FCW Insider: Feb. 1

The latest news, quick hits and other updates from FCW's reporters and editors.

Citing cyber risk and personnel issues, the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Director wants to pause the Joint Regional Security Stacks rollout. Lauren C. Williams has the story.

A U.S. District judge said that planned recalls of feds during a shutdown for activities not directly related to protecting life or property could violate the Antideficiency Act. Chase Gunter has the latest from the courthouse in a group of lawsuits challenging federal workforce practices during government shutdowns.

House and Senate appropriators are trying to hash out a deal for Department of Homeland Security funding that the president will sign. While public statements and tweets from President Donald Trump make a deal appear unlikely, lawmakers in the negotiations suggest that a technological upgrade – drones, sensors, scanning equipment and more – could be key to a compromise funding deal to prevent a shutdown on Feb. 15. Mark Rockwell has more.

Quick Hits

*** The House Veterans Affairs Committee is keeping a special subcommittee to focus on the $16 billion electronic health records modernization project. The committee was launched under Republican control by former chairman and current ranking member Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to keep tabs on the 10-year contract to replace the VA's homegrown VistA electronic health records software with a commercial system fielded by Cerner -- in part to achieve interoperability with health records from the Department of Defense, which is deploying a version of the same system.

New chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced Jan. 31 that freshman lawmaker Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) will chair the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization. Former subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) will serve as ranking member.

*** The VA is scrapping a five-year $624 million medical appointment scheduling contract to fast-track the scheduling module in its Cerner system, according to a VA report to House and Senate appropriators.

The contract was awarded to electronic health records firm Epic in 2015, on the heels of a scheduling scandal at VA in which officials were shown to be falsifying reports in existing medical appointments systems to reduce official accounts of the wait times faced by veterans for medical visits.

Spending on the contract stalled out until 2017, as the VA looked to develop a low cost in-house alternative. But in 2017, VA spent more than $17 million on the contract to pilot the Epic system in Columbus, Ohio. Overall, VA has spent $30 million on the Epic system, according to spending data on GovWin.

According to Epic, the Medical Appointments Scheduling System is performing well, interfaces with existing systems across VA and could be deployed across the system in two years.

However, in the wake of the decision to sole-source the VA's health record system to Cerner, the agency has opted to accelerate the deployment of the Cerner scheduling module. The acceleration could result in funds being required sooner than expected. The first Cerner scheduling module is expected to be added to the first deployment of the new health record system when it is ready in 2020, with Cerner scheduling software in place across VA by 2023.

"VA believes there is a return on investment in productivity and efficiency realized by accelerating the scheduling system," Acting Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary Jerome Pannullo wrote in a Dec. 20 report to House and Senate appropriations staff.

The news was first reported in Politico.

*** The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a bug bounty program to detect vulnerabilities in its public facing systems, according to a Jan. 30 contracting notice. The move comes in the wake of a breach of the SEC's EDGAR system used for public companies to file corporate reports. The SEC recently charged nine individuals in the scheme to hack EDGAR and profit from insider trading. According to the sources sought notice, the SEC is looking to contact with an existing bug bounty management vendor to institute a vulnerability disclosure program. Responses are due by Feb. 7.

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