News in brief

Agencies need sharing guides

Federal policies for information-sharing against terrorism are fragmented and haphazardly applied, a Government Accountability Office report said earlier this month.

The problems reflect not only the huge challenge of the task, but also that responsibility for information-sharing has been shifted among several agencies, passing from the Office of Management and Budget to the Homeland Security Department in 2003. Neither agency has completed the task, the report said.

Criminal data safeguards sought

Technology is so rapidly outpacing policy that major improvements are needed at the state level to protect sensitive criminal and civil justice information, said the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices.
The data can be shared, sold and analyzed so quickly that communications systems used in the process can lead to violations of privacy protections by inadvertently revealing the identity of victims, witnesses, law enforcement and court personnel, the group said.

FEMA lacked IT post-Katrina

IT shortcomings contributed to the federal government's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina, according to a report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The 218-page report concludes that the department's Federal Emergency Management Agency deserved much of the criticism it received in the media regarding its handling of the disaster. It also said most of the new department's emphasis has been preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks rather than all types of disasters.

GAO raps Alaska Native breaks

Alaska Native corporations over the past five years have taken full advantage of Small Business Administration regulations that help them land no-bid government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a draft report by the Government Accountability Office.

But, GAO charges, SBA and the customer agencies have done a poor job of overseeing and monitoring the contracts to ensure the ANCs follow regulations on how much work they may subcontract.

GAO: Energy trails on small biz

The Energy Department has fallen short of its small-business prime contracting goals in four of the last five years and should act promptly to improve its small-business program management, said a Government Accountability Office report.

Energy spends more than $20 billion a year on goods and services, and has taken steps to increase the prime contract awards to small businesses, but needs to work on its program management and on meeting its small-business prime contracting goal, GAO said.

Report: U.S. is global IT leader

After a one-year hiatus, the United States in 2005 regained first place in worldwide IT readiness, according to an annual global IT progress report by the World Economic Forum.

Rankings of 115 countries are based on a Networked Readiness Index, which assesses physical infrastructure and IT use, and capabilities of stakeholders such as individuals, business and government.

States back fusion centers

At least 28 states and U.S. territories are making it a top priority to open intelligence fusion centers, according to a National Governors Association survey of 40 homeland security directors.

Fusion centers let personnel and IT networks from state, local and federal agencies combine as a single facility to develop joint intelligence. Several states, including Maryland, Missouri and Texas, have set up such centers, and many more are interested in doing so, the survey said.

GAO: Privacy rules a must

Several federal departments ? notably Homeland Security and Justice ? regularly buy access to personal information databases that do not comply with federal rules for protecting privacy, said a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The federal government annually pays data resellers $30 million for databases of personal information including names, Social Security numbers, financial records and relatives' names.

But resellers don't comply consistently with Fair Information Practices. Agencies complied with privacy rules in only half the cases examined, GAO said.

Bill would create grants database

Aiming to bring more transparency to federal grant-making, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) introduced legislation to create a public database to track government-issued grants.

The bill would require government to post information on who gets a grant, a breakdown of assistance by agency and program source, all awards a grantee has received over the past 10 years and a list of dates and amounts of federal financial assistance the grantee has received.

CSC restructures, mulls sale

Computer Sciences Corp. expects to cut 5,000 jobs as part of a strategic plan to boost shareholder value, and may even sell the global IT and systems integration company.

Job cuts for the El Segundo, Calif., company, most of which will be in Europe, will save $150 million this fiscal year and $300 million in fiscal 2008, the company said.

A restructuring will have related pre-tax related charges of about $345 million this fiscal year and about $30 million in fiscal 2008.

Ericsson buys Marconi Federal

Ericsson Inc., U.S. subsidiary of Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, has acquired networking and telecom provider Marconi Communications Federal Inc., Columbia, Md. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Plano, Texas-based Ericsson is fast off the mark, putting the expanded slate of networking and telecom solutions and services to the U.S. government that the purchase affords it.

IG: DHS lags on interoperability

The Homeland Security Department is not expected to adopt its first standard for interoperable, digital, wireless communications for first responders until the end of 2007 ? more than six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a new report from DHS inspector general Richard Skinner.

Congress has pressed for urgent action to make radios compatible for first responders. This would enable police, fire, medical and other emergency response officials to talk to each other at an incident scene. To do so, radios, networks and their interfaces need to operate with common standards, even when manufactured by different companies.

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