News in brief

HHS launches IT studies

The Health and Human Services Department is pushing ahead with preliminary work on an update to its Grants.gov portal and to health care IT initiatives.

The agency is seeking industry input while it considers hiring a new systems integrator for the Grants.gov portal, one of the original E-Government programs. The Web site has grown significantly since its inception in 2003.

The privacy element of the agency's health IT efforts will launch in late April with award of contracts to study variations in state privacy and security policies and regulations that may hinder electronic exchange of information.

In coming weeks, HHS will release a request for proposals for an assessment of state regional health information organizations to include them in the national health IT effort.

Attacks add urgency

The Bush administration's Secure Border Initiative to deploy advanced technology to protect U.S. borders is gathering steam amid increasing violence at the border, including attacks on Border Patrol agents, officials said.

Smugglers and other criminals are stepping up their assaults on Border Patrol agents as DHS tightens its enforcement, officials said. "We have zero tolerance [for attacks on Border Patrol agents]," DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said.

Ohio leads in IT security

Over the past five years, Ohio spent more money on IT products related to network and security hardware, security software and anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software than any other state, said a CDW-Government Inc. study released last week.

The Technology Investment Curve is an assessment of state and local government IT spending for all 50 states, as well as city and county-level investments since 2000.

Davis continues TCE offensive

No fan of the Treasury Department's standalone telecommunications initiative, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) urged the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that the department follows recommendations in a recent Inspector General's report.

The IG report called Treasury Communications Enterprise, the 10-year, $1 billion contract for Treasury's telecomunications services, poorly conceived and recommended the agency consider scrapping it.

Davis earlier this month threatened to issue subpoenas to Treasury officials to force them to discuss the controversial TCE contract.

SBA readies RFPs

The Small Business Administration is looking for information on commercial products that could help the agency manage its procurement and grants management activities.

In a recent request for information, SBA said it processes 200 contracts, 3,000 purchase orders and 300 grants each year.

The agency is looking for an off-the-shelf product that complies with the government's e-procurement standards and can interface with the FedBizOpps application and database.

GSA reviewing acquisition rules

The General Services Administration launched a review of its acquisition policies, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation, in an effort to revamp the agency's purchasing procedures.

In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, GSA said it is seeking comments from government and the private sector on whether certain sections of the FAR and the GSA Acquisition Regulation should be streamlined and simplified.

Comments are due by April 17.

CSC, Raytheon team for the chase

Computer Sciences Corp. and Raytheon Co. have joined forces to compete for the Army's Warfighter Field Operations Customer Support program.

Warfighter Focus provides the Army with lifecycle contractor support services for training and training devices worldwide.

The Warrior Training Alliance, formed by CSC and Raytheon to bid on the program, also includes Cubic Corp., which specializes in live- and virtual-combat training systems.

DHS intel systems lack security

The Homeland Security Department cannot yet guarantee that its Top Secret intelligence systems are out of hackers' reach, according to a new report from the department's inspector general.

Based on a five-month review of DHS' classified intelligence IT systems, the IG expressed doubts about the security of the management structure of the agency's intelligence systems.

DHS officials agreed with the recommendations and have begun taking action on the issues, the report said.

Katrina response found lacking

The federal government's ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina was partly a failure of technology, according to a recent report by a House Select Committee.

The blistering 379-page report details a broad range of shortcomings in federal, state and local preparedness and response, including a lack of effective logistics, medical and communications systems.

"The federal government is the largest purchaser of IT in the world, by far. One would think we could share information by now. But Katrina again proved we cannot," the report said.

DOD buys Linux supercomputers

As part of a program to modernize its high-performance computing capabilities, the Defense Department has ordered five supercomputers from Linux Networx Inc.

The service bought three Advanced Technology Clusters and one LS-1 computer for its Major Shared Resource Center at the Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and one LS-1 computer for Dugway Proving Ground.

The purchase makes the lab's Major Shared Resource Center one of DOD's largest computing centers.

GAO: DHS slow to test U.S. Visit

The Homeland Security Department has been so slow in assessing and testing basic system security and privacy controls for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology project that it may be jeopardizing the program's success, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO has made 18 strategic recommendations for management improvements. Key among them is one GAO made more than two years ago and has not been adopted: Develop and begin implementing a system security plan and a privacy impact assessment.

British ID card project a draw

More than a dozen U.S. IT companies, including Electronic Data Systems Corp., Iridian Technologies Inc. and Unisys Corp., are interested in bidding on the United Kingdom's proposed biometric national identity card, according to a report by a U.K. non-profit environmental advocacy group.

The government estimates it will cost $11 billion.

The ID Card bill won a majority vote in the House of Commons Feb. 13 and goes now to the House of Lords.

DHS calls for FEMA IT upgrades

Amid a whirlwind of controversy surrounding the federal response to 2005 hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the Homeland Security Department has unveiled plans to overhaul the IT that it deploys to cope with disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will get improved logistics systems, better customer service systems for disaster victims, modified contracting practices and better communications.

A DHS statement promised FEMA a 10 percent budget increase in fiscal 2007 spending.

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