175: The Tragedy of Federal IT Procurement

This episode is dominated by IT procurement news.  And it’s as irresistible as a twelve-car pileup on the Beltway.  We open the news with an exploration of the federal de-listing of Kaspersky Labs, and how seriously government contracts lawyers take such an action (h/t to Michael Mutek for that).

Then, in the interview, Eric Hysen, formerly of the DHS Digital Service, lays out his view of how DHS’s effort to bring agility and speed to big IT contracts came a cropper, with plenty of color commentary from procurement law guru, Michael Mutek.  If you care about reforming federal IT purchasing (and you should), this interview is a cautionary tale.

In other news, as Steptoe summer associate Quentin Johnson lays out, the Knight First Amendment Institute has brought a lawsuit to declare @realDonaldTrump a public forum from which trolls and griefers may never be excluded.  Gus Hurwitz overcomes his inclination to snark and instead treats the claim seriously, which only makes it sound more ridiculous.  Still, I’m looking forward to seeing White House press briefings moved to the Rose Bowl.

Alan Cohn and I note that Booz Allen has come up with the best explanation yet for NotPetya’s weirdly self-defeating ransomware pose.  The purpose wasn’t to cause Shamoon-style destruction or to collect ransom; the goal was to cover tracks left in earlier intrusions.

Meanwhile, Alan Cohn describes a remarkably functional homeland and cyber security White House and DHS process, including Jeanette Manfra’s swift appointment and Rob Joyce’s sober assessment of the value of norms talk.

China continues to crack down on its citizens, and to get cooperation from at least some US tech companies.   You want cyber norms as the tech sector would write them?  It’s easy:  the norm is whatever the government in the companies’ biggest markets wants.  That, at least, goes a long way to explain Apple’s conduct.

Download the 175th Episode (mp3).

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with Eric Hysen


Steptoe partner Stewart Baker with Quentin Johnson