DataStream: The News in Brief

DHS readies smart cards

The Homeland Security Department is seeking input on an interoperable smart-card system for its Registered Traveler program.

In pilots done by the Transportation Security Administration, smart cards issued by one airport could not be used at other airports. TSA wants the national Registered Traveler program to be interoperable among domestic airports.

Prospective vendors have until April 20 to submit a plan to TSA on how they would achieve interoperability for Registered Traveler.


OpenSSL gets NIST certified

Agencies setting up sensitive virtual private networks now have an open-source alternative.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology certified OpenSSL, an open-source library of encryption algorithms, as meeting Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 Level 1 standards, according to the Open Source Software Institute.

Federal agencies must use FIPS-compliant products to secure networks carrying unclassified sensitive data.


Objections to drivers' license RFID

A coalition of conservative groups and privacy advocates is urging the Homeland Security Department to exclude use of radio frequency identification contactless chips in its regulations for implementing the Real ID Act for state drivers' licenses.

In a Jan. 13 letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff, the groups asserted that RFID is expensive, lacks standardized technology and poses potential dangers to privacy from unauthorized reading of the chips.


BlackBerry suit continues

The Supreme Court's refusal to intervene in the patent infringement suit that NTP Inc. filed against BlackBerry provider Research in Motion Ltd. means there will be separate proceedings before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether BlackBerrys and the wireless network will be shut down will move forward.

If the 4th Circuit imposes an injunction against BlackBerry use, federal, state and local government users would be exempt.


E-passport pilot lifts off

Live testing of passports containing radio frequency identification contactless chips began last week at San Francisco International Airport for selected incoming visitors from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The three-month collaborative pilot project, sponsored by the Homeland Security Department and the three countries, is intended to gauge the effectiveness of the radio frequency identification e-passports, which contain biometric information, along with RFID readers and software.


Agencies migrate to Grants.gov

Grants.gov, the federal government's online portal for electronically finding and submitting applications for federal grant funding, last year met its goal: Agencies made at least 25 percent of their funding opportunities available at the site.

In fiscal 2005, 20 of 26 federal grant-making agencies posted 25 percent of their opportunities at Grants.gov and received more than 15,000 applications, according to the Health and Human Services Department, which manages the site.


State, DHS bolster border tech

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this month unveiled a joint program to strengthen technology at the border, speed legitimate travel and bolster counterterrorism programs.

The new policy, dubbed the Rice-Chertoff Joint Vision: Secure Borders and Open Doors in the Information Age, has three phases: improve the experience of international travelers arriving at U.S. airports, provide biometric passports for U.S. citizens and improve traveler screening through information sharing between DHS and State.


eOffer bidding portal reopens

The General Services Administration last week reopened its eOffer electronic-bidding portal after correcting a security glitch.

GSA shuttered the site, which lets vendors prepare and submit their electronic GSA schedule offers and contract modifications, Jan. 11 after a vendor notified the agency of a problem: users of the system could change others' bids.

The agency said it immediately launched an investigation and also initiated a search of other electronic services GSA provides.


Satcom II RFP next month

The General Services Administration on or about Feb. 6 will issue a request for proposals for its Satcom II contract.

The five-year contract for commercial, worldwide satellite communications will replace satellite services contracts that expire this month.

Satcom II will be a full-and-open competition with a partial small-business set-aside. GSA expects the deal to be a fixed-price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with economic price adjustment.


Screening system ideas wanted

The Transportation Security Administration will seek proposals for technical assistance with the Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing Screening Gateway, a means of checking the backgrounds of travelers and transportation workers.

A TSA spokesman said the agency would do the background checks, but the contractor would help manage and maintain the gateway's data processing system.
Hazardous-material truck drivers, registered travelers and workers with Transportation Worker Identification Credentials get background checks via the gateway.


DHS offers cybersecurity guidance

The Homeland Security Department's new preparedness unit is urging state governors to prepare cybersecurity plans, adopt a new national Extensible Markup Language model for information sharing and implement newly developed common rules for geospatial content.

The recommendations, some of the most detailed that the federal government has made to states and local governments, is included in the fiscal 2006 grant application kit for distribution of $3.9 billion in federal homeland security grants.


Testing for open-source apps

The Homeland Security Department has procured a bug-testing service for common open-source programs. The service will bring the same scrutiny to applications such as Apache and MySQL as many commercial software packages are subject to.

Coverity Inc., Stanford University and Symantec Corp. will execute the three-year, $1.2 million Vulnerability Discovery and Remediation Open Source Hardening Project.


GSA to scrap Preferred IT

The General Services Administration will shut down its embattled GSA Preferred IT tracking system and return to its legacy system while it determines its next move.

In several regional pilots, problems showed up with GSA-P's interface with agency financial systems.

After reviewing the program, GSA hired KPMG LLP to analyze the system and determine whether it should be scrapped. KPMG concluded that the legacy systems did a better job managing IT projects.


Dispatch system for guards

The Homeland Security Department unit that supervises 12,000 security guards at federal buildings wants a comprehensive electronic dispatch system.

The Federal Protective Service, part of DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, published a request for information seeking off-the-shelf IT systems that would dispatch its officers and maintain electronic records of their activities.

The federal protective service currently handles the tasks manually.


RFP out for $5B satellite

The Army released an RFP for its $5 billion Worldwide Satellite Systems program.

Under the five-year program, WWSS will bring turnkey commercial satellite systems and support services for satellite terminals.

The program will acquire six commercial satellite terminals, and will use a minimum of four or a maximum of six prime contractors, including at least two small businesses.


Report: Outsourcing accelerates

IT outsourcing by the federal government will grow by more than $5 billion over the next four years, said a recent report by market researcher Input Inc.

Driven by tightening federal budgets, the deficit and the war in Iraq, IT outsourcing will grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 8 percent, from $12.2 billion in fiscal 2005 to $17.6 billion by fiscal 2010, the report said.

The Office of Management and Budget's Lines of Business initiatives will be a further driver, Input said.


PTO brokers open-source pact

The Patent and Trademark Office last month met with several leading open-source software vendors, who agreed to improve software code resources available to patent examiners during patent examination.

PTO proposed changes to cut the amount of rework and time for patent reviews, and the partnership plans to develop a system to elicit public response to software patent applications.

The group will meet again Feb. 16.


GSA plans Alliant briefing

The General Services Administration will hold its Alliant industry day in mid-February to discuss any changes to the $65 billion IT procurement.

This is the third time since November that GSA has pushed back the date for the forum, which will give industry and the public another chance to voice their opinions on the 10-year, governmentwide acquisition contracts to let agencies buy IT solutions and complex integration services.


Biometrics market to triple by 2008

The North American market for biometric applications by 2008 will rise to $1.4 billion, nearly triple the $527 million of 2004, according to new analysis from marketing firm Frost & Sullivan.

Fingerprint technologies generate the largest portion of revenue and will show sustained growth.
However, the greatest expansion potential is with new technologies, such as facial recognition and iris scans, Frost & Sullivan said.

Fewer than 15 percent of the companies studied sold multiple types of biometric technologies.

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