News in brief

NASCIO names top innovative state IT projects

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers tapped 12 state IT projects as winners of its 2006 Recognition Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Information Technology in State Government.

Criteria for judging the projects included: length of time in operation; significance to government operation; benefits to service recipients, taxpayers, agencies and the state; and return on investment.

The winners are:

Business continuity: Kentucky Mutual Aid and Interoperability. For less than $2 million, the commonwealth built a network that runs over each of the three frequencies used by first responders to make their radio systems interoperable.

Cross-boundary collaboration and partnerships: California Health Services Department's prenatal and newborn Screening Information System. The project updated major IT systems and expanded to 75 the number of genetic diseases screened for.

The District of Columbia Safe Passages Information System. Built on a secure, service-oriented architecture, Safe Passages supports automated data sharing across the District's human services agencies and their external partners.

Data, information and knowledge management: Pennsylvania's Global Extensible Markup Language 3.0 Document Creation Process. The process set statewide standards and policies for data exchange.

Digital government, government to business: Michigan Business Portal. The state's Business Services portal lets new businesses register for tax identification numbers online and shortens the time it takes to start a business by six to 10 weeks.

Digital government, government to citizen: Arizona 2-1-1 Online. Working with local government, nonprofit and private organizations, the state developed Arizona 2-1-1 Online and a 2-1-1 Call Center to link information about local emergencies with public and private health and human services online.

New York's e-TAP. The state created a comprehensive student aid gateway to its Tuition Assistance Program.

Digital government, government to government: Michigan's E-mail consolidation project. The state brought stakeholders together, defined a common messaging platform and implemented a cost-effective solution that increased service levels, enhanced security and will save an estimated $11 million over five years.

Enterprise architecture: District of Columbia Enterprise Integration Stack. The DEIS integrates and makes interoperable data from different legacy systems at 66 agencies.

Enterprise IT management initiatives: Michigan's Human Resource Optimization project. The state will save a projected $28 million over five years.

Information communications technology innovations: Michigan's Innovative Fraud Detection Program. The state is using advanced analytics to combat fraud in its child development and day care programs.

IT project and portfolio management: Michigan's Project Management and Governance Model. The state requires all high-priority projects of more than $5 million to have a well-defined governance model and a structured project control office. The state estimates that over two years, it averted $147 million in federal penalties.

UAV patrols to resume

U.S. Customs and Border Protection expects to have a Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle flying along the U.S.-Mexico border again in November, officials said in a new report.

It will mark the return to flight of the agency's unmanned aircraft systems program following the April 24 crash of the first Predator B vehicle in the Arizona desert. A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board cited error by the ground pilot navigating the UAV as the probable cause.

GSA takes over GWAC

The General Services Administration and the Commerce Department have reached an agreement in principle to give GSA ownership of Commerce's Information Technology Services Next Generation governmentwide acquisition contract, government and industry sources said.

No final paperwork has been signed, and nothing has been presented to the Office of Management and Budget for final approval, one government source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy has oversight authority over all GWACs and must approve the transfer.

New plan at IRS

IRS CIO Richard Spires last week said that the agency will implement its Business Systems Modernization in smaller increments and in a more unified strategy between IT and agency business units than previously expected.

IRS revised its IT modernization strategy as a result of decreased funding in recent years and better management of its systems development after years of cost overruns and delays. In the past year, the agency also has reorganized its program management and combined its two applications development organizations.

GAO urges ITES-2S fix

The Government Accountability Office last week said it has sided with five protesters that lodged complaints when the Army awarded its $20 billion Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-2 Services contracts to 11 vendors in the spring.

In its decision, GAO recommended that the Army take corrective action on the ITES-2S awards, although additional information is under protective order. The protesters' complaints allege improper technical cost evaluation.

Three launch research biz

A trio of federal government pros has launched a new research firm, Government Futures Inc.

Principals Bruce McConnell, Margaret Anderson and Gordon Haight will use a variety of collective intelligence tools to help predict where the government will be in three years and further into the future.

Several changes under way in the government market are driving the need for forecasting tools that look beyond the next year or two, said McConnell, a former Office of Management and Budget official.

TWIC pilot falls short

A test of the Homeland Security Department's secure identification card, slated for distribution to port workers nationwide, revealed major gaps.

The Government Accountability Office's assessment of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential pilot found that 25 percent of the operational and performance requirements in the testing contract weren't met, including a requirement that lost or stolen TWIC cards be revoked before a transportation worker can get a replacement.

Additionally, most facilities lacked the technology to connect with the Transportation Security Administration's national TWIC database.

DOD tries again

The Defense Department is making another attempt to improve how it buys services.

Over the next three to five months, DOD will identify the services that military branches buy and put them into portfolios.

Defense officials then will determine what the best practices are to buy them, said Shay Assad, director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy.

Work remains on U.S. Visit

When James Williams joined the General Services Administration in June as commissioner of its new Federal Acquisition Service, he left behind some unfinished work on the $1.1 billion U.S. Visit program at the Homeland Security Department.

Williams, who was the first director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, said in an interview with Washington Technology that he did not manage to put in place the project's exit system or make more progress with its land-border aspect.

Strianese to remain L-3 head

After four months as L-3 Communication Corp.'s interim CEO, Michael Strianese has been officially named to the post of CEO and president.

Strianese, who is also chief financial officer, had assumed the temporary post following the death in June of one of L-3's founders, Frank Lanza. Strianese has been with the company since it was founded in 1997.

Better synergy needed

The Homeland Security Department's four multi-agency operations centers that work around the clock every day are not sharing enough information, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The national centers also are not fully using the Homeland Security Information Network, an information-sharing network, GAO said.

The report examined collaboration among national centers at the Operations Directorate, Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration.

New launches

Officials from the White House and Small Business Administration unveiled a revamped Web site that gives small businesses a compendium of federal regulations information.

The site,, has data on federal rules and requirements that all businesses must follow, including environmental regulations, taxes and office safety requirements.

It also contains a search function that lets business owners search through a broad array of regulatory information.

It's all about skills

Over the next year, government acquisition officials will focus on improving the ability of their procurement workforces to manage performance-based contracts, a panel of experts said this month.

In performance-based contracting, contractors, not government agencies, are responsible for managing projects they are doing for the government, and they receive financial rewards for meeting performance goals.

Today, about 40 percent of the federal government's contracts are or appear to be performance-based, as opposed to around 26 percent in 2001.

Sentinel has staffing issues

The FBI's Sentinel program for IT modernization needs to be staffed more strategically, said a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

"Unless the FBI adopts a more strategic approach to managing human capital for the Sentinel program and treats human capital as a program risk, the chances of delivering required intelligence and investigative support capabilities in a timely and cost effective manner are reduced," GAO wrote.

The FBI has filled 77 percent of the Sentinel program office positions, mostly with contractor staff, GAO said.

Oracle OKs transfers

Oracle Corp. has granted the Army permission to transfer Oracle product technology licenses across the service at no additional cost.

The Army owns more than 225,000 Oracle database licenses. The company's decision to waive license restrictions means the Army can transfer unused licenses to other organizations in the service. The Army estimates it will realize at least $13.4 million in cost savings over the next five years from not having to repurchase licenses.

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