News briefs

SA starts port worker ID program

Ending a three-month delay, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program is ready to begin enrollment of port workers, the Homeland Security Department said.

The department's Transportation Security Administration released an enrollment schedule for 750,000 port workers, beginning Oct. 16 with Wilmington, Del., and extending to 11 other ports.

GAO: Funding tight for port security

The Coast Guard faces budget challenges in getting the $260 million it estimates is needed to upgrade its command centers to meet Security and Accountability for Every Port Act requirements, said a Government Accountability Office report.

The 2006 law authorizes the Homeland Security Department to establish inter-
agency operations centers at high-priority ports and directs that the new centers reflect the composition and operations of Coast Guard sector command centers. However, none of the 35 sector command centers meets the act's requirements, the Coast Guard said.

U.S.-Canada border needs tightening

Congressional investigators easily slipped across the border from Canada into the United States three times carrying duffel bags simulating smuggled radioactive materials, a Government Accountability Office report said.

A fourth illegal crossing by the GAO team was detected by a U.S. resident and reported to the Border Patrol. However, the patrol was "not able to locate our investigators and their simulated contraband," the report states. The team did not attempt to enter the country from Mexico, citing safety reasons.

Unisys under fire over TSA network

Unisys Corp. denied allegations that it failed to properly install security systems for the Transportation Security Administration and did not notify agency officials of security breaches stemming from repeated cyberattacks on TSA computer systems.

The company's defense came after the House Homeland Security Committee requested that the Homeland Security Department's inspector general investigate cyberattacks on DHS that originated from Chinese-language Web sites. The committee called actions by Unisys, which built and maintains the networks for DHS headquarters and TSA, incompetent and possibly illegal.

FAA steps into NextGen avionics

A proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration would set a 2020 goal to put satellite avionics in all aircraft flying in the country's most congested airspace.
The Global Positioning System surveillance systems, a cornerstone of FAA's NextGen modernization plan, would let air traffic controllers use satellite systems rather than radar to monitor flights.

The proposed rule is open to public comment for 90 days and is scheduled to become final by late 2009.

Anti-bidding bill faces likely veto

The Defense Authorization bill passed by the Senate Oct. 1 includes provisions that would restrict competitions between private contractors and government employees for federal work, a practice the Bush administration advocates as a way to save money.

The amendment also would give the Defense Department more authority, letting it decide whether to put work up for competition.

President Bush may veto the bill because the administration opposes many other provisions in the House and Senate versions of the authorization measure.

Dems put brakes on DHS initiative

Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee asked congressional appropriators to hold off funding for the Homeland Security Department's office for domestic satellite surveillance set to open this month.

The department's new National Applications Office is to begin offering satellite information on-demand for homeland security, including preventing and responding to severe weather systems, natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
But Democrats contend that enough legal protections aren't in place to govern how and why satellites will be deployed.

Technique works with messy prints

Researchers at the University of Warwick in England have developed a technique for identifying fingerprints that have been smudged, clipped, distorted or otherwise badly recorded.

The researchers first build a master coordinate map for all fingerprints on record. To identify a smudged, uneven or distorted fingerprint, it is overlaid onto this topological map, and the system matches it with the print on record.
The researchers said the identification takes only seconds to execute, regardless of the size database against which the prints are compared.

Lawmakers get tough on Deepwater

The House Homeland Security Committee approved legislation that would toughen requirements on the Coast Guard's Deepwater program and improve rollout of the Transportation Worker Identification Card.

The bill would authorize $8.3 billion for the Coast Guard in fiscal 2008, including more than $1 billion for Deepwater. The additional funding comes with more oversight, however.

The bill also would mandate a report from DHS' secretary on TWIC implementation at 10 ports, including the number of workers enrolled, challenges the program is finding and how it would address them.

Industry urges Real ID funding now

The Information Technology Association of America wrote to lawmakers urging approval of $50 million in immediate funding to help states implement the Real ID Act.

The House included $50 million for Real ID in the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill for fiscal 2008. The Senate considered, but failed to pass, an amendment that would have provided $300 million for Real ID.

ITAA wrote to House and Senate conferees for the DHS spending bill asking that the $50 million be retained in the final version of the bill.

OPM: Security clearance progressing

Government is improving the timeliness and quality of its personnel security clearance investigations, Office of Personnel Management officials said. Now OPM wants the Government Accountability Office to have another look at the situation.
In a September 2006 report, GAO found that government wasn't meeting goals for processing background investigations.

But OPM Director Linda Springer said recently that considerable improvement has been made since GAO did the field work for the report and asked Congress to request an updated report from GAO.

Iowa CIO to head NASCIO

Iowa Chief Information Officer John Gillispie was elected president of the National Association of State CIOs for the 2007-2008 term, succeeding Michigan CIO Teri Takai.

Other officers for the new term are: Gopal Khanna, Minnesota CIO, is vice president; Gary Robinson, Washington CIO, is secretary/treasurer and Teri Takai, Michigan CIO, is past president.

The four new directors are: Mark Bengel, Tennessee CIO; Otto Doll, South Dakota CIO; Tom Jarrett, Delaware CIO; and Dick Thompson, Maine CIO.

DISA needs help to clean up its books

Efforts by the Defense Information Systems Agency to clean up its financial books could mean money for its contractors.

A financial examination found millions of dollars in DISA contracts that were obligated but never dispersed over five to six years, said Jimaye Sones, DISA's chief financial executive, at DISA's recent "Forecast to Industry" conference in Washington.

"That is money we can take back to write more contracts and get you more business," he said.

Private-sector crisis net debuts

A group focused on organizing private-sector crisis response and led by former Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson has set up a new network to share information during disaster rescue and recovery.

The Essential Public Network will offer real-time information-sharing between private-sector, local agencies, nonprofit agencies and local and federal emergency and law enforcement officials, Hutchinson said.

Firms forge security training pact

Security Solutions International and Cyber Operations Inc. joined to jointly develop and market security training programs and consulting services on homeland security for corporate and government entities.

Together, SSI and Cyber Operations will engineer SSI's homeland security training assets to create a "Homeland Security Best Practices" digital media content library. Content for the training programs will be managed and delivered to customers on a secure private network using Cyber Operations' digital network solution, CyberDAN.

GSA to offer virtualization app

Carahsoft Technology Corp. will sell virtualization software from Vizioncore Inc. through the General Services Administration schedule as part of a new partnership between the two companies.

Carahsoft will be master GSA schedule holder for [Tk: words missing here] Virtualization allows for running multiple operating systems and applications on the same computer at the same time to increase hardware use and flexibility.

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