DHS networks flop

Despite an $893 million outlay on information-sharing networks in the past two years, the Homeland Security and Justice departments do not have effective networks in place, a Government Accountability Office report states.

GAO's greatest concerns are with the underused $32.4 million Homeland Security Information Network, which is supposed to coordinate with state and local partners. DHS rushed into the project without first taking an inventory of existing information-sharing initiatives and did not effectively plan and coordinate with state and local efforts, the report states.

CDW-G seeks small-biz partners

CDW Government Inc. issued a request for proposals for small-businesses partners.
Business going to members of CDW-G's Small Business Partner Consortium
nearly doubled from 2005 to 2006, CDW-G said.

The consortium includes 14 companies that can team with CDW-G to bid for federal government contracts. The Air Force, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory are among the customers buying technology products and services from the consortium, CDW-G said.

Vendors want say in Common Criteria

The Common Criteria program isn't meeting the Defense Department's security needs, but it could be more relevant if software vendors had input into the standards development process, said Wesley Higaki, the Symantec Corp. executive overseeing the company's Common Criteria efforts.

It doesn't help agencies make their products more secure, he said. "It's just a procurement hurdle at this point."

Agencies must use IT that meets Common Criteria security standards for networks that carry secure information, and vendors must pay high fees for the evaluations, which can take up to a year.

FCC seeks input on spectrum

The Federal Communications Commission has invited public comment on a proposal advanced by Frontline Wireless LLC to set aside a 22 MHz block of radio spectrum for a first responders' wireless broadband network. Comments are due by May 23.

NASCIO urges more security funds

State chief information officers want the federal government to restore fiscal 2008 homeland security funding ? some of which can be used to meet Real ID Act requirements ? to fiscal 2007 levels.

The cost of homeland security programs and lack of sufficient funding for initiatives were key issues members of the National Association of State CIOs raised with Congress during the group's annual DC Fly-In, which coincides with its midyear conference.

IT faces competition for funds

Despite recent years' strong revenue growth among state governments, information technology funding will face increasingly stiff competition from formidable priorities such as health care, education and transportation, said members of a state fiscal forecast panel at the NASCIO midyear conference.

State revenue growth was strong in fiscal 2006 and 2007 but will slow in fiscal 2008, said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers and a panel member at the NASCIO conference.

Terrorists use Net for recruiting

Terrorists are increasingly using the Internet to spread radical ideologies, and countering those efforts will require increasingly sophisticated communications and online investigations, experts testified at a recent Senate hearing.

"The benefits to terrorist groups of a cheap and anonymous multimedia communications system are obvious," said Michael Doran, deputy assistant secretary of Defense. He estimated that terrorists' Web sites number in the thousands.

Firms dispute HSPD-12 award

Two companies have protested the General Services Administration's $66 million award to EDS Corp. to run the agency's Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 Managed Services Office.

XTec Inc. and Computer Literacy World Inc. filed protests May 1 with the Government Accountability Office, according to the agency's bid protest docket Web site.

Rep. urges better gun-buyer data

In the wake of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute shootings, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) is promoting legislation to improve a national database used to check potential gun buyers for criminal records or history of mental illness.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Act would make $750 million available to state agencies through 2010 to automate their information and send it to the national database.

AT&T touts small-biz opportunities

As AT&T Government Solutions begins to develop business based on its March win of the General Services Administration's Networx Universal contract, it is recruiting small-business partners.

GSA announced this month that AT&T is one of the winners of the Satellite Services-II contract.

The awards likely will translate into opportunities for small-business partners that can provide specialized services.

FEMA finds redemption

Strong leadership is essential for agencies to fulfill their missions, especially when an agency is trying to rebound from a major public stumble, said a Federal Emergency Management Agency official.

Widely blamed for botching the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA is making systemic changes, including developing a one-stop process for citizens to apply for federal disaster relief, said Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, FEMA's deputy administrator.

Coalition attacks Real ID Act regs

Fifty civil-liberties and consumer organizations are waging a national campaign against the Real ID Act regulations issued by the Homeland Security Department because they believe the new identification system will negatively affect privacy and civil rights.

The purpose of the effort is "to stop the nation's first national ID system," the coalition said.

The groups say they are concerned about the risk of counterfeiting and identity theft because the ID cards lack security to prevent unauthorized access to the information on them.

Fed network hacks worry House

The House Homeland Security Committee wants to know whether DHS' networks have been hacked.

Six members of the committee wrote to DHS CIO Scott Charbo to ask 13 questions about the department's IT systems security.

The committee is expanding its review of federal IT systems, starting with DHS.

DHS data center breaks new path

DHS will select a vendor this summer to build a second cross-agency data center.
The department has directed prospective contractors to propose sites in the Western United States to help shield the facility from any major East Coast electricity blackout.

The department likely will announce an award for the second data center this summer, according to Input Inc.

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