2007 in review

A look back at 2007 in the pages of Federal Computer Week

Jan. 8

The Defense Department responds to increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks by requiring all DOD employees to use their Common Access Cards to log on to networks and use only plain-text e-mail messages. Successful cyberattackers use e-mail to deceive their recipients, who unwittingly let intruders penetrate DOD networks.

The Acquisition Advisory Panel releases its draft final report with recommendations for making the federal acquisition process more competitive. The panel finds that agencies have difficulty putting their requirements into contract language and are amateurs in the use of performance-based contracts.

Jan. 22

The secure identity verification program known as Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 is not an unfunded mandate, says Karen Evans, administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget. She tells agencies they can find the funding if they make HSPD-12 a priority program.

The Defense Information Systems Agency tells industry officials that it intends to buy future computing capabilities as a managed service, not outright as in the past. In addition, DISA says it plans to buy commercial solutions and work on small projects that it can combine using service-oriented architecture standards.

Feb. 12

Bush administration officials propose few major new IT initiatives in the president’s fiscal 2008 budget request, which is 2.7 percent higher than the fiscal 2007 budget request. The administration says major spending increases are unnecessary because of agencies’ improved capital planning and success at reducing duplication.

The Air Force adopts an information management policy for creating, maintaining, accessing and disposing of its electronic information assets, which have grown to 7 petabytes. Storage of those assets costs the Air Force more than $400 million a year.
   
Feb. 26

A 2005 law that changed daylight-saving time requires agencies to patch computer applications to ensure that they continue to properly schedule tasks and create accurate date and time stamps. IT officials who lived through the Year 2000 rollover experience flashbacks, but automated patching systems let agencies change their systems with minimum effort.

Cyberthreats from Chinese hackers prompt DOD officials to discuss developing new policies and procedures for conducing cyberwarfare. “We need to have a debate and figure out how to defend ourselves,” says Air Force Gen. Ronald Keys, commander of the Air Combat Command.

March 12

Microsoft introduces its Vista operating system using the slogan, “The wow starts now.” Many agencies cite upgrade costs, limited 2007 funding, compatibility concerns and more pressing priorities as reasons why they plan to delay upgrading to Vista.

Intelligence officials say social-networking technologies for sharing intelligence information — wikis, blogs and mashups, for example — are developing faster than they can develop policies to govern their use.

March 19

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff issues a management directive that gives the agency’s chief information officer control of IT spending in DHS’ 22 component agencies. Chertoff says the change will not be entirely welcome at DHS. 

Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, tells chief acquisition officers that they are now responsible for cleaning up federal procurement data. Denett says the Federal Procurement Data System has so many inaccuracies that it can’t be trusted.

Employees can use only approved thumb dri ves that hold no more than 2G of data and meet the Nat ional Institute of Standards and Technology’s Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 for encrypting data, according to a new Veterans Affairs Department policy that officials say will take effect in April.

March 26

Federal Computer Week honors 100 government and industry employees through its 2007 Federal 100 awards program, which recognizes individuals for their exceptional contributions to the IT community in 2006.

April 2

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) holds a hearing to question the General Services Administration’s administrator, Lurita Doan, about allegations of inappropriate or possibly unlawful behavior related to a political presentation that Karl Rove’s deputy, J. Scott Jennings, made at GSA headquarters in January.

GSA says it expects 135 agencies to participate and spend about $20 billion through its Networx telecommunications and data networks program. GSA awarded the first of two Networx contracts March 29 to AT&T, Qwest Government Services and Verizon Business Services.

VA is swamped with disability applications. In 2006, it received 800,000 from recently returned warfighters and longtime veterans. Those applications are in addition to an existing backlog of 387,000 veterans’ claims that VA can’t process until it receives missing information.

April 16

DOD and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report they are making significant progress in sharing intelligence information, but critics worry that the rest of government is being left behind.

Agencies have been taking companies at their word when they assert that their antivirus software meets the government’s mandatory FIPS 140-2. OMB says that lackadaisical practice must stop.

Renato “Renny” DiPentima steps down as president of SRA International, where he has worked for 12 years. He joined SRA after 33 years as a government executive, most of them at the Social Security
Administration.

April 23

The Coast Guard boots the lead integrator for its $24 billion Deepwater ship modernization program. The Coast Guard announces the change just as the Justice Department opens an investigation into allegations of fraud by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The companies are united in a joint venture to work as lead integrator for Deepwater.

Faced with a shortage of workers with security clearances, some intelligence agencies are identifying candidates coming out of high school and offering them security clearances. “They have no history,” says Evan Lesser, director of ClearanceJobs.com. “Obtaining a clearance for them is a pretty quick process.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) says she favors reducing the government’s reliance on the private sector by cutting 500,000 federal contracting jobs and creating more public-sector jobs.

April 30

GSA says it expects to earn $3.7 billion from its assisted-acquisition services, but that will leave the agency $46 million short of the money it needs to cover its costs for providing those services.

OMB asks agencies to submit plans by May 1 describing how they will comply with OMB’s new mandate for implementing Windows baseline security configurations. Those configurations will make federal systems more secure and save money, Evans says.

May 7

Program and project managers learn that a new OMB policy requires them to become certified to perform their jobs. Those seeking certification at the senior/expert level, for example, must take 112 hours of coursework.

May 14

DOD issues a new data-sharing policy that requires agencies to anticipate their data being used by nongovernmental organizations, coalition partners, other federal agencies, and state and local governments —and to act accordingly.

May 21

The Army issues a policy forbidding service members from using military networks to access social-networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace. Officials cite security and bandwidth concerns as reasons for the new policy.

Marty Wagner, recently retired from GSA, joins the IBM Center for the Business of Government, where he will be a senior fellow.

May 28

Special Counsel Scott Bloch rules that Doan violated the Hatch Act with a comment she made in January at a brown-bag lunch for political appointees hosted by Rove’s deputy at GSA headquarters. The act prevents employees from engaging in political activities at work.

Some leaders of the health IT movement say they are momentarily exhausted from their efforts to get health care providers to switch to electronic health records. “We are at a point where we have run out of adrenaline,” says Scott Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Health IT.

June 4

The president signs a war supplemental bill that will provide more than $320 million for biometrics to track extremists in Iraq.

OMB asks agencies to eliminate all unnecessary Social Security numbers from their records by April 2009 as a data security precaution.

June 11

A new Federal Computer Week survey finds that the theft of a VA laptop PC last year alarmed many agency officials and prompted them to take steps to improve data security.

June 18
 
The government sets up a SmartBuy blanket purchase agreement with 11 companies that sell data encryption products. GSA and DOD negotiate terms that let state and local governments buy encryption products at the contract’s volume-discounted prices.

Archivist Allen Weinstein issues a policy that prohibits the National Archives and Records Administration from archiving any federal records that agencies create using digital rights management or enterprise rights management software. Those controls defeat the purpose of archiving by making the records unreadable.

June 25

A congressional investigation into missing e-mail messages that White House officials created using nongovernmental accounts highlights the sorry state of federal records management, experts say.

The CIA’s new director, Gen. Michael Hayden, sets a goal of reducing the agency’s contractor workforce by 10 percent in 15 months. Hayden says he wants to prevent the CIA from becoming “a farm team for contractors,” a reference to the practice of employees leaving the agency and returning at higher salaries as contractor employees.

July 9

An employee union representing GSA employees says it is preparing to file an unfair labor practices charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to protest mandatory background checks required under HSPD-12.

July 16

GSA enforces a provision of a governmentwide acquisition contract for minority-owned small businesses by dropping 197 companies from the contract because they failed to meet its minimum sales  requirement of $100,000 in the first three years of the deal.

New amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establish electronic-document handling procedures that agencies must follow if they are sued.

July 23

Charles Christopherson Jr. become the Agriculture Department’s CIO while retaining his role as chief financial officer. Christopherson replaces Dave Combs, who left the CIO position last month.

Robert Mocny, director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, says the missing exit portion of US-VISIT will use biometrics technology and be in place by December 2008.

July 30

Thomas McNamara, the top intelligence official in the Office of the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, says he will recommend to President Bush a plan to curb agencies’ excessive restrictions on unclassified information.

Aug. 6

Senior leaders at the Government Accountability Office reach an accord with leaders representing a union that wants to represent GAO analysts, paving the way for a union representation vote.

Aug. 13

Three lawmakers insert language into the House version of the fiscal 2008 DOD appropriations bill in an effort to block funding for critical portions of DOD’s controversial National Security Personnel System. NSPS will change pay and labor relations rules for DOD’s civilian employees.

An FCW survey finds that many federal IT employees are unaware of the challenges involved in a mandatory transition to a new generation of IP in June 2008. 

GSA, on behalf of OMB, asks vendors for information about available technologies for logging and tracking sensitive information that people copy or extract from databases.

Aug. 20

Half of all agencies receive failing grades on the first small-business contracting score card. However, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, warns that data in the FPDS, on which SBA based its scores, is unreliable.

ODNI says it will make recommendations at the end of the month for speeding the process of obtaining security clearances that require secret and top-secret investigations. One step that could speed the process will occur in October, when the Office of Personnel Management switches to electronic security clearance application forms.

Aug. 27

A senior Marine Corps official says the Federal Acquisition Regulation acts as a drag on the military’s ability to buy cutting-edge IT for warfighters.

A NASA workforce that is preparing for retirement could hurt the agency’s program for sending astronauts to the moon, says Paul Curto, chief technologist in the Office of the NASA Chief Engineer.

Sept. 3

The Federal Aviation Administration awards a $1.86 billion contract to ITT to replace the agency’s outdated radar system with a satellite-based system for pinpointing the location of aircraft.

Sept. 10

Twenty-eight employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory file a class-action lawsuit to protest background checks required under the government’s secure identity verification program. The suit states that the background checks are unnecessarily intrusive and v iolate employees’ right to privacy.

Administration officials say their policies to expand competitive sourcing are increasingly under attack by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Lawmakers have inserted language in 11 agency appropriations bills that would restrict public/private job competitions meant to outsource federal jobs that the administration says are not inherently governmental.

Sept. 17

Sun Microsystems cancels its multiple-award schedule contract with GSA because of a long-running dispute about pricing information that GSA’s inspector general wanted Sun to provide.

Sept. 24


GAO analysts vote 897 to 445 to join the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a union that represents other highly skilled federal workers, including employees at the Congressional Research Service.

OPM posts a warning on its USAJobs Web site to alert job seekers that scam artists might use information obtained from a recent malware attack on the USAJobs database to trick unsuspecting victims into disclosing personal information.

Administration officials remind agencies of a little-known provision in the GSA Modernization Act of 2006 that permits retirees to fill needed acquisition jobs without losing pension benefits.

Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani says he isn’t worried about the retirement brain drain that concerns many federal executives. “Forty-two percent are coming up for retirement. I wouldn’t rehire half of them,” Giuliani tells members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Oct. 1

The Treasury Department awards AT&T a $270 million task order under GSA’s Networx Universal contract.

Oct. 8

John Young, the nominee to be DOD’s top acquisition official, issues a policy that requires bidding teams to create system prototypes during the early stages of any pending and future programs. Young says prototypes are necessary to reduce technical risks, validate system designs and evaluate manufacturing processes.

Oct. 15

A government watchdog organization requests a temporary restraining order that would require the White House to preserve backup tapes that might contain copies of missing e-mail messages sought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

VA says it will review its data center consolidation and migration procedures after a system outage lasting nine hours disabled its electronic health records system at 17 VA medical facilities.

Oct. 29

Agencies fall far short of meeting an Oct. 27 deadline for issuing secure identity verification cards to employees and contractors who have worked in the government for 15 years or less. Only 1 percent of more than 2.3 million employees and contractors have been issued smart-card badges.

Nov. 5

A senior DOD official in charge of personnel and readiness says DOD and Congress must reach a consensus on collective-bargaining issues in the statute that authorized DOD to create the NSPS. Those issues remain an obstacle to implementing NSPS departmentwide, he says.

Nov. 12

A panel of DOD experts reports that the Army overworks and undervalues i ts contracting officers. Their workload has increased 600 percent since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

DISA officials complain that industry is not offering technology solutions that satisfy its network-centric requirements. DISA says it may have to hire a capabilities broker to help it find those technologies in the
marketplace.

With President Bush and Congress at loggerheads over fiscal 2008 appropriations bills, agencies face an extended budget freeze.

Nov. 26

President Bush issues an executive order that institutionalizes use of the administration’s Program Assessment Rating Tool and requires agencies to measure improvements in program performance.

Dec. 3

Agencies are told they must devel op plans to limit the number of Internet connections into their departments and agencies under a new governmentwide program, the Trusted Internet Connections initiative. Its urpose is to improve federal network security and save money by reducing the total number of Internet gateways from more than 1,000 to about 50.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) lifts the curtain on his technology platform by promising to create a federal chief technology position to promote greater transparency in government.

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