Federal News Radio recently turned to Federal Practice Group Founding Partner
Debra D'Agostino for her insight on the current controversy surrounding the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) and their cyber contract with Winvale Group LLC. Winvale
Group LLC was hired last year to help secure digital information for the
agency and monitor identity and credit activity of victims of an early
2015 cyber breach.
In summation, the current flap over the contract has culminated with a
letter from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman,
Representative Jason Chaffetz, calling for the removal of OPM acting Director
Beth Cobert. The letter is in a response to recent review of OPM's
procurement office, which found that the OPM violated the federal contract
award process when hiring Winvale Group LLC. The specifics of the findings
include inadequate market research, failure to consult with specialists,
and failing to obtain an independent government cost estimate, among other
According to Attorney D'Agostino, the alleged shortcomings in the OPM
contract award process were likely due to pressure from above. "I
suspect that mistakes were made by the contracting officers because they
were under tremendous pressure to meet these deadlines,” she told
the radio station. "I have represented federal employees who have
faced adverse actions from doing things in the violation of FAR (the Federal
Acquisition Regulation). It’s not the kind of thing you can be fast
and loose with: Your ‘I’s’ are supposed to be dotted,
your ‘T’s’ are supposed to be crossed."
"Not Unreasonable to Place Blame at the Top"
Attorney D'Agostino also elaborated on how individual workers ("the
little guy") will often take blame for such protocol violations,
but that the cause of such pressures are often systemic. "I can’t
believe the contracting officers intentionally violated [the FAR]. Some
GS-13 contracting officer isn’t going to screw that up," Attorney
D'Agostino said. "That would have been on the front page of the
papers. I’m sure they were under this tremendous pressure. I mean,
it’s hard to say responsibility shouldn’t sit at the top,
as opposed to having these poor contracting officers fired."
An examination of the compressed timeline of events—from an initial
April breach announcement to the contact award deadline of June 8—seems
to also indicate a brief window the OPM had to actually secure solutions.
"It’s not shocking something got messed up," Attorney
For more on the current OMP controversy and Attorney D'Agostino's
interview, visit the Federal News Radio site here.