IRS imaging system costs may double

The General Accounting Office said last month that an imaging system run by the Internal Revenue Service may cost more than double what was expected and is not being used as originally planned.

GAO said the agency had largely overcome the technical problems that plagued the Service Center Recognition/Image Processing System (SCRIPS) in 1995. But the system, designed by Northrop Grumman Data Systems to scan and capture data from several simple paper tax forms, might cost $288 million - $135 million more than what was anticipated.

IRS officials could not be reached for comment. But Northrop Grumman executives said GAO had failed to note changes in the agency's initial plans to deploy SCRIPS - among them, an IRS decision to purchase only half as many systems as intended.

OFPP halts some past-performance rules

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy said last month that agencies do not have to use past performance as a source-selection factor for buys worth less than $1 million, while policy-makers revisit what information agencies should use and the timetable for employing it.

Agencies, particularly the Defense Department, had complained that the requirement to evaluate past performance for small contracts is not cost-effective. The Federal Acquisition Regulation required agencies to adopt past-performance assessments for such buys during the next two years.

New policy proposed for standards use

The Office of Management and Budget has proposed a new version of Circular A-119, the government's policy for developing and using industry standards. Suggested changes would, in part, demand that agencies "avoid dominating" standards-setting groups. The revision, required by the National Technology Transfer Act of 1995, also would require that agencies provide an explanation when they decide not to use "voluntary consensus standards."

NIST moves to unseat DES

As expected, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is moving to replace the required federal standard for the protection of all encrypted data labeled as sensitive but unclassified [FCW, Nov. 11].

NIST last week issued a Federal Register notice seeking comment on a draft of minimum requirements for an algorithm to replace the Data Encryption Standard (DES), the national encryption standard that has been prominent in all but the most secret agencies and that is offered in the products of most federal contractors. DES will be replaced by a Federal Information Processing Standard.

Draft backs state and local MAS buys

A draft General Accounting Office report found no obstacles to state and local governments purchasing information technology products from the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedules (MAS) program.

Bernie Ungar, a GAO associate director, said the report identifies other types of products, such as pharmaceuticals and heavy equipment, which may not be appropriate for cooperative purchasing. But GAO auditors found no evidence of difficulties arising from state and local purchases of IT via GSA schedules.The report was requested by Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-N.H.) after GSA officials announced their intention to open MAS contracts to state and local users.


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