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Competition underway on $6 billion DHS cyber contract

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The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday released the first request for quote under its $6 billion continuous monitoring contract, according to industry sources.

The RFQ is for cyber tools and equipment, not services. The goal is to increase or extend software licenses that agencies already have in place, at a discounted price, said James Yeager, director of federal civilian sales at McAfee.  As of last month, 12 of the 17 vendors on the contract included McAfee products as part of their tool set available to agencies.

The RFQ will provide tools for 33 departments and agencies and range in value between $37.5 million and $60 million, Yeager said. One or multiple vendors will be selected based on lowest-price, technically acceptable bids.

Contractors have until Friday to submit questions about the RFQ. Responses are due Nov. 22, unless DHS is flooded with questions and opts to extend the deadline, Yeager said. An award is expected within 60 days.

“This task order is not where departments or agencies say ‘I have something, I don’t like it and I want to use something else,’” Yeager said. ”There’s not an option to say, ‘I don’t have anything that meets this requirement, let me tell you want I want.’”

All of the large civilian agencies have signed on to use the contract, which was awarded in August, John Streufert, director of DHS’ Federal Network Resilience division, said at a conference last month. The General Services Administration awarded the blanket purchase agreement on behalf of DHS.

“Our objective is to form up and choose those tools of best value and begin deploying them across some 120 of the largest dot-gov organizations,” Streufert said. He noted that the first proposals would be for commodities, but he expects task orders for services will follow soon after.

Subsequent task orders under the contract are expected in the first half of 2014, Yeager said.

While last month’s 16-day government shutdown delayed work, Streufert doesn’t expect it will impact the overall schedule of the five-year program. And it appears there isn’t too much concern about the program’s viability under the current continuing resolution.

DHS has already spent some of the program’s $185 million fiscal 2013 funds to develop the procurement, Streufert said in a separate interview.

Some agencies are looking to get a more competitive price for existing scanning tools, procure more software licenses or replace tools that didn’t function well in their IT environments, Streufert said.

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IRS, CBP employees could get back pay tomorrow, leaders say

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Employees at the IRS and Customs and Border Protection should get at least some shutdown-related back pay at soon as tomorrow, senior leaders at the two agencies said today.

“You will receive your back and regular pay a full four days earlier than Oct. 28, the day most people would receive pay,” Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in an email to employees. In a similar note, Assistant CBP Commissioner Eugene Schied said that employees there should see retroactive salary payments show up “as early as Thursday.”

The two agencies, whose combined workforces total almost 150,000, are both paid through the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents workers at both IRS and  CBP, is “grateful” that agency leaders “made this a priority and that employees at the agency and at the payment centers worked diligently to get this done,” Colleen Kelley, the union’s president, said in a statement. As early as tomorrow, CBP workers should receive back pay for Pay Period 19, which includes the first week of the shutdown, Kelley said, while a deposit for Pay Period 20 should follow on Monday, Oct. 28.

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DHS gets new cybersecurity chief

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A senior officer at McAfee, Inc., will be the newest deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, according to an Aug. 19 blog post by secretary Janet Napolitano

Phillis Schneck, the vice president for the global public sector at McAfee, Inc., has also held positions at IBM, NASA, the University of Maryland, CygnaCom solutions, and other companies.

Phyllis has been a close partner in our cybersecurity mission for many years. She served for eight years as chairman of the FBI’s InfraGard National Board of Directors and founding president of InfraGard Atlanta, growing the InfraGard program to over 30,000 members nationwide in the past decade, and fostering a relationship between InfraGard and DHS. Equally impressive, Phyllis holds three patents in high-performance and adaptive information security, and has six research publications in the areas of information security, real-time systems, telecom and software engineering.

During my tenure as Secretary, we have strengthened partnerships with the private sector to secure cyber networks and protect physical assets while developing a world-class cybersecurity workforce. In fact, the position of Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity was created in 2011 to act as the Department’s chief cybersecurity policy official, in recognition of the growing importance of cybersecurity to DHS’ mission of strengthening the security and resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure. I am confident that Phyllis will continue these efforts, and build upon the foundations laid by her predecessors, to create a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment and promote cybersecurity knowledge and innovation.

Responses to DHS secretary Napolitano’s resignation from around the web

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As you might have read on Federal Times or elsewhere on the web, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano announced she was resigning, effective in September. And as the day picks up more prominent people are offering their comments on her tenure:

Below are some snippets:

President Barack Obama:

I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years. At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet’s portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She’s worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values. And the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet’s leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. I’ve come to rely on Janet’s judgment and advice, but I’ve also come to value her friendship. And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.

Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

For over four years, Janet Napolitano has led the Department of Homeland Security with dedication, expertise, and vision. Her leadership has been instrumental in carrying out the Department’s mission to protect and secure all Americans, and has made us safer as a nation as a result. She led during a time of many challenges to our homeland– from weather-related disasters to threats to our national security – all the while dealing with a constrained fiscal environment. Even though she had one of the toughest jobs in government, she helped build one cohesive Department of Homeland Security. I’d like to sincerely thank her for her selfless service throughout her role as Secretary and her decades of public service, including her time as Governor of the state of Arizona.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Janet Napolitano has served our nation with honor over the last four years as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in Washington. We have had our share of disagreements during her time as Secretary, but I have never doubted her integrity, work ethic or commitment to our nation’s security. The people of Arizona can be very proud of our former Governor’s service, and I wish her all the best as she assumes leadership of the nation’s largest public university system.

Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

Secretary Napolitano’s tenure at the Department of Homeland Security was defined by a consistent disrespect for the rule of law. The resignation of Secretary Napolitano should refocus the attention of Congress on its first task: to ensure that the executive branch faithfully carries out the laws of the land. The most significant obstacle to immigration reform remains President Obama’s selective enforcement of the law. Any selection—interim or permanent—to replace Secretary Napolitano must disavow these aggressive non-enforcement directives or there is very little hope for successful immigration reform.

App security, identity management top mobile challenges for agencies

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More than a year after the administration released its digital strategy to speed adoption of secure mobile devices, agencies are still grappling with standards for vetting the security of internal and commercial mobile apps.

Today, there isn’t a federal standard for securing mobile apps, but government officials are hopeful a process will be created similar to what’s in place for vetting cloud products and services used in the government.

“In order for an app that’s developed by DHS to be put in a DoD app store there’s going to have to be some level of assurance,” said Robert Palmer, director of information assurance at DHS.

The National Security Agency, DARPA, General Services Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are among the agencies playing a key role in federal mobile security.

“We’re heading toward the direction of standards,” said Palmer, who spoke on a panel Tuesday at the Federal Mobile Computing Summit. He said NIST is set to release draft guidelines for testing and vetting mobile apps.

Verifying the identity of mobile users as they access data from their smartphones and tablets is another challenge.

At the Defense Department,” we still believe that the PIV, our identity management cards, are…the network hygiene of mobility,” said  DOD’s Mark Norton, who also spoke on the panel. The problem is most of the 3 million cards in use at DoD are not used to log onto mobile devices. Norton said DoD is considering technologies, such as near field communication and micro SD cards to help manage user identity.

He said the department currently has 50 mobile pilots underway to test different use cases for the devices.

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Association of Government Accountants honors agency reporting

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Twenty agencies big and small were recently noted for top-notch financial and performance reporting by the Association of Government Accountants.

The “Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting” (CEAR)  singles out “high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports (PARs) and Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) that effectively illustrate and assess financial and program performance, accomplishments and challenges, cost and accountability,” the accountants association said in a news release. The association also spotlights the teams of dedicated federal professionals who (often unsung) put the reports together.

“Given the fiscal status of the United States government and the public’s perceptions about government fiscal accountability and transparency, the achievement of this year’s CEAR recipients is even more significant,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said in the release. The agencies being honored “truly represent a select group within the government financial management community.”

Here’s a rundown of the winners:

Architect of the Capitol
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Trade Commission
NASA
Office of Financial Stability (Treasury Department)
Peace Corps
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Education Department
Housing and Urban Development Department
Interior Department
Labor Department
State Department
Treasury Department
Government Accountability Office
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Patent and Trademark Office
Securities and Exchange Commission
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration

Also honored at the May 22 National Press Club ceremony were 10 agencies that showed “specific points of excellence” within their fiscal year 2012 PARs. Known as ‘Best in Class’ awards, the recipients included:

Health and Human Services Department: Best Summary of Management and Performance Challenges by the Inspector General
Labor Department: Most Complete Schedule of Spending
Peace Corps: Most Comprehensive and Candid Presentation of Forward-Looking Information
FTC: Best Agency Head Message
HUD: Best Presentation of a Financial Management Systems Framework
Interior: Best High-Level Discussion of Performance
Capitol Architect: Best Analysis of an Agency’s Financial Statements
FAA: Most Representative of Editorial Excellence
Department of Homeland Security: Best Improper Payment and Recovery Act Reporting
Central Intelligence Agency: Best Introduction

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DHS says Spires’ departure not linked to CIO authority issues

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The Department of Homeland Security is keeping tight-lipped about the details surrounding the resignation of its former chief information officer, which it says was not prompted by disagreements over authority issues.

In April, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano asking why the department CIO Richard Spires was placed on voluntary or non voluntary leave, who made the final decision regarding his leave and additional information about the current acting CIO.

In a May 13 response, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Nelson Peacock, said personnel and privacy rules prohibit DHS from discussing why Spires took elective leave from the agency and later resigned May 17.

Peacock said Spires was not placed in an administrative leave status because of disagreements concerning his authority as CIO but provided no further details. Concerning acting CIO Margie Graves, Peacock said she is fully qualified to serve in her current role and confirmed that she was hired as a Transportation Security Administration employee in 2003 and was not converted from a consultant position.

In a follow-up letter to DHS this week, Thompson pressed for more details, following the department’s refusal to provide adequate responses. This time, Thompson has asked for a copy of Spires resignation letter; an explanation of why he was placed on leave and who played a role in making that decision; an explanation of who is empowered to make information technology decisions at DHS and Graves’ employment history prior to being named acting CIO.

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DHS’ Richard Spires resigns as CIO

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Richard Spires has resigned from his post as chief information officer at the Department of Homeland Security,  an agency official confirmed Tuesday.

Spires has been on elected leave since March 15, according to the DHS official. But the nature of his resignation is unclear. Margie Graves, the departnment’s deputy CIO, will continue serving as acting CIO.

DHS has yet to respond to earlier requests from Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, concerning Spires’ extended leave from the agency. Specifically, Thompson asked why Spires was placed on voluntary or non voluntary leave, and who made the final decision regarding his leave. Responses were due May 6.

ICE officer wounded in Boston bombing discharged from hospital

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A 32-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, who was one of more than 170 people wounded in Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, was discharged from a local hospital Wednesday. In an e-mail to Federal Times today, ICE said the unnamed, off-duty officer sustained non-life threatening injuries and had surgery Tuesday.

ICE did not say whether the officer was a runner or spectator, but said he lives in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.

Federal Times reported yesterday that an ICE officer had been wounded. The Office of Personnel Management said it was unaware of any other wounded federal employees.

In other news, OPM said Wednesday it has received the Boston Federal Executive Board’s request for a special solicitation to benefit victims of the bombing, and that it expects to make a decision soon.

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Federal, local agencies working together in aftermath of deadly Boston Marathon bombing

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Federal, state and local agencies are working together in the aftermath of 3 explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that has left at least 2 dead and more than 20 people injured.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said in a press conference with reporters Monday that he has talked personally with President Obama and the FBI – who have pledged to help in any way required.

He said the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, Massachusetts State Police and the National Guard were all working together along with local law enforcement and first responders.

“There is a lot of coordination in a very fluid situation,” Patrick said.

The Department of Homeland Security is in contact with state and local authorities and will provide whatever assistance is necessary in the investigation and response to the bombings, according to an agency spokeswoman.