The news in brief

EPA opens IT competition

The Environmental Protection Agency has started the clock on a study to determine whether IT maintenance services in its Boston office should be outsourced to the private sector or done by the agency.

EPA began the streamlined competition Dec. 29 under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 for its help desk and computer hardware services in its Region 1 facility. The agency said it will conclude its analysis by March 29.

Davis threatens TCE funds

House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) may try to cut funding next year for the Treasury Department's controversial next-generation network and telecommunications contract.

Treasury decided to award the $1 billion, 10-year Treasury Communications Enterprise departmentwide contract this spring instead of waiting for the governmentwide Networx contract to become available. The action drew harsh criticism from Davis, a long-time Networx supporter.

DHS camera specs released

The Homeland Security Department Jan. 4 published specifications for the video cameras it wants to install along thousands of miles of U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.

Specifications for the "imaging system bundle" include long-range, thermal and night imaging, pan-and-tilt controls, and ability to operate wirelessly or hard-wired at temperatures from 125 degrees to minus 50 degrees.

Industry analysts expect the government will buy hundreds or even thousands of cameras to mount on highly mobile platforms.

Northrop forms tech services sector

Northrop Grumman Corp. has added to its corporate structure a new technical services business sector that will focus on offering clients more integrated product and lifecycle solutions.

James Cameron was named corporate vice president and president of the technical services sector, which will have its headquarters in the Washington area. Cameron previously was vice president and general manager of the defensive and navigation systems divisions of the company's electronic systems sector.

Passenger database hits bumps

The Centers for Disease Control's recent proposal to set up a new passenger database to track possible disease vectors and bioterrorism outbreaks may overlap with other databases, as well as raise privacy concerns, according to public comments submitted on the plan.
The new database, which covers airline and cruise ship passengers, will cost the travel industry between $117 million and $425 million, according to a CDC regulatory impact analysis of the new program.

ISC protests FedBizOpps award

The saga of the federal government's FedBizOpps.gov procurement site shows no sign of ending: One of the losing bidders has filed a claim with the Court of Federal Claims in Washington.

Incumbent vendor, Information Sciences Corp., is suing the General Services Administration over a contract the agency re-awarded in December to Symplicity Corp. GSA awarded Symplicity the contract in June, but pulled it back after protests by losing bidders.
ISC's attorneys said that GSA did not reasonably evaluate the company's proposal.

A seeks finance management

The Agriculture Department wants to update its core financial management system to provide general accounting, funds management and financial reports.

Under the recent request for proposals, vendors would offer program management, transition and migration support, application and integrator services, and hosting services for the USDA Financial Management Modernization Initiative.

Agriculture will conduct a pre-proposal conference Jan. 19. Proposals are due March 13.

Treasury considers hosting options

The Treasury Department is seeking comments from federal and commercial data center providers on the availability and cost savings of alternative hosting and infrastructure support services options for HR Connect, Treasury's human resources system.

HR Connect provides a range of applications, services and information to human resource offices, managers and employees. Comments are due Jan. 24.

Labor studies A-76 competition

The Labor Department will do a study to see if functions of its financial accounting office, including IT system support, should be outsourced to the private sector or kept in-house.
In a recent notice, the agency said it is planning a standard competition under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 for finance and accounting services. Under A-76, agencies compete inherently commercial federal positions with the private sector.
A Labor notice said the study likely would be done by Jan. 2, 2007.

States should meld public health, security

That as recently as five years ago, 10 percent of U.S. health departments lacked basic e-mail systems is only one indication that technologically, public health lags behind other emergency management agencies, said a new report by the National Governors Association.

Among its recommendations: Ensure that public health officials have active representation in any homeland security governance or decision-making structure, and take advantage of disease surveillance systems.

Industry, feds get HSPD-12 scrutiny

The Federal Acquisition Regulation Council has issued an interim rule directing agencies to require contractors to submit to the same background investigations that federal employees go through under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

The interim rule is backdated to Oct. 27, 2005, so all solicitations issued and all contracts awarded on or after that date must include new language requiring contractors to adopt the same procedures feds installed Oct. 26.

OTI back as chip vendor

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has reinstated On Track Innovations Ltd. as a potential provider of contactless identification chips for the federal electronic passport project.

A court clerk said Judge Charles Lettow set aside the Government Printing Office's decision to eliminate OTI from the competition to provide the radio frequency identification devices to be embedded in U.S. passport covers.

The judge directed GPO to resume testing of OTI's chips.

IG announces 2006 tech audits

The Homeland Security Department's inspector general expects to evaluate more than a dozen IT operations at the agency in 2006, according to a new performance plan for the year.

The 2006 audit list also includes many checks and evaluations of Hurricane Katrina-related DHS operations in which the IG has found faults in the past, and information security at the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FBI to hire IT help

FBI has unveiled a campaign to hire a large number of IT professionals to operate and maintain the bureau's global systems.

The Government Accountability Office recently said that the bureau's shortage of key IT personnel poses problems for the rollout of new systems.

According to an FBI statement, the bureau is recruiting computer scientists, engineers, IT specialists and project managers at salaries from $35,452 to $135,136, with potential recruitment bonuses. FBI has adopted special procedures to hire staff quickly, with interviews beginning this month.

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