Four Questions to Consider in a Performance Evaluation

A good performance evaluation focuses on the one thing the rater cannot skew, him/herself. Instead of judging the inner workings of another, the rater can focus on their own perceptions. The rater can ask him/herself:

1. “Do I turn to this team member when I want extraordinary results?”

2. “Do I choose to work with this team member as much as I possibly can?”

3. “Would I promote this person today if I could?”

4. “Do I think this person has a performance problem that needs to be addressed immediately?”

The #1 Way to Improve Employee Performance

Coaching. Coaching should happen immediately after an event or task when it comes to performance evaluation, and then weekly or biweekly during ongoing tasks. This eliminates recall bias. The rater, or in this case, coach, only has to remember the events in the near past. The focus of coaching should be on the future and not an evaluation of the past. The strengths of the employee should be at the forefront of the coaching. An effective coach can find five things that work, five strengths to be celebrated and further developed. For every five strengths, the coach should choose one “high priority interrupt” (Buckingham, 2019). A high priority interrupt is the single most important obstacle to performance that the employee should address.

Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). Nine lies about work: A freethinking leaders guide to the real world. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Mettle Ops Wants to Know Your Favorite Hero

A hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Share your favorite hero with us and be entered to win FREE Mettle Ops apparel.

How to enter: Fill out the form at the bottom of this page by September 30th!

Our winners will be notified via the e-mail address provided during the week of 10/1/2019 and will be announced in our October Newsletter.

For inspiration, check out our staff’s favorite heroes!

Katie: Dave Ramsey
Mark: Captain America
Matt: John Adams
Veronica: Michael Monsoor
Danielle: Ronald Reagan

Name *
Make sure to tell us why!

Three Factors that Comprise a Performance Evaluation

There are three factors the comprise a performance evaluation.

1. Performance of the rater

If the rater does not perform well in their job it can lead to trust issues with the rated. There needs to be accountability with the rater and ownership of their job. If they cannot perform the functions of their job, the rater will not have the credibility necessary to rate the rated.

 2. Bias of recall

Bias of recall leads to data insufficiency. The premise is that raters don’t interact with the rated enough to evaluate the skills and attributes of the rated person. Raters are focused on their own work and don’t pay attention closely or continually over the rating period to compile accurate data. Bias of recall specifically points to the problem that the rater cannot remember the behavior of the rated past the prior few days or week.

3. Rater bias

Research agrees that rater bias, otherwise known as idiosyncratic rater effect, is the most significant factor in a performance review. This built-in, inescapable bias affects every rater whether they realize it or not. The idiosyncratic pattern of rating is skewed left or right, clustered or spread out. This bias has nothing to with gender, race, or age and applies to both the rater and the rated. Of note, the more complex the rating scale in a performance evaluation, the more magnified the idiosyncratic rater pattern manifests.

The performance evaluation is not a new idea. Performance evaluations are often used in their respective organizations for promotion, bonuses, and administrative actions.

Katie Bigelow of Mettle Ops Named as Finalist for Women’s Veteran Business Enterprise of the Year

Katie Bigelow of Mettle Ops Named as Finalist for Women’s Veteran Business Enterprise of the Year

Sterling Heights, MI – Founder and President of Mettle Ops, Katie Bigelow, is a finalist for the Women’s Veteran Business Enterprise of the Year (WVBEOY) award by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) in collaboration with Shell Oil Company and Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

“I am honored to be selected as a finalist for the WVBEOY award,” said Katie Bigelow, Founder and President of Mettle Ops. “At Mettle Ops, we recognize the importance of team work. With a motto to never give up, we will continue working as a team, and continue growing, to make a difference in the lives of warfighters. We strive to meet their needs for equipment that works better and offers state-of-the-art protection. We never forget our obligation to the American warfighter.”

The WVBEOY award is annually distributed to an elite group of women from the United States’ 3 million U.S. military veteran business owners. To be eligible to receive the award, the nominee must be a U.S. military veteran business owner who actively runs a company and works as a supplier to private sector companies.

“These women have such amazing stories,” said Mimi Lohm, Vice President of NaVOBA. “We’re so proud to celebrate how they’ve gone from serving our country in the military to overcoming challenges to become successful business owners and employers.” 

Veteran entrepreneurs were encouraged to self-nominate their business for the award. Corporate Allies were also encouraged to nominate their veteran-owned supplier.

The four finalists and award recipient were honored on June 25 at the WVBEOY reception, held in conjunction with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) conference. WBENC is the largest, third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States.

The mission of NaVOBA is to provide a direct link for contracting between corporate America and Certified Veteran’s Business Enterprises (VBE) and Certified Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises (SDVBE).

About Mettle Ops  

Mettle Ops is an U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a), Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE), and Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB). Headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan and founded in 2013, Mettle Ops specializes in research, development, reverse engineering, program management, ground vehicle design, test and evaluation experience, system integration capabilities, and facilitates manufacturing and fabrication. Mettle Ops’ team includes war veterans with 35 years combined experience in Army service. Inspired by courage and tenacity and so-named Mettle Ops.

Mettle Ops |  Warfighters Serving Warfighters | 
3223 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48310 | | 586.306.8962 
U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027 
DUNS: 07-908-4144 | CAGE: 6XYB2 

Mettle Ops Named a Corp! Magazine's Economic Bright Spot

Mettle Ops is honored to be recognized in Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots small business category. Corp! Magazine’s Economic Bright Spots awards honor the companies that have continued to thrive with economic growth, expansion, and hiring Michigan’s brightest talent.

This year, Corp! honored nearly 70 companies in three categories: Small Business, Medium Business and Large Business. 

We will also be recognized in the July/August issue of Corp! Magazine. The issue will be released the first week of August.

See the full list of winners here

Mettle Ops Wants to Know Your Favorite Patriotic Song

We want to know your favorite patriotic song! Share your favorite song with us and be entered to win FREE Mettle Ops apparel.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Go to our Facebook page.

  2. Post your favorite patriotic song in the comments and feel free to tell us why it’s your favorite.

  3. Fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

  4. Check our Facebook page the week of July 8 to see if you were chosen as the winner!

For inspiration, check out our staff’s favorite patriotic songs!

Katie: Proud to Be an American

Mark: Army Song

Veronica: National Anthem and America the Beautiful

Stephanie: America the Beautiful

Danielle: God Bless America

Enter to Win

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Address *

3 Newcomer Tips for Traveling the Defense Acquisition Industry

A strange language, a new culture, and a unique landscape best describes what one would experience if traveling to a distant country. Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an enlightening adventure, but it will come with certain difficulties. Defense acquisitions can be the same as traveling to a new place. Known as the world’s most difficult and complex acquisition system, the U.S. defense acquisition operation is much like visiting an unknown country. I have the privilege of exploring this new country, and it’s an experience that I cannot forget.

My first encounter in defense acquisitions was eye opening. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of questions. First, what even is defense acquisitions? Up to this point, I have had zero contact with the defense world in any respect. Imagine being dropped off in a country that doesn’t speak your language, that was my first encounter. I was hired as a program analyst for a defense contracting company, and thankfully, my boss knew my ignorance and guided me into Defense Acquisition University classes and office explanations. This significantly reduced the culture shock and confusion. Slowly, I began to learn this new language and understand the culture of defense and industry. Almost one year has passed since I began this journey, and trust me, I’m nowhere close to being an expert. Defense acquisitions can be daunting for the beginner; fortunately, I had help with my understanding of the system. The first help was a mentor who was knowledgeable of the system. Someone who can spend one-on-one time with you and explain the little details will be an asset to one’s journey. The second help is Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes. DAU offers online courses that takes one through the entire process of defense acquisitions. This is crucial and necessary to understand and to move forward in a defense career. Lastly, a group of experienced people that one can network and share information. I’m lucky to be able to attend a Friday breakfast group that deals with defense works in their separate businesses and lives. I usually sit back and listen to the wisdom of years of experience and advice.

Defense acquisitions can be overwhelming as a newcomer. If one has the resources and the help, it can be conquered. Utilize these three tips to gain priceless wisdom of what to do and what not to do while traveling the defense world.

1. Find a mentor to guide you one-on-one, this makes the learning process much easier.

2. Take DAU online courses, for many companies it is a requirement, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

3. Build relationships with those who have endured the learning and have been successful in the industry.

Matthew Nini Sheppard.jpg

By: Matthew Sheppard

Book Review: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is a compilation of stories depicting socially viewed underdogs who achieved advantages from their shortcomings. These stories portray a classic protagonist who, while facing all odds, overcomes the obstacles and tribulations associated with their story and emerges successful. What Gladwell exposes is the other side of these stories and how these characters had the advantage over their supposed obstructions.

This book starts with the Biblical story of David and Goliath, a classic underdog story. Anyone who has read or heard this story remembers the fierce and physically imposing Goliath who challenges the enemy to single combat. The lowly shepherd, David, bravely faces the giant and kills him in front of both armies. This triumphant story is paraded as the prime example of how a minnow defeated a shark. However, when you break this story down and read between the lines, the reader will find this is not the whole story.

As the story highlights, Goliath is an intimidating giant who had great success in hand-to-hand combat. Historians will point out that a typical soldier at this time would have been suited in heavy armor making it difficult for quick movements. David is a small shepherd who had to defend his herd from vicious animals using a sling and rocks. This training makes him the ideal candidate for projectile combat, a branch of the army used for long distance combat. In addition, historians believe Goliath suffered from a pituitary tumor which could explain his stature. This could also explain the words he chose when confronted with David. He asks David to come closer, and mistakes his weapon for multiple weapons. Historians believe this to mean the tumor was crushing his optical nerve and causing sight complications. This health issue gave David a colossal advantage on the battlefield and inevitably led to Goliath’s death.

As these details of the story are exposed by historians, the entire perspective of the story shifts. The perspective shits from a lowly shepherd facing a giant, to a well-executed attack from a skilled soldier on an ill, former champion. Throughout this book, Gladwell highlights stories with this theme to illustrate how history gets it wrong and how a few details can shift the perception of the story.

To every young professional out there, I recommend this book to help you understand how your perceived disadvantages do not need to hold you back. You can achieve success by thinking outside the box. If David did not analyze the situation, think outside the box, and apply his competent skills, he would not have succeeded.


Mettle Ops Honored as One of the 2019 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” 

Mettle Ops has been recognized as one of the 2019 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch,” an awards program presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB). In addition, Mettle Ops has also been recognized by MCSB as one of the 2019 “Best Small Businesses.” Michigan Celebrates Small Business is the most prestigious, small-business awards program in the state of Michigan.

The mission of the program is to honor and recognize Michigan’s small business people as well as those champions and advocates that support them. The program allows organizations to raise awareness of small business in Michigan while building a network of entrepreneurial companies.

“We are honored to be selected for the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award as well as a PTAC Best Small Business honoree from Michigan Celebrates Small Business,” said Katie Bigelow, President of Mettle Ops. “We recognize that our most valuable asset is our team.  As Mettle Ops continues to grow, we hope to truly make a difference for the warfighter, our ultimate customer.”

The Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award recognizes 50 Michigan headquartered companies that are high-potential and in their second-stage.  

To be considered, the company must meet the following criteria for the year ending 2018:

  • Be a privately held, commercial enterprise that has not received the award in the past (not a nonprofit, not publicly traded, not a subsidiary or division of another company).

  • Be past the startup stage and facing issues of growth, not survival.

  • Employ 6-99 full-time equivalent W-2 employees (including the owner).

  • Have between $750,000 and $50M in annual revenue or working capital from either investments or grants.

  • Be headquartered in Michigan.

  • Demonstrate the intent and capacity to grow based on:

    • Employee or sales growth.

    • Sustainable competitive advantage.

    • Other notable successes.

Companies recognized as a “Best Small Business” through Michigan Celebrates Small Business were selected by their regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), or SmartZone. Honorees are selected based on their demonstration of successful growth and contributions to the economy of Michigan. 

The 15th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards gala is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Small business owners and the advocates that support them will be in attendance from across the state. 

“We at the Michigan Celebrates Small Business organization are proud to recognize these exceptional companies. They are a tremendous part of Michigan’s success and we are excited to see what the future holds for them,” said J.D. Collins, State Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center and a member of the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Board of Directors. 

Winners were selected by Michigan-based judges from the banking, economic development, entrepreneurship development, and venture capital communities.

About Mettle Ops 

Mettle Ops is an U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a), Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC), Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE), and Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB). Headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan and founded in 2013, Mettle Ops specializes in research, development, reverse engineering, program management, ground vehicle design, test and evaluation experience, system integration capabilities, and facilitates manufacturing and fabrication. Mettle Ops’ team includes war veterans with 35 years combined experience in Army service. Inspired by courage and tenacity and so-named Mettle Ops.  

Mettle Ops | Warfighters Serving Warfighters | 

3223 15 Mile Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48310 | | 586.306.8962 

U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027 

DUNS: 07-908-4144 | CAGE: 6XYB2 

 About Michigan Celebrates Small Business

Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) is a collaboration of trusted statewide founding organizations who offer resources for small businesses. Since 2005, Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards gala has placed a spotlight on how small businesses positively impact our communities and state. The MCSB organization is focused on supporting, promoting and celebrating small businesses in Michigan.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center is the managing partner of Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2019. Michigan Celebrates Small Business was founded by the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration - Michigan, Edward Lowe Foundation, Michigan Business Network, and the Small Business Association of Michigan. 

Founding sponsors are the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, PNC Bank, AF Group, and Dynamic Edge, Inc.


PTAC Best Small Business Honoree.png


Hawaii soldier awarded State Medal of Valor for hurricane rescue

A Hawaii National Guardsman received the State Medal of Valor last weekend for his heroic actions that saved the lives of six people during a hurricane.

Staff Sgt. Gregory A.Y. Lum Ho, of Bravo Company, 777th Aviation Support Battalion, was given the prestigious award on Feb. 9 by Hawaii Gov. David Ige at Wheeler Army Airfield.

"You epitomize the citizen-soldier and are a shining example of what valor is,” Ige said at Saturday’s ceremony honoring Lum Ho.

A State Medal of Valor is given to “individuals who distinguish themselves through a performance of an uncommon act of personal heroism involving the voluntary risk of his/her own life,” according to an Army release.

Lum Ho was assigned to Task Force Hawaii, which was created in response to the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. On Aug 23, 2018, Task Force Hawaii’s mission changed to one of flood support with the advent of Hurricane Lane, which would produce the second highest amount of rain of any hurricane in the U.S. since 1950.

While Lum Ho and Pvt. Justin Dejesus were on a security patrol, they came across a family who were cut off from assistance by flood water and whose house was on the verge of collapse. Lum Ho worked with first responders to drive them to the family in his Humvee.

Lum Ho executed “a series of very difficult decisions … that would save the lives of a family of six, and one family pet,” Ige said at the ceremony.

During Lum Ho’s acceptance speech, he credited both the leadership training he received in the National Guard for preparing him for emergencies and his fellow service members for always having his back.

It was a team effort, he said. “[From] my co-driver who helped me navigate through the debris ... to the mechanics that actually got my Humvee ready every night and kept it safe for me, without those guys, none of this would happen.”

​The Fallacy of “Low Hanging Fruit”

We were in discussions with a prospective client about supporting their efforts within the DoD space, and one of the directors made a comment about “low hanging fruit.” He proceeded to say that they weren’t interested in taking years to build opportunities or relationships and want the low hanging fruit that will provide quick revenue streams for their product lines.  There are multiple issues with this scenario that need to be addressed.  

1. No such thing as “Low Hanging Fruit”: The Urban Dictionary provides a great definition of targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort.  OTAs are the closest thing to low hanging fruit that I know of and they still take a lot up front work to get to the winner’s circle. Typically, it will take two years or more before you break into a serious contract.  

2. Defense Is Unlike Other Industries: The amount of information required to understand the defense industry is a barrier to entry for most businesses.  Sometimes it takes years to break in and then you are still bogged down with cyber, reporting, and other regulatory requirements.

3. Education and Understanding: There are multiple ways to attack this, but it all takes time, effort, and money.  For most small businesses, there isn’t enough of this to go around. Three potential courses of action (COAs).

a. COA 1 - Do It on Your Own – Find your local PTAC and get signed up for classes.  
b. COA 2 - Hired Gun – Hire a part-time consultant to help.  
c. COA 3 - Capital Investment – Hire a great BD professional who knows the business.

4. Skin in The Game:  Are you willing to put some skin in the game?  This gives your potential customers confidence in your ability to withstand the peaks and valleys that come in the defense business.  

Are you willing to take the time to build meaningful relationships and learn the business?  Are you willing to spend the money in education and resources to learn the business?  Are you willing to risk everything to enter the Defense Industry?  

At the end of the day you must ask yourself – “What are you willing to do to get to where you want in the Defense Industry?”  

Mettle Ops Announces GSA Contract Award

On Jul 23, 2018, BIGELOW FAMILY HOLDINGS LLC (dba Mettle Ops) was awarded GSA Contract No. 47QRAA18D00C5 under GSA Schedule 00CORP, The Professional Services Schedule (PSS). Below are the details relating to the awarded IDIQ Contract.

GSA CONTRACT NO.           47QRAA18D00C5
GSA SCHEDULE                   00CORP
SINS                                      871 1, 874 1
DUNS                                    079084144
CAGE CODE                         6XYB2
PRIMARY NIACS                  541330

The GSA Contract Services were provided by GSA Focus, Inc.

Book Review: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

I just read a great book by Brian Tracy on productivity called Eat That Frog.  Let’s face it.  We can all streamline, prioritize, and execute more efficiently.  I highly recommend it for anyone’s reading list.  Every chapter is full of actionable items that can be implemented immediately.  Here is a thought that stuck with me…

At whatever level you are in your organization, find the people who are doing it the best.  Ask them what they are doing, and DO IT.  When you move up, find new people at your new level, and ask them.  This is completely brilliant!  Imagine if a colleague turned to you and said, “I see that you do this task well. Will you teach me your technique?”  Most people would be happy to share their ideas.  And maybe, in turn, that colleague will come to you for help in an area that they have a weakness.  We could improve the efficiency and profitability of entire organizations.

Ask questions like:

  • I see you have a great set of employees that seem dedicated to their work. How do you do this?

  • You accomplish so much daily. How do you manage your time so efficiently?

  • Your marketing materials are top notch. Can you make some suggestions?

  • How on earth do you keep up with all the email? I’m drowning!

  • You are such a great networker. How do you get a conversation going with a prospect?

earn from your coworkers, competitors, and counterparts, and share what you know with them. Make yourself better and be willing to build up those around you who have the wisdom to ask. 
Written By: Katie Bigelow

Do Unto Others…Even in Business

The other day I contacted a customer for late payment on a Net 30 contract.  She informed me that the definition of Net 30 is payment in 28-34 days.  I seriously doubt my vendors would agree.  I do understand the billing cycle is set to a specific interval.  We do that, too, but we ensure that a bill due on or after 30 days gets paid at the earlier billing cycle.  After my initial surprise, I decided that they can do business however they want.  They are an organization that runs on a process that their leaders are satisfied with.  I also decided after that call, that my organization will not run like that.  My company has grown into an entity; we are long past a freelance business.  But, I, and the people I choose to join my organization can still choose to follow a standard that each and every one of us should set for ourselves.  Treat others, even in business, the way you want to be treated.  

So often I hear, “This person did it to me, so I can do it someone else.”  It’s a sad state of our culture that we look for an excuse to behave badly.  How about, “This person did it to me, and it caused damage.  I choose NOT to do it to anyone else.”?  Let your freedom allow you to choose what is right and noble. Don’t let it be an excuse to cause more harm.   

Written By: Katie Bigelow

​War Story 3

There I was… a typical sunny day in Iraq when called on a mission along one of the main supply routes (MSRs).  We didn’t have much information except a 9-line for an urgent patient and a grid location. When we arrived, we landed alongside the road about 50 meters from a clump of trucks and personnel.  Presumably the patient was in the middle of the mix, so my medic jumped out to assess the situation.  I noticed he didn’t bring his medical bag with him. We were in the open dessert with no enemy in site, so I sent my crew chief to meet the medic and deliver the med bag.  The next thing I know our crew chief is on his way back.  Only this time, he is moving at about half speed and watching his feet.  It looked oddly like a game of hopscotch.  What seemed like an eternity later, the crew chief arrives, plugs in, and announces that we have landed in a mine field.    

Written By: Katie Bigelow

Photo by Spc. Audrey Ward

NIST 800-171 Compliance for Small Business

Small organizations that are working on military platforms…or hope to in the future…face a difficult challenge.   Late last year, the Department of Defense (DOD) implemented a DFARS clause (204.252-7012) that requires compliance with a cyber security standard called NIST 800-171.

The standard is focused on a specific set of data referred to as Controlled Unclassified Data (CUI).  At a high level this data includes design specifications, product material data, and procedures used to engineer, test, and manufacture both land and air-based military platforms.   It has 110 requirements that include a mix of technical and process controls focused on protecting CUI.   An organization’s inability to comply with the requirements effectively serves as a barrier to entry for working in the industry.  Many proposal solicitations are requiring compliance with the standard as a qualifier for bidding on a project. 

No-Nonsense Approach

So, where do you begin?  For small companies, meeting NIST 800-171 requirements can be especially difficult…but there are a few simple steps that can simplify the process.

1)     Minimize the “footprint” of CUI data.  In other words, try to keep the physical and virtual versions in common storage areas.   Keep it off individual desktops/laptops and on a consolidated server.

2)     Do not use email to exchange CUI data with partners, vendors, or customers.   Utilize secure data exchange frameworks that are available from most tier 1 vendors.

3)     Leverage commercially available templates for process content (policies, incident response plan, awareness training, System Security Plan). 

4)     Have a 3rd party help you with areas of the NIST standard that require clarification.  Most consulting firms are open to answering some questions without charging for a full engagement.   Be honest and tell them that you don’t really need help but had a few questions you were hoping they could answer (but keep it to 1-3 total questions).  

Immediate Action Items

Near term, the most important details to complete are the system security plan (SSP) and plan of action (POA).  The SSP defines scope and approach for compliance while the POA provides a timeline for addressing identified gaps.  Both items were due for completion at the end of 2017.  Online resources like the CSET self-assessment tool can help with identifying compliance gaps and developing the remediation plan.   There are also online templates available for the SSP and POA, which can speed up the process of developing and completing the document.    

Keep in mind that the goal of NIST 800-171 is to protect information that is largely digital so many of the required controls will deal with computer and network technology.   If an organization does not have internal expertise to help sort through the technical details, this part of compliance is where money is best invested with external (consulting) assistance to identify gaps and develop a plan to address them.  

Planned Implementation

Once the SSP and POA are completed, the balance of NIST 800-171 compliance is reliant on following the defined implementation plan.  As the project evolves, any unforeseen obstacles or delays will necessitate updates to the POA.  Stay on top of the schedule and track progress accordingly.  Store all related documentation in a common network folder and when the program is fully implemented, plan on conducting an annual audit, risk assessment, and security assessment.   

By Guest Blogger: Rob Cote of Security Vitals

War Story 2

There I was…after a long day of desert qualification flights in Kuwait.  We were working on the docks reassembling aircraft, test flying them, and then instructor pilots were taking them out to qualify all the pilots in dessert operations.

Dock operations are the safety officer’s nightmare.  Hundreds of soldiers are working to restore dozens of aircraft packed for ocean travel to flyable condition.  The aircraft are shrink wrapped with cellophane for transport.  Once these aircraft are reassembled, test pilots taxi out and fly off the edge of the dock over the water to complete their evaluations.  There was a control tower on a narrow strip of land that ran out into the water.  Next to the control tower was a helipad where the typical procedure was for aircraft to air taxi from the dock across the water to the helipad and receive clearance from there for takeoff.  Conversely, returned aircraft would land on the helipad and receive clearance to air taxi across the water for parking and gas. 

As I recall, it was my first day to fly in the Middle East.  I had no idea what the real desert looked like until I was flying over it.  I could literally see puddles of oil seeping out of the ground.  The coast of Kuwait had the potential to be incredibly beautiful; however, was a paradise of trash…everywhere.  Kuwait could have benefitted from borrowing the ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ slogan.  The message would have likely been lost in the translation.  The coastal waters consisted of floating oil and trash.  This is the stuff environmentalists’ nightmares were made of.  

It was late in the day and we were returning on bingo fuel.  The instructor pilot had pushed the typical fuel reserves to squeeze one more set of qualifications in for the day.  We were cleared to land to the pad next to the tower and were anxiously requesting clearance to taxi across the water to parking since our fuel was extremely low.  The tower controllers would not have been happy if we had to shut down on the approach helipad and wait for a fuel truck.  

As the seconds are ticking by and tower continues the instructions to hold, we insisted on clearance to move to parking and was denied.  Seconds later, a pilot from our unit called us on another radio to inform us that an “incident” had taken place on the dock, outside of our view.  We were told to shut down the aircraft and wait.  Bored and unaware of the true nature of the incident, I pulled out the Blackhawk manual and reviewed the fuel flow charts based on the amount of fuel left in our tanks.  Sitting there on the ground, I discovered that we had not had enough fuel on board required to cross the water.  Based on the charts and the gas gauge, our flight would have ended in the disgusting Kuwaiti water. And we would only have lived by God’s grace.  

The incident prevented us from a water landing.  A test pilot and co-pilot had not cleared the rotor blades thoroughly during ground taxi and taxied the aircraft into a robust light pole.  The pole was only scuffed.  In fact, two years later when I returned to that very dock, the scar was still there.  The aircraft sustained almost a million dollars’ worth of damage as well as damaging many other aircraft around it.  Despite the hundreds of soldiers on the dock that day and the material damage, not one soldier was injured in the incident.  Without which, I may not be here to share this story.  

Written By: Katie Bigelow
Courtesy Photo