News in brief

GSA tweaks Alliant plan

The General Services Administration is fine-tuning the acquisition strategy for its Alliant government IT services vehicle while drumming up interest among vendors.

GSA is seeking industry input on whether aspects of the multibillion-dollar solicitation could be tailored for midsize businesses. GSA said on a recent request for information that it is seeking comment on its definition of midsize businesses, calling them as companies that have annual revenue between $21 million and $500 million.

The agency also is seeking to align Alliant with the Federal Enterprise Architecture model and make several other key changes, including sustaining opportunities for all companies, clarifying issues of contract overlap with other GSA procurements, and ensuring the proper use of the contract with necessary agency oversight.

E-health records RFP is out

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is seeking proposals for a feasibility test to transport Medicare claims data into personal electronic health records for its beneficiaries.

The feasibility test is a first step toward letting Medicare beneficiaries engage directly in their medical care through easy access to their medical information, CMS said in its request for proposals last week on FedBizOpps.gov.

IBM trims Stockholm traffic

A pilot traffic congestion and pricing system designed and implemented by IBM Corp. has helped Stockholm, Sweden, remove 100,000 vehicles from its roads during peak business hours.

Stockholm is testing a system that charges vehicles entering and leaving the city between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Early results from the program revealed the system cut traffic by 25 percent and increased the use of mass transit by 40,000 people per day.

DOD: Acquisition is clumsy

It is a moral injustice when speed of delivery for troops in harm's way on the battlefield lags technology easily available at home, said John Garing, Defense Information Systems Agency CIO.

Too many people must sign off on an acquisition before an agency or service gets the green light to proceed, according Kevin Carroll, the Army's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

Also, the department expects its agencies to lay out a program's requirements years before the program is even developed, Garing said.

Bug hunt yields news

Coverity Inc. released the results of a Homeland Security Department-funded bug hunt that ranged across 40 popular open-source programs.

The company found less than half a bug per thousand lines of code on average, and even fewer defects in the most widely used code, such as the Linux kernel and the Apache Web server.

The results are the first deliverable of a $1.2 million, three-year grant DHS awarded to the team of Coverity, Stanford University and Symantec Corp.

CDW: Federal telework up

The past year has seen a major surge in the number of teleworking government employees, according to a survey by CDW Government Inc. of more than 500 federal workers, including 235 federal IT professionals.

Last year, only 19 percent of government employees worked from home. This year, a whopping 41 percent worked at least part time from home. Nearly half of those began teleworking in the past year.

Analysts: Embrace VoIP

Despite legitimate security concerns, federal agencies should pursue voice over IP technology, panelists at a recent Information Technology Association of America conference said.

VoIP will revolutionize how the government communicates and cut costs, the panel of government and industry analysts said. Panelists estimated that the government can save as much as $10 billion a year by switching to VoIP.

Northrop shutters reseller unit

Northrop Grumman Corp. has closed its computer reseller business to strengthen its focus on its core capabilities and better align its offerings with its customers, the company said.

About 300 of the Greenbelt, Md., unit's 365 workers are affected and will be relocated to other business units. The company got into the reseller business in 2000 when it acquired Federal Data Corp.

Concern over data mining

The National Security Agency is sponsoring intelligence data mining with massive databases that are growing as fast as four petabytes per month, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Data Mining and Homeland Security," by Jeffrey Seifert, highlights the growing popularity of data mining and its benefits while also outlining limitations and possible privacy and mission creep concerns.

Budget cuts may hurt small business

Almost $6 billion in fiscal 2007 budget cuts proposed by the White House would trim or eliminate as much as 75 percent of federal small-business assistance programs, according to a report by Democrats on the House Small Business Committee.

Of the 100 federal small-business assistance programs studied, 75 are slated for cuts or elimination, the report said.

Many of the programs are meant to promote IT spending and research.

OMB revises '07 IT budget

A close accounting of the White House's heralded commitment to technology in the fiscal 2007 IT budget adds up to substantially less than the 2.8 percent raise the administration claimed.

After analyzing the numbers from agencies over the past month, the Office of Management and Budget revealed that the White House's IT request will increase by only 0.5 percent over 2006 to $63.8 billion, from $63.5 billion.

Democrats give DHS poor grades

The Homeland Security Department scored a "D" grade for emergency preparedness, critical infrastructure protection, redress for errors on the terrorist watch list and overall procurement and contracting, according to the 2006 annual report card issued by Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee.

The department got "C" grades for port, aviation and transportation and border security, chemical plant protection, information-sharing, science and technology, and cybersecurity. The highest grades were "B minuses" for the Safecom interoperability program and for privacy protection.

Safecom plays up wireless

Wireless networks will take on a much more prominent role in the Homeland Security Department's updated requirements for interoperable communications for first responders.

Officials of the Safecom program, which promotes improved radio communications for emergency response agencies, released a 208-page "Statement of Requirements for Public Safety Wireless Communications & Interoperability" (Version 1.1) on the Safecom Web site.

The new requirements address wireless networks, from personal networks to enterprise systems.

SBI oversight tightens

Four General Services Administration contracting employees have been demoted one pay grade and removed from direct involvement in acquisitions after being accused of mishandling procurements for the nation's $429 million Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called the punishments "a slap on the wrist" considering that as much as $250 million may have been wasted.

Federal audits of the system showed payments made for goods and services never received, contracts awarded without competitive bidding, only half of camera installations completed and millions of dollars unspent.

AppArmor challenges SELinux

Novell Inc.'s release of the source code for its recently acquired open-source Linux security application, AppArmor, has sparked debate in the open-source community.

Both AppArmor and the open-source SELinux, developed by the National Security Agency, tackle the job of mandatory access control, although SELinux has a reputation for being difficult to manage, and according to Novell, AppArmor is easier to use.

Some observers fear that the AppArmor project will fracture the open-source development community around the demanding science of mandatory access control.

Call for relief donation records

The Homeland Security Department wants to set up a permanent federal donation clearinghouse following the swell of donations of money and supplies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

It is evaluating the Aidmatrix Foundation's software and possible alternatives. Aidmatrix said it raised more than $1 million and coordinated distribution of 30 million pounds of food in 34 Gulf Coast communities.

Hours after Hurricane Katrina struck, the non-profit Aidmatrix began setting up temporary IT systems to mobilize, store, track and distribute private donations of food and other goods and services for victims of the disaster.

National operations center needed

The Homeland Security Department must set up a national operations center to give a unified view of disasters and integrate federal agency response, a White House report said.

"The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned," identifies more than a dozen major problems in federal emergency preparedness and response, and makes 125 recommendations to the president.

One recommendation is to create a national operations center from which federal officials from several agencies can provide national coordination during a crisis.

Privacy protections are lagging

Privacy protections are outdated and inadequate to safeguard citizens from potential government intrusions made possible by new information technologies, said a report from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Three new technologies ? expanded online e-mail storage accounts, location-providing cell phones and software to log computer keystrokes ? let government agencies and others track people and their activities to a much greater extent than before, the report said. Laws have not kept pace with the technological advances, it said.

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