Datastream | The news in brief

The National Warning System is a bit under the weather


The Homeland Security Department wants a contractor to refurbish the 24-hour emergency telephone network that links the National Warning System with governors' offices and emergency officials in 50 states.



The system is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at its Mount Weather Operations Center in Virginia.


FEMA intends to negotiate with Communications Laboratories Inc. of Melbourne, Fla., to replace the equipment, but also wants other qualified contractors to offer descriptions of their services and pricing within 15 days. The agency said it would decide whether to seek competitive bids for the project after those proposals are received.


The warning system was developed in the 1950s so that the federal government would have immediate voice communications with governors and other nonmilitary officials in case of a nuclear attack. It has since evolved to provide warnings of terrorism attacks, severe weather, natural disasters and other incidents.



A confirmation, two appointments and a departure



The Senate confirmed Paul Denett as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, filling the yearlong vacancy, and three companies had changes of top-echelon executives.



Denett promised to make government contracting more transparent and accountable, and said he will promote ways to consolidate the government's buying power. He replaces David Safavian, who resigned last September shortly before the FBI arrested him on charges of obstruction of justice in the scandal surrounding former lobbyist Jack
Abramoff.



John Marselle was named CEO of program management services provider Robbins-Gioia LLC. An advocate for strategic use of IT for a competitive advantage, Marselle comes to the company from Sun Microsystems Inc., where he led the organization's government division.



Former Clark County, Nev., CIO Rod Massey was named vice president for SAP Global Public Sector. Massey will be responsible for cultivating and managing strategic relationships with SAP's government customers, the company said. While he was CIO for Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas, Massey led a large-scale enterprise resource planning initiative using SAP software.



Alan Balutis resigned as president of Input Inc.'s government strategies group. In an e-mail to friends and colleagues, Balutis said he was leaving the market research firm to pursue other opportunities. Balutis spent 27 years in government, holding senior management, budget, finance, planning and IT positions in the Commerce Department and in what is now the Health and Human Services Department.



GSA quashes Networx rumor



A top official at the General Services Administration has laid to rest industry rumors that the procurement agency might issue contract awards for its 10-year, $20 billion Networx program before the award dates next year.



John Johnson, GSA's acting assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services, told Washington Technology Aug. 11 that although there is potential for earlier awards, GSA plans to issue them for Universal and Enterprise services on the set dates of March and May 2007, respectively.



Heritage: No Basic Pilot expansion



Congress is considering bills to expand the scope of the Basic Pilot Employment Eligibility Verification program and extend its use to millions of employers.



That would be costly, ineffective and seriously harm victims of identity theft, said a new research paper by James Carafano, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
The Citizenship and Immigration Services since 1997 has run the voluntary database search program, which lets employers search a database of Social Security numbers to help them avoid hiring illegal aliens.


USPS seeks tool research



The U.S. Postal Service is doing market research for a commercially available advanced search and analysis tool for data and text material.

In a recent notice, the Postal Inspection Service said the search tool must be able to parse and analyze criminal information that will direct investigative resources in an efficient manner.



Responses are due by Aug. 25.



OPM wants tech support



The Office of Personnel Management is gauging the market for small businesses interested in providing computer center support for its Federal Investigative Services Division.



OPM said it will issue a formal request for proposals before the end of August.
The winning bidder will provide onsite support for the computer room that maintains the agency's Personal Investigations Processing System.



Future Combat System slammed



The Army's maligned Future Combat Systems program took another hit when congressional auditors said the project faces substantial technical and funding challenges and could cost as much as $16 billion.



In a recent report, the Congressional Budget Office said the Army should consider alternatives that would scale back the ambitious program and cut its costs by nearly $5 billion, although doing so could reduce the effectiveness of the program.



CSC debuts border center



Computer Sciences Corp. has created its 17th solution center, this one for border security and immigration.



CSC's Border and Immigration Solutions Center of Excellence offers solutions for issuing identity credentials, conducting risk analysis for visa applicants, doing border event case management, and delivering and enforcing immigration services. The center's goal is to help federal agencies focus on "high-risk visa applicant and border crossing events," the company said in a statement.



GTSI misses 2Q report



Government contractor GTSI Corp. failed to issue its second quarter 2006 financial report because of accounting errors in financial statements for the past two years.



The company plans to restate its financial results for 2004 and 2005 because of an accounting change for lease-sales agreements and for the first quarter 2006 because of an overstatement of the cost of goods it sold.


VA gets help analyzing data breach



ID Analytics Inc. won a contract from the Veterans Affairs Department to provide data breach analysis to ensure that information on computer equipment, stolen in May from a VA employee's home and later recovered, was not compromised.


Terms of the contract were not revealed.


Bomb plot = more data mining



The Homeland Security Department will deploy additional computerized methods of pinpointing threats in airports in response to the foiled plot to blow up aircraft flying from London to the United States, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said.



The Immigration and Customs Enforcement will increase enforcement in international arrival areas, including use of advanced targeting tools and special response teams, among other technologies, Chertoff said.



"Advanced targeting tools" refers to data mining methods that can extract useful patterns from huge databases.



Secure Flight reassessment



The Transportation Security Administration expects by September to finish reassessing its controversial Secure Flight airline passenger-prescreening program, according to a letter to Congress from Cathleen Berrick, Government Accountability Office director of homeland security and justice issues.



GAO reported in February that Secure Flight risked failing because it was rushed through development without adequate definition of requirements and without adequate privacy and security.



The program was suspended pending the reassessment.



Clearance guidance revised



The Pentagon has cleared the way for defense industrial workers facing delays in renewing their security clearances, Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) said in a news release.



Budget constraints had prompted the Defense Department in April to halt processing of industry clearances for several weeks. As a result, many re-investigations are overdue.



The Defense Security Service in May got $28 million to resume processing initial requests for secret-level security clearances and in July resumed processing classified, secret and top-secret requests.


Two win e-passport deals



The Government Printing Office has issued contracts to Gemalto Inc. and Infineon Tech Inc., producers of contactless smart chips to furnish large-scale quantities of electronic passport covers.



The contracts follow months of testing, policy disputes and legal wrangling over the use of contactless smart chips to embed biometric and biographic data in passport covers. Wide-scale adoption of the State Department's version of the technology likely will influence other federal programs that will use biometric ID systems.


Another VA computer gone



Unisys Corp. informed the Veterans Affairs Department earlier this month that a desktop PC containing sensitive personal data of veterans is missing from the company's offices. It is the second VA data compromise in three months.



A subcontractor to the agency, Unisys said billing records on the PC include names, address, Social Security numbers and birth dates, but not personal financial information. The data is on veterans who sought treatment at VA medical centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.



IG: DHS info security weak



Despite improvements, the Homeland Security Department continues to display significant information security weaknesses that jeopardize the integrity and privacy of department IT programs, according to a report by DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.



The IT Management Letter is part of the fiscal 2005 Financial Statement Audit, done by KPMG LLP accounting firm. According to the 77-page management letter, the most significant IT control weaknesses at the agency involve entitywide security, access controls and service continuity.



N.J. calls for IT overhaul



A blue-ribbon panel established earlier this year by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to study the performance of state government recommended appointing a CIO to oversee the state's strategic technology plan.



The CIO would implement the plan, direct the state IT office, and ensure that services are delivered and costs controlled.

The New Jersey Commission on Government Efficiency and Reform also recommend a major overhaul of the state's IT office, including a completely new mandate, mission and structure.



Senate ratifies cybercrime treaty



The Senate has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber Crime, the first multinational, multilateral treaty to require cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of computer network crimes, including the execution of searches and seizures, and extradition of individuals sought for these crimes.



Major IT advocacy groups welcomed the news.



"Cybercriminals are not limited by borders, and this treaty will help ensure that law enforcement isn't either," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the Business Software Alliance.


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