News in brief

General says Marines need warfighting technology

Regardless of who controls Congress, the demand for warfighting technology in the Marine Corps won't soon decrease, said Marine Lt. Gen. Jan Huly, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.

The war on terrorism is a long-term endeavor, regardless of who controls Congress. Roughly 181,000 Marines are now on active duty worldwide.

Huly predicted that, given the demands of the war on terror, the worldwide force would likely be increased by about 10,000 Marines in the near future.

Networks against terror

The network is the key to winning against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations, J-3 of the Joint Staff.

While al-Qaida is a networked organization, "our organization is still the same as before the war, and it is insufficient to defeat the enemy," Lute said.

In the war against al-Qaida, firepower, mass and maneuvers take a back seat to time, precision and location, he said: "You need a network to defeat a network."

Encryption to go

The Agriculture Department is seeking sources and quotes for automated encryption applications to protect sensitive data stored on mobile devices, such as notebook PCs, USB storage devices and personal digital assistants.

The department expects to have a blanket purchasing agreement to buy 150,000 licenses for encryption products in place by Jan. 1. Information is due by Nov. 30.

Be set to bounce back

Plans to protect the nation's critical IT networks and systems focus on developing resiliency and quick recovery rather than on safeguarding against every type of threat, said a new Government Accountability Office report.

Responding to draft versions of the plan, members of five of the 17 sectors ? IT, public health, energy, telecommunications and transportation ? said the plan should emphasize resiliency rather than protection.

The Homeland Security Department rewrote sections of the national plan to acknowledge those preferences.

Feds funded through Dec. 8

The House has passed a second continuing resolution to extend fiscal 2006 spending until Dec. 8. Congress plans to complete the remaining 10 appropriations bills before leaving Dec. 15 for the holiday recess.

The Senate passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, which the House passed in May. But Senate lawmakers said they were not convinced that the e-government initiatives "add value to the Department of Veterans Affairs," and stripped out all funding for 25 Quicksilver projects.

State CIOs take on health IT

An increasing number of state CIOs are active in crafting and monitoring health care IT initiatives, said a new National Association of State Chief Information Officers' Health IT Committee report.

Over the past three years, 11 governors have issued executive orders for health IT initiatives, and 24 state legislatures have passed 36 bills calling for greater use of health IT, the report said.

The results show states' growing interest in using IT to improve patient care and cut costs in state budgets, association officials said.

Open source is intel aid

Developing and sharing open-source information may be the first area in which real collaboration among agencies in the intelligence community is accomplished, said Douglas Naquin, director of the Open Source Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

John Negroponte, director of National Intelligence, believes that "open source can be the first manifestation of an integrated community," Naquin said.

The year-old center's mission is to mine "the world's unguarded knowledge" from all available channels.

IG: SBI-Net at risk

The Homeland Security Department's upcoming Secure Border Initiative Network border surveillance system is at risk of spiraling costs, scheduling delays and over-reliance on contractors, DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner warned in a Nov. 14 report.

Despite SBI-Net's substantial cost estimates between $8 billion and $30 billion, DHS has pursued an aggressive schedule without having demonstrated the capacity to adequately manage the program and reduce its risks, the report said.

The agency lacks the workforce, business processes and management controls to plan and execute a program as major as SBI-Net, the report said.

Fretting over SEWP

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy in coming weeks will resolve whether to reauthorize NASA's successful Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement as a governmentwide acquisition contract.

The General Services Administration has asked the agency to reject NASA's request. GSA should run government-wide acquisition contracts, and let agencies focus on their core missions, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan said in a letter to the policy office.

Sun opens Java

Sun Microsystems Inc. has released the source code to its widely used Java programming language. Analysts said the move could widen the reach of the already prevalent language.

The announcement comes after years of Sun declining to open Java, even as the company released as open source many of its other technologies, including the Solaris operating system. Sun will post Java source code components over the next few months.

Harsher eye on fed IT

Federal IT issues will get closer scrutiny under new congressional leadership, but it is unclear whether the White House's e-government initiative will sink or swim with Democrats in charge, observers said.

E-government is not dead, however. Several experts noted that both the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have, at least under current leadership, built a solid reputation for bipartisanship.

Scrutiny for key DHS works

A controversial data-mining prototype, developed by the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate, is getting close scrutiny from the agency's inspector general.

Inspector General Richard Skinner will review the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement, or Advise, program over coming months to determine how well it is meeting its goals in identifying potential threats, the IG's fiscal 2007 Annual Performance Plan said.

The $40 million program is designed to extract terrorist threat information from large amounts of data.

Give DHS your hand

Officials with the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System program this month told fingerprint system vendors to modify their software and hardware in line with the government's evolving criteria.

The modifications come amid plans to deploy 10-fingerprint systems in fiscal 2008.

"The two-print system has already yielded significant results," DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said. "But to stop the unknown threat, [the 10-print system] will allow us to scan prints against those gathered at terrorist training camps, from battlefields [or other areas]."

DHS to step up screening

The Homeland Security Department disclosed that it is assigning terrorism risk assessments to anyone seeking to enter or leave the United States. The records are excluded from public review and maintained for up to 40 years.

In a Federal Register notice, DHS said the Automated Targeting System passenger screening is not new, but the agency doesn't say when the program began. Public comments on the Nov. 2 announcement are due by Dec. 4.

U.S. scores average on privacy

The United States is better at protecting privacy than the United Kingdom, Russia and China, but worse than Australia, Canada and the rest of the European Union, said a Privacy International report.

The British organization ranked the United States as eighth lowest in the world, with a grade of 2 out of a possible 5.

In enacting and enforcing privacy laws, intercepting communications and monitoring the workplace, the United States ranked last.

Countries ranked most effective in preventing privacy abuses were Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany and Greece.

Canada flies biometric card plan

By year's end, 120,000 aviation workers at 29 major Canadian airports will be carrying biometric identification cards.

The new Restricted Area Identity Card will be used for airport personnel including flight crews, refuelers and caterers, Canadian officials said.

Authorized by Transport Canada and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the card is touted as "the world's first-ever, dual-biometric airport identification system," because it will use both fingerprint and iris biometrics for identity purposes.

Justice mulls Mega 3 bids

The Justice Department has received proposals for the Mega 3 multiple-award project for upgraded litigation case management services to help federal attorneys manage evidence in lawsuits and create databases of case information.

The agency plans to award contracts, worth as much as $950 million over six years, to succeed the expiring Mega 2 litigation case management system pacts.

New CEO at NetWitness

A former Homeland Security Department official is the new CEO of NetWitness Corp., Herndon, Va.

Amit Yoran, previously DHS national cybersecurity division director, will join NetWitness as its chief executive, the company said.

Yoran formerly was CEO and adviser to In-Q-Tel, CIA's venture capital arm, and co-founder and CEO of Riptech Inc., acquired in 2002 by Symantec Corp. (See Last Byte, page 38.)

E-voting hiccups didn't matter

Electronic voting systems attracted criticism and raised suspicions, but appeared generally to perform well in the recent midterm elections, according to first-hand accounts by specialists checking polls in several states.

Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of voters contacted assistance hotlines to report problems, but the troubles they encountered stemmed overwhelmingly from difficulties with training and procedures rather than systems security or other technology flaws, observers said.

Vista OS debuts

Computer makers this month were the first to get Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista, the next generation of Microsoft Windows desktop operating system and successor to Microsoft Windows XP.

In this release to manufacturing, DVDs of the operating system go to Microsoft device-makers and original equipment manufacturers. The early release will let companies finalize device drivers and computer configurations before the operating system's planned general release Jan. 30.

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