The news in brief

Ports sink in DHS grant program

Under new risk-based eligibility rules, only 66 of the nation's 361 seaports can apply for $141 million in the Homeland Security Department's Port Security Grant program.

Only seaports that DHS judges to be high risk -- based on evaluations of vulnerability, threat and consequences -- are eligible for the funding.

The American Association of Port Authorities called for Congress to increase funding to $400 million a year to help more ports can beef up security.

The Coast Guard estimated that ports would spend $5.4 billion over 10 years to comply with the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

HHS releases health contract plans

The Health and Human Services Department released three pre-solicitation notices for development of a network architecture and a way to ensure interoperability of electronic health records.

HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT plans to develop prototypes and operational models for a Nationwide Health Information Network Architecture for sharing health information.

The department also will seek an assessment of state privacy and security policies that impede exchange of health information among states and organizations.  

Health care net needs teamwork

Federal and state governments and industry will have to collaborate to achieve a health care system comprising local and regional interoperable networks, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said.

HHS will first request that states determine their privacy and security problems in digitizing health care information and impediments to interoperability.

HHS soon will release details on how the federal government will promote collaboration, including helping set up and funding standards organizations outside of government. 

DOD seeks bandwidth for network

The Defense Department this month will release a request for proposals in search of technologies that would add bandwidth muscle to the Defense Information Systems Network, the chief data transport vehicle for the Defense Information Systems Agency.

An RFP for the DISN Access Transport Services contract will be released at www.ditco.disa.mil, according to a DISA official.

DATS will provide upgraded leased-access transmission services between the government-owned backbone network and 600 military locations not covered by the global grid's 90-plus sites, officials said.  

House alters first-responder cash

By a 409-10 margin, the House passed legislation this month to redistribute $2 billion in first-responder grants in 2006 to ensure that more funding goes to high-risk states such as New York and California, and less to states at low risk of terrorist attacks.

The Faster and Smarter for First Responders Act would "ensure that homeland security spending is directly related to national security preparedness and not political pork," said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), House Homeland Security Committee chairman and author of the bill. 

EU adopts anti-terrorism plan

European Union countries will create new IT systems and networks to integrate their management of cross-border travel and to fight terrorism under a new five-year Action Plan for Freedom, Justice and Security launched this month.

The European Commission, which is the executive office of the European Union, approved the plan for 10 strategic policy priorities, including joint efforts to fight terrorism, reduce crime and protect privacy. The ideas are derived from the Hague Program developed by European leaders last November to spearhead policies through 2010.

Panel to feds: Fix funding rules

State officials continue to face an uphill battle trying to get the federal government to ease rules governing how they can spend federal funds targeted for state IT systems.

Long-time rules barring the mixing of federal funds allocated for different systems have become increasingly troublesome as states try to implement enterprise architectures, said members of the panel, "Coping with the State 'Side Effects' of Federally Funded Initiatives," at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' midyear meeting.

State weighs passport protections

State Department officials are considering additional security measures as they prepare to implement new U.S. passports with embedded radio frequency identification chips.

The security measures include Basic Access Control technologies to shield passports from inadvertently transmitting data to unauthorized people, according to Smart Card Alliance Executive Director Randy Vanderhoof.

The RFID passports have been criticized by privacy advocates as having the potential to be read by anyone employing a wireless reader from several feet away.

House panel passes GSA reorg bill

The House Government Reform Committee has made it easier for the General Services Administration to reorganize and merge the Federal Technology and Federal Supply services into the Federal Acquisition Service, and combine the IT and General funds.

The committee unanimously passed the GSA Modernization Act introduced by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), committee chairman.

"This bill begins to remove old structures that inhibit efficient federal purchases of solutions that are a mix of products, services and technology," Davis said. 

States pick up new phone tech

State governments are beginning to shift to voice over Internet Protocol and Internet telephony as the current voice model fades over the next decade, according to a new report.

State governments' transformation and modernization is set forth in "VoIP and IP Telephony: Planning for Convergence in State Government," a report the National Association of State Chief Information Officers released this month.

The report stops short of specific recommendations because of unknown variables regarding the technologies' transition and deployment, said John Gillespie, vice chairman of NASCIO's Interoperability and Integration Committee and Iowa's CIO.

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