The circuit

Smoke and Mirrors

Illusionist Marco Tempest opened the General Services Administration/Federal Technology Service Network Services Conference 2001 last week in Las Vegas, where the theme was "Experience the Magic." The attendees were entertained, but some thought the choice of a theme was, shall we say, unfortunate.

FTS Commissioner Sandra Bates asked agencies to experience the magic of FTS as it works with vendors to get low prices and service-based options, and she recognized FTS 2001 telecommunications contract success stories at three agencies. Some, however, saw that as an attempt to divert attention from a draft General Accounting Office report that cites inefficiencies and mismanagement in the transition to FTS 2001. The upbeat speech could be a dry run for Bates' testimony at an April 26 hearing before the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

London Bridge?

The federal government is working full-tilt to get the Federal Bridge Certification Authority — the mechanism that would allow multiple agency public-key infrastructures to exchange certificates — online as soon as possible. A federal PKI would use digital certificates to authenticate, authorize and encrypt electronic transactions between agencies and between agencies and citizens.

But several PKI vendors have heard about a British company quietly starting to market its own commercial bridge. So far the U.S. government has sunk more than two years and $3 million into its bridge. But with the Bush administration backing a push from Congress to get agencies to use commercial products at all times, that surely will raise some questions.

A Piece of Unisys

Companies looking for a piece of the action in the government information technology market to offset the sagging commercial sector might want to acquire a federal integrator or two. Unisys Corp. said earlier this year it is evaluating options for its federal business that include selling off the unit or acquiring new federal capabilities. Industry sources say it could be prime real estate for a primarily commercial firm looking for some steady business — perhaps an IBM Corp.-like company. Or a consolidator such as CACI Inc., whose business is primarily federal, could offer to take strategic pieces of Unisys. But don't expect anything too soon. Word has it that Unisys is in the early stages of talking to potential buyers.

Cerfing with the Youngsters

"Father of the Internet" Vinton Cerf said he's really trying to fit in with all the young whippersnappers at WorldCom Inc., where he works. Case in point: He dons a baseball cap with a fake ponytail attached to it when he visits the company cafeteria. "I'm hoping that the ponytail will camouflage that I'm an old fart," he said at last week's National IT Workforce Convocation in San Diego, hosted by the Information Technology Association of America.

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