Energy Initiatives Spark Business Opportunities

Energy Initiatives Spark Business Opportunities<@VM>Energy Labs Explore Outer Edge of Computing

John Gilligan

By Ed McKenna


As it presses ahead with efforts to modernize its information infrastructure and business systems, the Department of Energy also is scrambling to bolster information security at its facilities.


The agency's list of pending information technology projects includes the implementation of a departmentwide IT architecture and a new business management system, according to John Gilligan, the Energy Department's chief information officer.

The business management system, which will handle the department's financial and procurement operations, is likely to be the agency's next big IT acquisition program. A contract award for this effort is planned for later this year.

"Our estimates are that it will cost $30-plus million," he said.

As these procurements unfold, the department also will be implementing reform measures to address highly publicized security breaches at its nuclear weapons laboratories. The reforms, announced in May by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, include plans to appoint a new security czar and to increase spending on cybersafeguards.

The department is expected to spend about $1.44 billion for information technology this year ? a figure projected to reach almost $1.9 billion by 2003, according to Input, a Vienna, Va.-based market research firm.

The Energy Department has the fourth largest information technology budget among civilian agencies, trailing only the departments of Transportation, Treasury and NASA, said Robert Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

About half of the Energy Department's IT expenditures go to support services, boosting the bottom lines of companies such as DynCorp, Reston, Va., and Science Applications International Corp., San Diego. The Energy Department's mission includes managing the nuclear stockpile and technology transfers, promoting energy efficiency and conservation, cleaning up nuclear weapons sites and conducting basic scientific research.

During the next few months, the department will ask industry for assistance in developing its Business Management Information System, Gilligan said. The new system will maintain the department's financial systems, provide business information to agency managers and customers, and support electronic commerce for procurement.

The department is defining requirements for the system and looking at what industry has to offer in terms of commercially developed packages. It also is emphasizing deployment of an agencywide IT architecture, said Gilligan.

A key goal of the department's Information Architecture Program is to eliminate redundancy and conflicts among systems in the many Energy program offices by imposing standards. Planning for the common architecture has been under way since late last year.

By this fall, the effort will produce an initial architecture that "will map through the strategic goals of the department and give us an initial prioritization among investments of information technology," he said. Subsequently, the program will focus on capital investment proposals.

DynCorp is assisting the department on this and other projects under the Information Management Support Division (IMSD) contract. A DynCorp-led team received the five-year contract, valued at $246 million, in 1995.

Subcontractors include Affiliated Computer Services Inc., Dallas; Highland Technology Services Inc., Germantown, Md.; Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.; Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York; Telos Field Engineering, Herndon, Va.; and Tresp Associates Inc., Alexandria, Va.

This effort, which will be re-bid next year, is not likely to remain a single-source contract.

"We are beginning to look at concepts like seat management," Gilligan said.

DynCorp is working closely with the department's chief information officer to standardize the infrastructure in each program office, said Tina Quall, vice president of business development at DynCorp.

In the past, agency program offices "were all buying their own technology for their separate applications," she said. "We moved them pretty much to standard desktop PCs and software."

Another Energy Department priority is upgrading the headquarters' e-mail system, with DynCorp providing integration and support services for the project under the IMSD contract, said Quall. Plans call for the e-mail system to be deployed at headquarters by the end of the fiscal year, and it will eventually be extended to the rest of the department.

"We are pretty far along in implementing a consistent e-mail architecture" at headquarters, Gilligan said. "We are probably going to install the Defense Message System to support some classified e-mail processing."

Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas, is implementing the e-mail system backbone under the Energy Department's Telecommunications Integrator Services (TELIS) contract.

Awarded to EDS in 1997, the five-year contract produced $35 million in revenue for the company last year, said Jeff Kane, EDS account consultant based in Herndon, Va.

TELIS is open to other agencies, and about half of EDS' revenues on the contract have come from outside the Energy Department.

The contract calls on EDS to provide systems integration, network engineering, installation, maintenance, management and operational support in the voice, data and video technologies.

"DoE is really doing a lot of things in a forward-thinking way," said Kane, citing the firm fixed-price nature of the contract vs. the more traditional cost-reimbursement contracts many organizations use, he said.

But before the Energy Department can accomplish its IT architecture goals, it must first address its serious security problems.

Among the security reforms announced by Richardson last month is the creation of the Office of Security and Emergency Operations, which will be run by a new security czar who will report directly to the secretary.

Under the reforms, the CIO office is being moved from the management administration office, formerly human resources, to the new organization, where it will assume responsibility for all of the department's computer security for classified and unclassified activities. Previously, this authority had been divided among agency organizations, Gilligan said.

Gilligan, who already has been transferred into the new security office, expects these organizational changes to occur very quickly. Richardson is looking for an individual to head the new security office, Gilligan said.

The organizational changes should boost the clout of the CIO within the department, said DynCorp's Quall.


"Before, the CIO did not have a direct reporting arm up to the secretary, and that really hampered him," she said. "He couldn't demand; he could only make recommendations, so his influence outside of headquarters to any field office to deal with standardization of infrastructure was really not effective."

In the wake of the security breaches, the Energy Department also is asking Congress for an additional $8 million this year and $50 million over the next two fiscal years to boost the security of its information systems. The money will be used to install comprehensive security measures over the next two years at all of its sites, including consistent firewalls and intrusion detection capability, Gilligan said.

Systems will be deployed to scan information traffic coming in and out of Energy Department sites, including e-mail and audit computers for classified information that is inadvertently or deliberately put on unclassified computers, he said.

At the same time, "we will begin to put in place an architecture that will let us control access to all computing and network assets and end user devices," Gilligan said.

The department also plans to launch an accelerated training program soon for its administrators and computer security personnel.

In the long term, the department will build a set of multimedia training devices to keep security and systems administrators current on new technology and potential threats, he said.

Finally, the department will beef up staffing at its Computer Incident Advisory Capability center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. The center provides on-call technical assistance and information to Department of Energy sites faced with computer security incidents. The staff will grow from seven to about 30 people who "will become the hub for our cybersecurity warning analysis," Gilligan said.

Richardson's reforms were announced a little more than a week before a House select committee released its report, "U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China." Chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., the report on Chinese spying was released May 25.

The report disclosed that China obtained classified nuclear weapons information by penetrating security at the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories. According to reports, at least one scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., was able to transfer sensitive data from a classified to an unclassified computer without being detected.

The department now is preparing a detailed budget packet to present to Congress to bolster departmentwide security.

The security aspects of information management within the department need to be more centralized to ensure a vigilant effort to protect information, said Mark Kerrigan, group senior vice president of SAIC's energy systems group in McLean, Va. SAIC provides IT support services on separate IDIQ vehicles for the Office of Defense Programs Stockpile Stewardship Program and the Energy Information Administration.

There must be a consistent approach to security for the different Energy Department programs, he said, noting that the department has moved some of the responsibility for security back and forth from its field offices and headquarters during the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, Gilligan is looking to refocus the agency's acquisition strategy, stressing the use of off-the-shelf software and matching contractor expertise to specific projects.

The department already made some improvements to its acquisition process, said Kerrigan. Energy officials can evaluate, award and execute contracts much more efficiently than in the past, he said, giving some credit to the growing use of multiple award indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts.

But Gilligan wants to further sharpen the department's acquisition policy.

"We will leverage commercial products [and] do contracts very rapidly, bringing contractors on board and giving them the mandate to very rapidly field initial capabilities," he said.

In addition, the department is looking to change the way IT is handled at field operations, which are now largely managed by single contractors, such as Lockheed Martin Corp.

"We are moving toward a business model where pieces of the work, such as information technology, will be split off and subcontracted specifically," Gilligan said. For example, Lockheed Martin would win the management and operations for a site, but would be obliged to subcontract out the IT work.

The department already has begun to employ this strategy, he said, citing an IT support contract awarded to SAIC in January for the Energy Department's Oak Ridge, Tenn., facilities, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant and the East Tennessee Technology Park.

These facilities conduct work on major national programs in energy research, national defense and environmental cleanup.

The two-year, seven-month contract, which includes two one-year renewal options, is worth about $72 million. At Oak Ridge, SAIC essentially will work as a subcontractor handling IT for site manager Lockheed Martin.

Vice President Al Gore

By Ed McKenna

Already operating the two fastest computers in the world, the Department of Energy laboratories are continuing to stoke their computing power to boost nuclear safety and advanced scientific research.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico laid claim last November to having the world's fastest computer. Code-named Mountain Blue as part of the Energy Department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, the Silicon Graphics Inc. computer was clocked at 1.6 teraops, or 1.6 trillion calculations per second, surpassing the previous record of 1.3 teraops held by the program's Option Red, an Intel-based system at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M.

Mountain Blue's stay at the top is likely to be short. Speedier systems already are being developed. For example, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., is slated to bring online next year a 10 teraop IBM system called Option White, and bids to build a 30 teraop system by 2002 are due in Los Alamos by July 16.

This rush for speed is fueling a growing supercomputer market. Between 1996 and 1998, shipments worldwide surged from 2,147 to 5,120 supercomputers, and sales rose from $2.2 billion to $4.1 billion, said Dan Dolan, an analyst with Dataquest, San Jose, Calif.

However, the market now is being driven largely by commercial users, Dolan said. The public sector market has plateaued, with many government scientists finding older, less expensive computers sufficient for their research, he said.

At the Energy Department, however, the supercomputer program is slated to continue full speed ahead. Last year, the General Accounting Office reported that the department had about 17 percent of the world's supercomputing capacity and was planning to almost triple its capability over the next three years.

The main driver of this growth is the ASCI program to monitor the viability of the nation's nuclear arsenal in lieu of actual testing, which was banned by Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by the United States in September 1996.

These powerful systems are necessary to process the complex algorithms involved in nuclear weapons simulations, said Mark Goldman, director of government operations for SGI in Silver Spring, Md. Expected to ramp up to 3 teraops, SGI's Blue Mountain only will be able to do pieces of the necessary calculations, he said.

ASCI is divided into five phases, beginning with the installation of Option Red in 1996 and followed last year by the startup of SGI's Blue Mountain and IBM's Blue Pacific, located at Lawrence Livermore. The final three stages are IBM's Option White, the 30 teraop system and a 100 teraop computer in 2004.

While most of the focus is on ASCI, the Energy Department labs also are deploying somewhat smaller supercomputers to do scientific research. Los Alamos has deployed an SGI system, called Nirvana Blue, for unclassified research. Funded by the Energy Department's Office of Science, it is one-third of the size of Blue Mountain, said Jim Dannesklold, a Los Alamos spokesman.

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Earnest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., is deploying an IBM system for research. That system will ramp up to 3 teraops in 2000, said Dion Rudnicki, client executive for IBM in Bethesda, Md. It is replacing a Cray T3E supercomputer.

The center's computer has about 2,500 users from other national laboratories and universities around the country, said Jon Bashor, a center spokesman. The computer is being used for key scientific research into climate modeling, the computation of chemistry of nuclear waste to help with nuclear site cleanups and combustion to spur cleaner, more efficient power-plant generation, he said.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close

Trending

  • POWER TRAINING: How to engage your customers

    Don't miss our Aug. 2 Washington Technology Power Training session on Mastering Stakeholder Engagement, where you'll learned the critical skills you need to more fully connect with your customers and win more business. Read More

  • PROJECT 38 PODCAST

    In our latest Project 38 Podcast, editor Nick Wakeman interviews Tom Romeo, the leader of Maximus Federal about how it has zoomed up the 2019 Top 100. Read More

contracts DB

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.