USIA unveils data network

The U.S. Information Agency last week unveiled a satellite-based data network that officials said will give diplomats and embassy personnel improved access to e-mail, the Internet, videoconferencing and other communications tools.

The network uses very small-aperture terminals (VSAT) to allow ambassadors and their staffs for the first time to interact in real time with other USIA sites. The network has been deployed at four sites so far.

VSAT has emerged as an alternative means of setting up networks or giving users access to the Internet when conventional networks are unavailable or offer limited capacity.

For more on this story, please go to www.fcw.com.


FAA close to CIO choice

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Jane Garvey said she expects to conduct final interviews in the next week for the FAA's first chief information officer. Art Gross, former CIO at the Internal Revenue Service and now CIO at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center, and John Murray, deputy CIO for information resources in the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service, are said to be the leading candidates for the post. Gross said he was unfamiliar with the situation.


NIST: COTS signature technology OK

The National Institute of Standards and Technology last week announced that agencies may begin using commercial digital signature technology from RSA Data Security Inc., Redwood City, Calif., to secure electronic transactions. Before the announcement, agencies were required to use products containing an algorithm designed by the National Security Agency for digital signature applications.

For more on NIST's ruling, please go to www.fcw.com.


Report: U.S. lax on cybersecurity

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report last week calling President Clinton's efforts to prepare for information warfare too weak to avoid an "electronic Waterloo."

According to the three-year assessment, a Clinton directive issued in May to protect the information systems that run the nation's water, power, banking and other core industries has not done enough to protect these systems from possible cyberattacks. The directive, based on recommendations made by the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, required federal agencies to identify key computer systems and to work with private companies to ramp up the nation's defenses against electronic attacks. According to the report, "The president's commission has identified only the tip of a very large iceberg."

For more on this story, please go to www.fcw.com.


DOD to launch Web training

A senior Defense Department official last week said DOD plans to launch an interactive, World Wide Web-based training program for the DOD's acquisition personnel in an effort to provide training on commercial practices. The official said the three-day training program has been beta-tested and will be available this month or early in January.

DOD's goal is to train at least 1,000 acquisition workers within the next six to nine months. The courses are designed for managers to train alongside entry-level personnel.


FMSS time line released

The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP) last week unveiled the time line for approval of the new requirements and certification process for federal financial management systems. The current Financial Management System Software (FMSS) schedule expires Sept. 30, and JFMIP intends to have the requirements and certification test ready for the new contract.

The draft test and core requirements exposure draft are available for agency and vendor comment online at financenet.gov/financenet/fed/jfmip/pmo.htm. JFMIP plans to finalize the certification test Jan. 30, validate it in February and accept the first round of applications in March for certification by September.


'Share in savings' on tap

The General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service soon will introduce governmentwide the concept of "share in savings," a procurement method through which agencies reward contractors when they meet service levels.

FTS plans to include wording for share in savings in several existing contracts as well as future contracts, such as the $25 billion Millennia program. FTS plans to hold a conference Jan. 25 to educate agencies on how share in savings will work.


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