The dominating story of 2020 is the devastating global effects of COVID-19. While the world searches for remedies to this pandemic, several members of the BES team are doing their part in the fight against this virus.
Q: While developing this database, what have been some of the challenges you have encountered? What challenges are you dealing with currently?
Recently, we spoke with James McCormack of Project Management Resources Tools (PMRT) to discuss how their personnel are contributing to overcoming COVID-19.
Q:Mr. McCormack, we understand that your team has developed a visualization dashboard to help in the campaign against COVID-19. What is (or will be) the intention of the visualization dashboard built by PMRT or procurement actions related to COVID-19? Is this potentially a model for tracking and providing updates to future viruses?
McCormack: Overall, the intention was to develop a real-time data tool capable of aggregating data across disparate systems to provide a complete picture of how federal funding is being applied to the four lines of effort – relief, resilience, recovery, and rapid - being worked by the Air Force Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force (DAF ACT) established by Dr. Roper and led by Maj. Gen. Cameron Holt. We rapidly assembled and hosted a stakeholder engagement teleconference with key members from SAF/AQC [Air Force Contracting], SAF/AQX [Air Force Acquisition Integration], and PMRT’s system integrator, Integrated Data Services (IDS), headquartered in El Segundo, California. The initial engagement focused on DAF ACT needs and possible opportunities to leverage PMRT’s Enterprise Analytics (EA) engine and automated data feeds to assist with the Task Force COVID-19’s mission.
Within 24-hours, we developed and deployed a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which provided a set of dashboard visualizations incorporating data from the Federal Procurement Data System, based on National Interest Action, and Emergency and Special Program Code (C1) designators providing near real-time status on federal funding total contract award, obligations, ordering centers, and delivery locations. These dashboards can further refine and filter procurement data by agency, service, and DoDAAC (displayed against geographic heat map). I believe we will be able to leverage this model/dashboard for any national disaster in which the Federal Government is spending money or writing contracts to provide relief and support.
Q: Can you provide more information about FPDS, and how they are assisting in providing accurate information related to COVID- 19?
McCormack: The Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation (FPDS-NG) is an automated system operated by the General Services Administration (GSA) to collect and report on federal procurement spending. FPDS-NG collects contract award data for all federal procurements valued at $25k or above. The capability currently within PMRT includes an interface with FPDS-NG, allowing procurement data to be accessed and paired with additional data sources, such as John Hopkins University. Ongoing collaboration among SAF/AQC, SAF/AQX, and Team PMRT/IDS in further refining and consuming data from additional sources is enabling improved visibility into materiel procurement and delivery against outbreak hotspots.
McCormack: The biggest challenge overall for us has been funding, due to the fact that there wasn’t an expectation for the initial and overall impact of COVID-19. In the process of developing the PMRT COVID-19 Dashboard, we have had to balance expectations, cost, and needed contractual actions. We rapidly assessed contractual and financial impacts in supporting Task Force COVID-19 and successfully teamed with PMO counterparts and functional customer SAF/AQXS [Air Force Acquisition Capability] to evaluate and prioritize requirements. Also, we have had to ensure that our vendors’ work has been appropriately captured and compensated. While it may delay the completion of other planned requirements, we are doing our best to balance the needs of all PMRT customers with available funding.
Q: Where can BES employees gather information to access PMRT Enterprise Analytics?
McCormack: PMRT can be accessed via the PMRT website at https://pmrt.altess.army.mil/. Upon entering PMRT, just request access to Enterprise Analytics through the Enterprise Analytics application.
Q: Has this program been in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic?
McCormack: PMRT Enterprise Analytics has been in existence for the past 12 months. PMRT is a program that was created in 1999, for the initial sole purpose of being the Comprehensive Cost and Requirements Program (CCaR). Now, PMRT has developed into a program consisting of 50 different applications/web-links, to include the PMRT Enterprise Analytics application that supports the COVID-19 dashboard.
Q: Do you potentially see this program as something that other branches of the military can use in collaboration with you? Are there other similar programs like this in the works?
McCormack: As the development of this application continues, I see all branches of the military leveraging the PMRT Enterprise Analytics capability. We have already introduced the application to the Army, and have received great initial reviews. The fact that we are pulling data sources from contracts and financial transactions from all federal agencies makes this a valuable dashboard for all military departments and federal agencies.
Q: What impact do you see with the development of this program?
McCormack: As the requirements for this dashboard continues to evolve, the focus on data and business intelligence becomes more and more important. Given the initial success that we are having in terms of finding and displaying data, we hope that this will set a positive precedent for the future. From a federal perspective, we can see what is being spent, how it’s being spent, who is receiving contractual awards, and where the supplies and services of those awards are going. We also have the ability to coalesce that information with COVID-19 cases, for both infections and fatalities. This gives senior leaders a real-time close look at the money being spent, and if it is being spent on the right services and in the right areas.