Federal Bytes

DOOR NO. 2. Believe it or not, it can be heartbreaking to read General Accounting Office protest decisions. Take the case of Integrated Support Systems Inc., which protested the award of the Commerce Department's Commerce Information Technology Services acquisition.

On the day bids were due, the company's president went to Commerce headquarters to hand-deliver his bid. He arrived at 2:57 p.m. - three minutes before the 3 p.m. deadline for accepting bids. There was just one problem: He went to the wrong entrance.

The ISSI president was informed that bids were only accepted at "the other 15th Street entrance"—the one marked "courier entrance." He quickly proceeded to the other entrance and dropped off the bid. Unfortunately, a Commerce contract specialist had declared at 3:01 that no more bids would be accepted, and ISSI's bid didn't make it in time.

ISSI's protest complained that Commerce's request for proposals was ambiguous as to exactly where bids should be delivered. But GAO wasn't buying it. "The protester significantly contributed to the late receipt of its proposal where it failed to allow sufficient time to permit a timely submission," GAO concluded in its ruling this month.

Maybe the "dog ate it" excuse would have worked better.

***TOOTING HIS HORN. Last week, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that the federal government would spend more than $8.3 billion fixing its computers for the Year 2000. Just a little more than two years ago, OMB predicted that Year 2000 fixes would cost the government a bit more than $2 billion.

Back then, Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), the House's Year 2000 watchdog and the chairman of the House Government Information, Management and Technology Subcommittee, criticized OMB's figure as way too low and boldly predicted that federal Year 2000 costs would top $10 billion.

FCW called a subcommittee staffer to find out the secret to Horn's prognostication ability. We were told it may have something to do with Horn's history as a college president and a professor.Smart guy.

***NOT PICTURE PERFECT. The General Services Administration's new all-in-one smart card is bringing the latest and greatest technology to the agency. Under a pilot test of the card, 400 GSA employees have a single card for identification, travel, purchasing, building access and several other functions.

GSA Federal Technology Service commissioner Dennis Fischer passed around his card the other week at the Information Resources Management Conference '99 in Williamsburg, Va., to show off the agency's new toy. While he was clearly impressed with the technology, he admitted smart cards are not yet perfect.

"I apologize for the picture," he said. "It shows the limits of photo reproductive technology."

***SMART ALECK. David Wennergren, deputy chief information officer for Year 2000 and information assurance at the Navy, mused that he has come up with a creative alternative to equipping everyone in the Navy with smart cards and smart card readers.

At the recent Defending Cyberspace '99 conference, Wennergren noted that American Express is offering a new chip-embedded credit card and a card reader for no annual fee. If federal employees call American Express to take advantage of this offer, the government could save a lot of money on smart cards, he quipped.

Guess this is what they mean by the government acting more like a business.

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