criticism from Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Oracle Corp. and others in the industry who are worried the move will favor Inc.’s dominant position in the market and further solidify near future government contracts.

Tech companies also argue that a single-source approach will lead to increased security risks. Sam Gordy, general manager of IBM U.S. Federal said, “it doesn’t make sense for DoD to opt for a less secure approach for purchasing cloud computing than it would any other weapon system.” [1]

On the other side, the Department of Defense believes that pursuing a multiple-award contract would significantly slow down the cloud improvement process, “pace could prevent the Department of Defense from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter.” [2]

JEDI will utilize artificial intelligence and big data analysis to help Defense officials make more informed decisions. Modern computing capabilities can access, retrieve, manipulate, merge, analyze, and visualize data at machine speeds, providing substantial decision-making advantages on the battlefield. [3]

Brigadier General David Krumm of the Joint Staff told reporters, “when we look at AI machine learning, what we’re really talking about is the ability to glean information from what is a massive amount of data, coming from all sorts of sources, that gives us the advantage in making decisions really quickly.” [4]

JEDI will rely on existing military communication systems and existing commercial software to handle and carry classified data to the appropriate source. Thus, whichever company wins the JEDI contract will take its commercial offerings and replicate those services in a classified space while using existing Department infrastructure to send information.

Despite industry rumors that the JEDI RFP’s onerous evaluation criteria may effectively limit competition to a handful of providers, there are several differentiating factors that could make the competition interesting:

  • Identity is the new perimeter: JEDI proposals must demonstrate robust identity and access management capabilities, including role-based access controls. Offerors capable of delivering continuous access monitoring based on user analytics will have a competitive advantage.
  • Platforms at the center: JEDI is not a data center contract; competitive proposals will showcase innovative PaaS capabilities.
  • Continuous innovation: Vendors able to illustrate how they continuously test new ideas and solve problems their customers didn’t know they had will be better positioned than those who can only meet the bare minimum for each gate criteria.
  • Joint Ventures: Given the size and scope of the JEDI contract it’s possible that joint ventures could emerge if contractors believe that pooling resources offers them a better shot at competing with established commercial cloud providers. In that case it will be crucial that at least one of the parties offers commercial cloud services with a broad customer base outside the government market. [5]

On May 31st, the Department announced that it will delay indefinitely its final request for proposals outlining requirements for a JEDI Cloud Contract.

The McKeon Group will continue to closely track future developments in Department of Defense cloud projects.

  1. Brody, Ben, Anthony Capaccio, and Naomi Nix. “Pentagon Cloud Bid in Congress’s Crosshairs Amid Amazon Concerns.” Bloomberg Government. March 22, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018.
  2. Department of Defense. “45-Day Report to Congress on JEDI Cloud Computing Services Request for Proposal & 60-Day Report to Congress on a Framework for all Department Entities to Acquire Cloud Computing Services.” May 7, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018.
  3. Dept. of Defense. “45-Day Report to Congress on JEDI Cloud Computing Services Request for Proposal & 60-Day Report to Congress on a Framework for all Department Entities to Acquire Cloud Computing Services.” May 7, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018.
  4. Freedberg, Sydney. “War Cloud: JEDI to Deploy Backpack Servers To Front Line.” Breaking Defense. April 24, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018.
  5. Snyder, Daniel, and Chris Cornillie. “Breaking Down $10 Billion JEDI Cloud Contract RFP.” Bloomberg Government. March 14, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2018.

Chairman’s Corner: June 2018 (Part 2 of 5)

Author’s Note: If you missed Part 1 of our Chairman’s Corner series last month, read it now before continuing on with this article. All five questions to ask yourself prior to making a proposal are pivotal to a successful pitch.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to help our clients draft their proposals to our nation’s leaders. I have often found these presentations to be long-winded and have advised clients to make sure their proposals get right to the point. Here is why: a lengthy proposal can inhibit any further progress.

Part 2 of 5

The second question to ask yourself is: Is My Message Precise?

From the first word you put down, you have 60 seconds to capture interest or your words will be filed away and most likely never acted upon. So get to the point immediately. If your proposal takes an exhaustive amount of time to paint the picture, your audience will never embrace it. Be precise, stay on point, and deliver a concise, digestible overview.  There’s simply no time for a college-level lecture – explain your idea in terms that can be easily understood.

And, avoid using a PowerPoint presentation or any other type of comprehensive material for any initial meeting. Those are better suited for leave behind pieces when you have the opportunity for a more in-depth discussion with the staff. After all, you should know the material and key points well enough that a full-length presentation isn’t necessary.

Chairman’s Corner: May 2018 (Part 1 of 5)

As a member of Congress, hundreds, if not thousands, of proposals crossed my desk during my time in office. On average, a member of the House represents 700,000 constituents – which means Congress and their staff are filtering through approximately 250 proposals every year.

Therefore the need to break through the noise and stand out is paramount to getting heard.  It’s simply the first challenge, a major one at that, to be overcome when submitting an idea to the state or federal government.

After 22 years in office, I recommend asking yourself five specific questions before presenting a proposal. Over the next five months, I will discuss one of these five questions at length.

Part 1 of 5

The first question to ask is: Do I Have the Right Connection?

Building a better mousetrap is rendered fruitless unless the right people review your idea. Knowing who to talk to and getting your proposal in front of their eyes is the first obstacle. This is one of the most difficult steps in the entire proposal process. After all, there’s no point in spending the time and energy crafting a meaningful proposal if it’s never read by those you intended it for – those who can turn it into something actionable.

If you don’t maintain a relationship with the relevant leadership, you’ll need to:

  • Enlist the help of a contact who has that connection
  • Develop the relationship yourself by going to town hall meetings, fundraisers, or other events your target Representative attends
  • Visit the district office and engage the staff with the goal of setting up a meeting
  • Find a consulting firm who already has those contacts

Connections and influence could be a deciding factor when it comes to the success of your proposal. If you are serious about your idea, get in touch with the people that can help you see it through.

What Year is It? Why Three Fiscal Years Matter

It’s one of those years in Washington, DC where your knowledge and policy wonkiness could matter – especially if you care about the funding provided by the Federal Government through formula(s), a specific program or pending competitive grants. Take this short quiz to see what you know:

  1. Which Fiscal Year (FY) is the Federal Government currently operating within?
    1. FY 2018
    2. FY 2019
    3. I don’t know
  2. How long does the budget deal last that supports the current Fiscal Year?
    1. One year
    2. Two years
    3. Three years
  3. For which Fiscal Year has the President provided a budget and Congress has begun to debate?
    1. 2018
    2. 2019
    3. 2020
  4. For which Fiscal Year is every Federal agency currently developing a budget?
    1. 2018
    2. 2019
    3. 2020

Answers: 1 (1), 2 (2), 3 (2), 4 (2).

Congratulations if you knew one or more of the answers. Here is where it gets tricky.  

Congress: They have one job but a short timeframe in which to accomplish it. With just five months left in FY 2018 (which ends September 30), they must act quickly to finalize the FY 2019 budget and pass 12 appropriations bills. While their overall budget for FY 2018 and FY 2019 is agreed to, they have not negotiated details within the 12 appropriations bills yet and they have been put on notice by Director Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, that the President will no longer sign omnibus appropriations bills. This means the bills must come one at a time, or in smaller bundles, affectionately called “minibuses” – not rolled into a massive package. This complicates negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Any bipartisan action on bills such as the mammoth Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Services bill is tough. Omnibus bills are easier to tuck increases and cuts into – both are not quite as visible and can appease Members and makes garnering the 60 votes needed in the Senate easier to achieve.  

Federal Agencies: While Congress has a politically complicated job solely focused on FY 2019 appropriations bills, the federal agencies have two pressure points and one blind spot. The pressure points are: 1) Agencies are tasked with pushing out (spending down) the FY 2018 funds granted in March (including increases in both defense and domestic spending) by September 30. 2) Agencies are also required to develop FY 2020 budget proposals by early fall. Finally, their blind spot is having no idea how closely Congress will adhere to the two-year budget deal and related funding levels agreed to in FY 2018. Planning for spending funds that could start as early as October 1 has to occur at some point, but until Congress finalizes the FY 2019 spending bills, they operate on assumptions.

Finally, what year is it, anyway? The Federal Government operates on a fiscal year that technically starts on October 1 and ends on September 30. So, for a few more months, we are in FY 2018, but on October 1 we will start FY 2019. If your head is spinning, don’t worry. We are here to keep things straight for you.

Committee Chair Positions Open as Republicans Leave Congress

The wave of Republicans vacating seats in Congress continued this month when Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced he would not run for re-election. Congressional retirements are expected the year before an election; however, this year, Republicans in both houses are retiring at disproportionate rates to Democrats.  To date, 41 House Republicans are retiring in contrast to 19 House Democrats. In the Senate, 4 Republicans are retiring compared to 1 Democrat respectively.

The explanations behind the high retirement numbers vary. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have cited blatant dissatisfaction with the Trump Administration. The recent upset victories of Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Rep. Connor Lamb (D-PA) in Trump territories this year has paused a few re-election bids in some Trump and Clinton territories. Personal scandal has forced out a few House members from both sides of the political aisle.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), chair of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations, cited his declining personal health as the reason for his departure and recently Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) assumed that role. With Cochran’s announcement, pundits have speculated whether Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has been in and out of the hospital, will also announce plans to retire. Others, such as Speaker Ryan, say they simply want to spend more time with their family. Many House Members, including 14 Republicans and 8 Democrats are retiring to continue their public service by running for higher office.

One factor specific to Republicans is that the party enforced three consecutive term-limit (6 years) on committee chairmanship. A few retiring Republicans who are committee chairs will reach their term limit in 2019.

The wave of departing Republicans leaves several powerful committee and subcommittee chair positions open in both the Senate and the House. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) departure opens the chair position on the Senate Committee on Finance.

A small number of Ranking Member positions will open, such as the Ranking Member position on the House Committee on Appropriations due to the departure of Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA).

Nine House committees will lose chairs; however, the following eleven committees remain secure: Agriculture, Armed Services, Budget, Education and the Workforce, Energy and Commerce, Ethics, Homeland Security, Natural Resources, Rules, Small Business, and Ways and Means.

Leadership positions in both parties and in both bodies of Congress remain intact, except for Speaker of the House.  Since Ryan’s announcement, Republicans such as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are reportedly eyeing the position. Ultimately, the 116th Congress could have a very different power structure. More information will surface closer to Midterm elections in November.

As the Nation Struggles with Opioid Crisis, Congress Plans to Act

A recent alert from a small New England town’s police department read, “Despite recent wintery weather, spring is here. And with the melting snow, some residents and business owners are finding used syringes and needles on their property.” The notice then provided detailed instructions to dispose of dirty needles discarded by opioid addicts.

Opioid addiction has become a national crisis in the last ten years, contributing to 66 percent of the roughly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The crisis has hit some parts of the country harder than others – the entire Northeast is experiencing staggering numbers of overdoses – and Wisconsin and Delaware saw overdose rates skyrocket by 109 and 105 percent respectively between the summers of 2016 and 2017.

Lawmakers in Washington, DC, many of whom represent regions severely impacted by the crisis, have come together to find comprehensive solutions. This year, Congress has held countless hearings to examine the crisis from multiple angles: people addicted to opioids, their families, children and communities as well as drug prescribing practices, drug dealers and law enforcement issues.

On March 23, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 to fund the Federal Government for Fiscal Year 2018. Opioid- specific funding initiatives received $3.3 billion through the appropriations law, targeted at prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

Most recently, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced S. 2680, the Opioid Crisis Relief Act. The bill is designed to help multiple federal departments and agencies address the drug crisis, including the ripple effects on children, families, and communities. Other Senate Committees, including the Finance Committee, are working on their own initiatives.

In the House of Representatives, Committees such as Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and the Workforce are each preparing opioid response legislation. The House plans to dedicate a week to floor consideration of a large package of bills later this spring. While it’s clear this public health crisis shows no signs of slowing down, Congress is urgently striving to find supportive policy and funding solutions.

Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform

The McKeon Group is closely tracking recently proposed legislation introduced by Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13). The bill is called the Comprehensive Pentagon Bureaucracy Reform and Reduction Act and it would cut Pentagon support agencies by up to 25 percent and shut down others entirely.

Chairman Thornberry announced the proposal on Tuesday, April 17th which aimed at eliminating “bureaucratic waste” to find more than $25 billion to divert into war fighting priorities. This proposed bill comes after Congress passed a two-year budget deal that boosts defense to $700 billion in fiscal 2018 and $716 billion in fiscal 2019.

There would be about $7 billion worth of contracts cut that would greatly affect various private sector companies.

Thornberry told reporters in Washington, “If I am not making somebody nervous, I am not doing anything.”

Chairman Thornberry introduced this bill because of what he sees as uncontrolled growth within the Defense Department’s “fourth estate” agencies, which are supported by 200,000 civilian personnel and 600,000 contractors, at a cost of more than $100 billion per year.

“All of the savings and efficiency have to stay within DoD to get more capability into the war fighter faster,” Thornberry said. “To summarize the whole thing from my perspective, it is to reduce the overhead to put more resources at the tip of the spear.”

Thornberry proposed eliminating these agencies within DoD:

  • Defense Information Systems Agency, whose information technology support mission would be folded into U.S. Cyber Command.
  • Defense Technical Information Center, which acquires, stores and disseminates scientific and technical information to aid in defense research and development.
  • Office of Economic Adjustment, which aids communities hurt by defense program changes, including base closures.
  • Defense Technology Security Administration, which guides policy on U.S. arms transfers overseas to safeguard America’s military edge and prevent the diversion of defense-related goods to terrorists.
  • Test Resource Management Center, which coordinates among DoD test and evaluation facilities.
  • Defense Human Resources Activity, which guides and implements human resource initiatives, budgets, policies and programs.
  • Washington Headquarters Services, which provides operational and administrative services to the DoD. Hiring a senior executive service employee through the agency, Thornberry argued, “is considered a success if it takes less than nine months.” [1]

If the legislation was adopted as it currently stands, the Pentagon would begin eliminating agencies by January 1, 2021. The plans for the elimination of such agencies and other parts of DoD would have to be provided to Congress by March 1, 2020.

Department of Defense combat-support and intel agencies would be exempt from the proposed legislation. Those DoD agencies include: Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Health Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Chairman Thornberry is looking for input and comments on his proposed legislation prior to adding it to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The top House Armed Services Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09) warned that he has “serious concerns” about the draft legislation and believes, “this proposal could do serious damage to DoD’s information infrastructure, testing ranged and community support, as well as the basic DoD function in the National Capital Region by eliminating critical agencies in one stroke.” Congressman Smith finished by saying, “those are important functions that I don’t think we should discard if we haven’t done careful study and analysis.” [2]

The McKeon Group will continue to closely track this legislation as it transforms through the legislative process within the House Armed Services Committee.

  1. Gould, Joe. “Major Bill Aims to Slash Pentagon Bureaucracy.” Defense News. April 17, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.
  2. Kheel, Rebecca. “Top Dem Expresses ‘serious Concerns’ about Plan to Cut $25B from Pentagon Agencies.” The Hill. April 18, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.