New guidance from the White House seeks to get agencies to break ”bloated, multi-year” projects for information technology acquisitions into more manageable chunks that can be delivered quickly and for less money.
Lengthy acquisition and IT development efforts to deliver massive new systems over years lead to projects that wasted billions of dollars and arrived years behind schedule, Joe Jordan, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator, and Steven VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer, said in a June 14 blog post. By the time some projects launched, technology was obsolete, the officials wrote.
The guidance is meant to show IT, acquisition, finance and program officials how to work together to break investments into pieces and seek solutions that can be delivered shortly after contract award, the blog post said.
“By requiring frequent deliverables, agencies will also be better able to hold contractors accountable for keeping projects on track and delivering solutions that truly meet agency needs,” Jordan and VanRoekel said in the post. “And by breaking investments into smaller chunks, agencies may be able to drive more competition – including small businesses that might not have been equipped to compete for the massive, multi-year projects of the past.”
The document outlines the factors that contracting officers, in support of IT managers, will need to consider when planning modular developments, such as how to ensure that there is competition in the process, how broad or specific the statements of work should be, and when to use fixed-price contracts or rely on contract types or agreements.
NASA will take tips on how to form the next iteration of its governmentwide IT contract this summer, agency officials announced today.
NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) program office will hold 45-minute one-on-one interviews the weeks of July 9 and July 23 to get insight from contractors and interested parties on current and upcoming IT products and trends that will help build SEWP V, according to a news release posted on the SEWP website.
Sixty interview spots are available on first-come basis at https://www.sewp.nasa.gov/registration. The registration is also open to anyone who wants to receive updates on SEWP V.
SEWP V, like its predecessors, will be a governmentwide acquisiton contract, or GWAC. GWACs are available to any federal agency for information technology products and services, including computers and servers, network equipment, storage devices and software. Pre-approved vendors are eligible to compete for task orders placed by customer agencies under those contracts.
Agencies spent $2.3 billion through SEWP IV in 2011, according to the program office.
Forty-two vendors were awarded contracts on SEWP IV in 2007 and 2008. The competed SEWP IV contracts expire in 2014 and have a $5.6 billion ceiling. Four 8(a) non-competed contracts expire next year and are limited to between $3.5 million and $4 million.
Chief information and technology officers from the Veteran Affairs, Justice and Agriculture departments are among the IT executives who will appear weekly on fedscoop.com/fedmentors in a series of one to two-minute videos. In the video interviews, executives offer career advice, insight about their first government jobs and updates on their current work.
This week’s featured mentor is Dave McClure, associate administrator for the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies.
McClure said among his office’s top priorities are expanding mobile interaction with the public and exploring greater use of cloud computing within the federal government. Integrating web, mobile and print platforms is also a priority.
Fedscoop’s online project will run through the end of the year and is designed to prepare and mentor the next generation of federal employees.
The White House held a modernizing government forum earlier this year, inviting more than 50 private-sector chief executive officers to share best business practices with government officials. The White House recently released a report of its findings from the forum — to view the full report, click here.
The results reported aren’t too surprising. The best practices shared by the CEOs were pretty clear — be more transparent, plan your IT projects better, and don’t let IT projects drag on for five years. Do things quickly and implement IT projects in stages to test whether they’ll work, the CEOs said.
Here are a few key points OMB says it will adopt:
- Manage IT projects in a transparent form using tools such as the IT Dashboard.
- Re-evaluate comprehensive IT review processes to make sure leaders know the status of major IT projects.
- Create customer satisfaction surveys to gauge customers’ experiences with the government
The House passed a bill Wednesday banning the installation and use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software on all federal computers, systems and networks.
Peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent, Lime Wire and KazaA pose security risks for the federal government. Rep. Edophus Towns, D-N.Y., introduced HR 4098 after several publicized information breaches involving peer-to-peer programs last year. In one case, confidential House Ethics Committee investigation documents were posted online after a staffer loaded the documents onto her personal computer which had peer-to-peer sharing software installed.
Towns praised the House’s 408-13 vote in a statement.
While I understand that peer-to-peer file sharing software offers great potential, the security risks of open network use on federal computers and systems far exceed that potential. Because of our actions today, important safeguards are now in place to protect sensitive government information.”
The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget’s director to draft guidance to agencies banning the use of the file-sharing software and address the use of peer-to-peer programs on employees and contractors’ home and personal computers that may be used for teleworking.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Many agencies use a single e-mail messaging system across all departments and offices. That’s not the case at the Agriculture Department, which operates 27 different e-mail systems, USDA Chief Information Officer Christopher Smith told a House Agriculture subcommittee Wednesday.
Only the largest departments within the USDA have modernized and use shared e-mail systems. The other departments and agencies operate as they have for years — separately and without collaboration. Each office is responsible for monitoring and maintaining its own e-mail system, which is time consuming and slows down the USDA’s modernization, Smith said.
This fragmented approach has hampered USDA’s ability to implement and adopt new collaboration technologies that leverage part or the entire e-mail platform to deliver services such as instant and unified messaging [integrated phone and e-mail inbox].”
Smith said his office is working to consolidate those 27 disparate e-mail systems into one coherent e-mail platform, though he didn’t have a timeline for the project’s completion.
What are the e-mail systems like at your office? Is there a reason why your office runs its own e-mail system? Or do you use systems such as Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes?
Most federal employees who have a work-issued smartphone have a BlackBerry. If you’re eligible to receive a work phone, do you want to trade your BlackBerry in for an iPhone but can’t because agencies don’t issue iPhones because of security concerns?
I’m writing a story about the iPhone and the government market, and I’d like to hear from federal employees who wish they could use an iPhone at work. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and as always, we don’t publish any e-mails or information without first getting your permission.
The Army is at the forefront of social networking, offering Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to connect the public with soldiers in uniform. And while the military enjoys broad support online — the Army’s Facebook page has 173,000 fans — that doesn’t mean it’s immune from inappropriate posts from those who take issue with the military or politics.
Policing racist, sexist or harassing comments is important to maintaining the military’s integrity, but deleting too many comments may make users suspicious of censorship, said Staff Sgt. Josh Salmons, emerging media coordinator at Fort Meade’s Defense Information School during a Feb. 24 panel at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in Washington, D.C.
Salmons posts notices on social networking pages alerting users that offensive comments may be deleted. By making clear what language is tolerated and the sites’ editorial policies, agencies can keep social networking sites polite and civil, Salmons said.
And the Army’s Facebook page issues a straightforward warning to those who may want to “troll” on the page’s wall and post incendiary comments:
We do not allow graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments or submissions nor do we allow comments that are abusive, hateful or intended to defame anyone or any organization.
Col. Kevin Arata, director of the Army’s online and social media division, said he requires Facebook posts to be suitable for his 12- and 14-year-old kids to read. And the posted policy works, he said, because he now rarely removes comments from the nearly year-old Army Facebook page.
In fact, fellow Facebook users often police the page and call out those who may have stepped over the line of polite conversation, Arata said.
You get a couple nutjobs who want to litter the page, and it’s a guy or gal who has a agenda. The fans came back and said, ‘Hey this is a page for people who like the Army. If you don’t like the Army, go somewhere else.’”
The Veterans Affairs Department has expanded its information technology oversight program designed to weed out underperforming IT projects to include all of the agency’s 282 projects.
The program management and accountability system – PMAS – will be used to evaluate and restart or terminate all VA IT projects. The change was effective Feb. 15 but announced by VA’s Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology Roger Baker at a House Veterans Affairs Committee subcommittee on oversight and investigations hearing Feb. 23.
Using the system to evaluate all of VA’s IT projects will give officials greater insight into how the projects are meeting their goals, Baker said.
Projects that are not meeting milestones will be stopped and either restarted or terminated.”
VA officials introduced the system in June 2009, which sets milestones for projects and assesses the future of late or over-budget projects. The VA temporarily halted 45 of its most troublesome IT projects, 32 of which have been restarted, 12 of which have been stopped and one which is still under review. The pauses and cancelations saved $54 million, Baker said.
Baker and U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra will discuss the oversight program’s expansion during a 9:30 a.m. call with reporters Feb. 24.
Chinese and European hackers gained access to government computers at 10 federal agencies during a recently discovered malware attack.
NetWitness, a Virginia-based private security firm, discovered the breaches at federal agencies and about 2,500 companies worldwide, and announced the findings in a Feb. 17 report. NetWitness did not disclose which agencies were attacked, but the malware appeared to be aimed more at gathering financial and personal login information from private corporations than state secrets. It affects computers running on Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Affected computers are infected with a botnet named ZeuS, which collects and feeds the hackers personal information, including data typed to enter encrypted Web sites and cookies, which store credentials for individual Web sites.
The botnet can also insert additional forms on Web sites to get users to enter more personal information than the site legitimately needs. The malware may have been active since March 2009, according to the report. The botnet is difficult to detect and buries itself deep within computers where users can’t find it, the report states.
Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. are the countries with the most infected computers, the report concludes.
This botnet’s spread provides a good lesson for any computer user — don’t click on any e-mails or social networking links that you don’t trust. If you get a message purporting to be from your bank, check the e-mail address — is it legitimate? Does your bank use e-mail to communicate with you? Don’t enter any information in sites you aren’t confident are legitimate. And if you think you may have an infected computer, talk to your IT professionals as soon as possible. This is a persistent botnet you don’t want lingering on your machine.