News briefs

EDS to run data center for DHS

EDS will run the second of two large data centers for the Homeland Security Department under an $800 million, eight-year contract the department awarded the company last week, according to EDS and industry sources.

“It’s a very important contract to us,” EDS spokesman Brad Bass said, adding that neither the company nor the department had yet announced the award.

“We would like to talk about it, but we are restricted in what we can say,” Bass said. “There are national security considerations here.”

“We are going to march to what [DHS officials] say” regarding the data center, he added. “We are looking at a total of eight years.”
DHS already activated a major data center at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The second center will be a backup to the first.

— Wilson P. Dizard III

Governors: Speed release of Real ID regs

State leaders are reminding the federal government that the clock is ticking on standardized, secure driver’s license programs.

Govs. Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware and Jim Gibbons of Nevada pressed the Office of Management and Budget director in a letter sent Sept. 12 to release regulations for the Real ID Act of 2005 and “provide the significant investment necessary to meet the requirements of the federal mandate.”

The law requires state governments to issue standardized driver’s licenses and identification cards to their residents. The federal government is scheduled to release regulations for the program later this year.

The Homeland Security Department plans to issue $34 million in grants in the coming year to help states implement the program, which DHS estimates could cost them $14 billion. However, the governors said they are not happy about using grants to implement Real ID.

“States should not have to choose between our first responders and our motor vehicle operations when obligating funds from this ever-shrinking funding source,” Minner and Gibbons wrote in their letter.

— Wade-Hahn Chan

EPA taps Microsoft for mapping help

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to help people connect the data dots, and it is turning to online maps to improve its ability to plan, direct emergency responders and communicate with policy-makers and the public.

Microsoft recently announced that EPA licensed its Virtual Earth geospatial mapping platform. The agency hopes to have all employees using it soon, said Pat Garvey, manager of EPA’s Facility Registry System, a centrally managed database that identifies facilities, sites or places subject to environmental regulations or of environmental interest. The license permits EPA to use Virtual Earth for as many applications as it chooses.

The agency could start releasing products using Virtual Earth in the next four to six weeks, Garvey said.

EPA hopes by mid-November to provide a host of environmental information — such as data on hazardous liquid waste, wastewater discharge and toxic chemical releases — represented geospatially via the Virtual Earth platform, Garvey said.

The agency also said it wants to use Virtual Earth to assign geographic coordinates to all the facilities it monitors

“We learned an awful lot of lessons from [Hurricane] Katrina, when we had the name and the address of gas stations and chemical companies and other places that might store hazardous waste in a major natural disaster or maybe even explosion,” Garvey said.

“Geocoding means being able to give our emergency response community a full set of facilities, and [having] places of environmental concern with latitude and longitude is going to help them locate those kinds of places in a natural disaster when the street signs are gone.”

-Ben Bain

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