Buzz of the Week

We remember going back to school in September when everyone would be buzzing with stories about what they did during the summer. There were tales of tours and trips.

Now once again — with the Labor Day holiday behind us — playtime is over, and it’s time to get back to work.

Sept. 1 begins a one-month countdown to the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. When Democrats took control of Congress, they promised that they would get the 12 spending bills passed on time. If they succeed, it would be the first time in at least 11 years that agencies would have money to spend at the start of a fiscal year, said Steve Charles, co-founder and executive vice president of immixGroup. But with fewer than 28 days remaining before the start of the new fiscal year and not a single spending bill having snaked its way through the process, it seems more than likely we will see an even dozen years without start-of-year spending.

Charles said the House has finished work on most of its appropriations bills, but it remains to be seen what the Senate will do.

From what we can see from here, it’s most likely that federal agencies will be dealing with the spending constraints of a continuing resolution. Of course, a continuing resolution means agencies cannot start any new projects. Federal agencies get only a small tranche of money to carry them through a certain period of time. Those funds generally provide agencies with funds to cover their payroll and other operating obligations.

So it seems there will be no happy fiscal new year parties, unless Congress does a lot of work done between now and the end of the month.
So … how was your summer?

# 2: Exit Warner, enter Davis?
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) announced Friday that he will retire from the Senate when his term expires in 2008. What does that mean for government information technology? Most likely, it means that Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will make a run for the Senate.

Davis’ office put out a statement praising Warner and noting that "an announcement from me on my future plans can wait for another day."
So, we'll have to wait for another day for the official announcement, but we're betting he'll go for it.

#3: A prescription for drug safety
The Food and Drug Administration will use the electronic health records of at least some of the Defense Department’s 9.1 million service members and their families to monitor the efficacy of prescription drugs after FDA has approved their use. Some critics have faulted the agency for not having an effective system for monitoring the safety and effectiveness of drugs after they enter the marketplace. FDA and DOD said they would protect the privacy of health records.

#4: Who will lead?
The realization that lead systems integrators could be contributing to the Defense Department’s cost overruns on Future Combat Systems and other large programs is causing senior DOD officials to question the entire concept. Shay Assad, director of Defense procurement and acquisition policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told Federal Computer Week that DOD will use lead systems integrators sparingly, if at all, in the future because the risk of organizational conflicts of interest is too great.

#5: They can stand the heat
The Forest Service has been using an unmanned aircraft borrowed from NASA to fight several major wildfires this season, the San Jose Mercury News reported last week.

Sensors in the small plane capture thermal infrared images of hot spots and flare-ups. The drone sends those real-time images via satellite to NASA’s Ames Research Center. Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, can view the images as overlays on Google Earth maps and use the information to better position their fire cr ws.

# 6: More GSA vs. Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy doesn’t think the General Services Administration’s inspector general can conduct an impartial audit of Sun’s government price-discounting strategy, so he has asked to have an outside party conduct the audit.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is so frustrated with the pricing controversy that last week he asked GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to cancel Sun’s schedule contract.

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