Week in Review

Ethics on our minds

In an increasingly decentralized world, finding issues that galvanize large numbers of people is difficult. But ethics is one topic that has captured the attention of the entire government information technology community.

One indicator of that trend is the presence of the Sept. 4 Federal Computer Week article "5 ethical missteps and how to avoid them" at the top of FCW.com's most-read list for nearly a week.

Government ethics has also become a political issue in the weeks preceding November¹s midterm elections. Last week, some House Democrats -- calling themselves the House Democratic Waste, Fraud and Abuse Truth Squad -- introduced a bill that would put strict limits on noncompetitive contracts, among other things.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which passed the Senate last week, is another example of ethics' increasing presence. When a few unnamed senators stalled the bill, the blogosphere started working on the issue, and the bill made its way to the Senate floor.

When government officials consider those issues, many recall the days of the Brooks Act, when agencies had to carefully manage all federal buys. That era mitigated risks, but it also mitigated flexibilities and creativity.

With few legislative days left, many budget bills left unresolved and elections looming, no one knows how much action lawmakers will take on those issues. But ethics is clearly high on people's minds.

Other noteworthy news

New York City awarded Northrop Grumman a $500 million contract to develop a broadband wireless network, which the city characterized as the "most aggressive commitment by any municipality to provide a next-generation public safety network."... The Homeland Security Department released results of its Cyber Storm cybersecurity exercise, which found that the department is poorly prepared to deal with a major cyberattack.... Ground sensors, cameras and other technologies offer no fail-safe border protection, according to the testimony of experts before the House Science Committee.... A House Government Reform subcommittee voted to approve a revised version of the Federal Family Health Information Technology Act of 2006, which would mandate the creation of electronic health records for the 8 million people covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.... Since the Support for Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act became law, the number of companies applying to DHS for protection under the legislation has fallen well below expectations, said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).... Congress prepared to send legislation to President Bush that would require the Office of Management and Budget to build a publicly searchable online database of all federal grants and contracts.... DHS has a potential candidate to fill the almost yearlong vacant position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity, pending results of security clearance procedures, said George Foresman, DHS' undersecretary for preparedness.... The Government Accountability Office found major problems in the Defense Department's Joint Tactical Radio System program, which would provide low-cost portable software for use in military radios.... The Homeland Security Information Network came under fire from DHS' Office of the Inspector General, which said management and trust problems have undermined the project.... The Coast Guard has not done enough to ensure the success of its 20-year, $20 billion Deepwater fleet improvement program, according to DHS' IG.... The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is using a competitive gaming approach to refresh the way the federal government thinks about information system security certification and accreditation.... The Government Printing Office announced the retirement of longtime agency official Judith Russell, marking the second major leadership change at GPO in the past six months.... The Department of Health and Human Services launched a program to integrate genomics into clinical information systems so that doctors can consider a patient's genetic makeup when trying to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases.... DOD may be failing to issue periodic updates on critical acquisition staffing as required by law, according to GAO.

A roundup of the week's news, complete with links to the original stories, can be found on FCW.com Download's Week in Review.

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