SET-ASIDES

CIOs back proposed changes to FAR Part 15 contracting rules T he Chief Information Officers Council has agreed to endorse proposed revisions to Part 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation which governs negotiated contracts. Al Pesachowitz CIO at the Environmental Protection Agency and vice chairman of the CIO Council said officials believe the proposed language would allow agencies to work more closely with vendors and award contracts more quickly.

He said the council observed that the new regulations should make reference to awards of "modular" procurements but that the group's official comments will not make any specific suggestions.

The Clinger-Cohen Act requires agencies to build systems in stages using consecutive contracts where feasible but procedures for such procurements still are being written.

USDA awards more than $1M in grants to help build networks

The Agriculture Department has awarded $1.1 million in matching grant money to help universities build or expand telecommunications networks to provide agricultural information to the public.

Thirteen land-grant universities received money. Among the schools that benefited were Mississippi State University which will establish World Wide Web sites in all Mississippi state and county offices Oklahoma State University which will integrate a network of Oklahoma weather stations and a telecommunications network to provide weather-based management information via the Web and North Carolina State University which will develop interactive Web-based instruction to teach educators how to deliver courses on the Internet.

Free Internet access proposed for public schools and libraries

President Clinton last month introduced a proposal that would provide public schools and libraries with free access to the Internet and make available to them more advanced services at highly discounted rates.

The president's proposal is based upon a plan submitted by the Agriculture Commerce and Education departments to the Federal Communications Commission and the Joint Board on Universal Service. The proposal lays out a framework for implementing a provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act that calls for universal access and discounts on rates.

Under the administration's education-rate plan libraries and elementary and secondary schools would receive basic connectivity and Internet access at "adequate" transmission speeds for free. Other services such as videoconferencing and high-speed access would be discounted from regular market prices.It is not yet clear how the program would be financed.

Universal access is essential said Adam Golodner deputy administrator of the USDA's Rural Utility Service because "by the Year 2000 60 percent of all jobs will require advanced computer skills."

Treasury GSA near deal on federal e-mail services

The Treasury Department and the General Services Administration are getting closer to an agreement on what electronic messaging services each will offer to the rest of the federal government.

Sources indicated that a deal has been tentatively inked but according to John Okay deputy commissioner at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service it will be "at least a couple of weeks" before things are concluded. "We're still working on it " he said.

Treasury earlier this year submitted a proposal to the Interagency Management Council seeking $1 million for a pilot project to offer messaging services through its Treasury Communications System. Before it would give the money the IMC told Treasury to coordinate its efforts with GSA's Electronic Messaging Program Management Office the group tasked with establishing governmentwide electronic messaging requirements for civilian agencies.

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