News briefs

Input: $123B in '08 fed opps

The top technology business opportunities
in the federal government in fiscal 2008 could
bring $123 billion into the coffers of contractors,
market research firm Input said.

The firm's analysis of the top 20 opportunities
yielded a combined value of $119 billion in
full-and-open competition. Another $4.4 billion
comes from Input's assessment of the top
10 small-business set asides.

DHS contracting draws GAO's ire

The Homeland Security Department is paying
billions to professional services contractors
to do tasks similar to work usually reserved for
government employees, a Government
Accountability Office report said.

The agency followed nine contracts
and found they didn't follow federal
guidance for assessing and addressing
risk in letting contractors support
inherently governmental
tasks such as preparing budgets,
developing policies and
regulations, and coordinating
intelligence, GAO said.

TWIC moves forward

The long-delayed
Transportation Worker
Identification Credential program
began enrollments in
October at one port and will
add 11 more ports this month
and will test card readers at
five other ports, a Homeland
Security Department official
told Congress.

But TWIC is still failing on
several fronts, including underestimating
how many workers need
the ID cards and dragging its feet on
deploying readers for the cards, said
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

Is Sun fiasco the tip of the iceberg?

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and the
General Services Administration are sparring
again over the Sun Microsystems Inc. contracting
controversy.

Sun let its schedules contract expire last
month, setting off investigations by Grassley's
staff that he said "uncovered a disturbing chain
of circumstances at GSA."

His concern, he said, is whether the Sun case
reflects deeper problems with how the government
negotiates and manages contracts, leading
to contracts that benefit vendors at the
expense of taxpayers.

SBInet's start is inauspicious

Four months after lawmakers expected the
first phase of the multiyear, multibillion-dollar
SBInet for securing the border to be operational,
guards along the U.S. border with
Mexico have yet to begin using it.

Angered by the delays, which stem from
difficulties that lead contractor Boeing Co.
has had integrating software, lawmakers
lashed out at Boeing officials at a joint hearing
Oct. 24.

Bush nixes new small-biz law

President Bush opposes the Small
Business Contracting Program
Improvements Act to update contracting
programs for small-business contractors
because some provisions raise constitutional
concerns.

For example, the bill would let
agencies limit competition for
some contracts to female business
owners in male-dominated
industries.

The administration said a
tightly controlled basis is needed
to build the case for trying
to determine that women are
underrepresented in a particular
field.

Security tech fast-tracked

Lawmakers on the House
Science and Technology
Committee are backing a bill
to increase funding for
unmanned aerial vehicles, tunnel
detection devices and anticounterfeiting
technologies for
use in border security.

It also directs the Homeland
Security Department to plan and
coordinate with the Federal Aviation
Administration for operation of UAVs
along the borders.

Acquisition woes not easing

After about 15 years of efforts to reform federal
procurement through different types of
contracts and different ways of thinking about
acquisition, the government has not made as
much progress as advocates of change would
like, experts said at the recent Executive
Leadership Conference.

"Before we can think outside the box, we
need to know what's in the box," said Adm.
Dick Ginman, deputy director of
defense acquisition policy at the Defense
Department.

US-VISIT exit plan expected by 2008

The Homeland Security Department is
trying to quash criticism of its slow development
of an exit piece to the U.S. Visitor
and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology
program.

Robert Mocny, US-VISIT director, said the
agency has decided a piece of the exit program
will require airlines to collect biometric data
of visitors leaving the country when they
check in at the airport. Mocny said DHS will
issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in the
Federal Register by January 2008, detailing
the program.

House derails 3 percent withholding

The House passed the Tax Collection
Responsibility Act of 2007, which would delay
until 2012 a mandate to government buyers to
withhold part of their payments to contractors.
Widely opposed by contractors, the mandate
is meant to give government a way to collect
taxes on unreported revenues.

Iraq, '08 election to slow IT spending

Federal information technology spending
in the next five years will keep growing,
although more slowly than during the past
five, according to a Government Electronics
and Information Technology Association
study.

GEIA predicts that federal IT budgets will
increase by an average of 1.4 percent per year
from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2013 ? down
from a compound annual growth rate of 5.7
percent during the past five years.
Growth will be slowed by changes in
spending priorities and Iraq policy after
the 2008 presidential election, the study
predicted.

Justice targets illegal tech exports

The Justice Department, in a move to more
aggressively prosecute people illegally exporting
U.S. technologies, is creating task forces in
regions with a high concentration of high-tech
companies.

The Counter-Proliferation Task Forces will
be established in a number of U.S. attorneys'
offices nationwide. They are intended to
improve coordination among federal agencies
involved in export control and to strengthen
relationships and information sharing with
affected industries.

IT security still not good at DHS

Despite improvements, the Homeland
Security Department still falls short in protecting
its critical information technology
systems and data, an inspector general
report states.

Systems are accredited as secure without
key documents or information, information
security weaknesses have no remediation
plans, system weaknesses aren't monitored
and quickly resolved, and baseline
security configurations aren't uniformly
applied to all systems, the report states.

N.Y. steps forward with Real ID

New York will become the fourth state to
implement a hybrid identification card
that may be used for border crossings and
as a driver's license complying with
upcoming Real ID Act regulations,
Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff and Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced.

Arizona, Vermont and Washington are
working on similar hybrid ID cards.

Experience counts in fed market

Old and new companies have raided the
ranks of industry's top executives to lead
their federal services divisions.
Perot Systems Corp. tapped Eugene
"Lee" Carrick, formerly of Northrop
Grumman Corp., to be an executive vice
president at Perot Systems Government
Services Inc., in Fairfax, Va.

Canadian server virtualization provider
Liquid Computing Inc. is making its push
into the U.S. federal market by choosing
government contracting veteran Tom
Kreidler, formerly of Sun Microsystems
Inc., to be president of new subsidiary
Liquid Computing Federal Inc., of
Washington.

The subsidiary's board boasts members
James Muldoon, an Air Force veteran and
chief executive officer at Metcor Inc., and
Dendy Young, former chairman and CEO
at GTSI Corp. and now managing partner
at McLean Capital LLC.

Defense, IT reward boldness

To succeed in the defense and IT sectors,
companies must act boldly in making
investments, diversify as much as possible
and find ways to make themselves stand
out from the pack, financial experts said at
the Government Electronics and
Information Technology Association forum.

Businesses should stick to their core
capabilities but also take some intellectual
risks to expand their businesses and
familiarize government and taxpayers
with their products and services, the
speakers said.

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