The Circuit

Fighting for PKI Dollars

The federal budget does not make sense at the best of times, but it really gets interesting when a program — sort of — switches agencies.

The federal public-key infrastructure initiative began at the Treasury Department as an effort to develop and support the use of digital certificates across government to facilitate secure electronic transactions. For fiscal 2001, Treas-ury received $3.5 million to support the Federal PKI Steering Committee, the Federal Bridge Certification Authority and the Federal PKI Policy Authority, which governs the bridge. For those who might be wondering, the bridge is the central mechanism that enables the interaction of agency certificates.

That money came through in December, the same month Richard Guida, the initiative's leader, retired from government. Control of the steering committee and the bridge was then transferred to Judith Spencer at the General Services Administration. Now the agencies are working to transfer about $1.8 million of the $3.5 million to GSA. The rest will stay with Treasury, since the head of the policy authority, Michelle Moldenhauer, is still a Treasury employee, according to sources at the agencies.

And it gets even worse. President Bush included a request for another $3.5 million for PKI in the federal budget proposal that was released earlier this month. GSA and Treasury both submitted funding requests to the administration, but the request was placed for GSA and that is where the money will go — at least until another transfer can make its way through the process to give Treasury funding for the policy authority.

British Bungling

Last spring, the State Department and the Energy Department received unwanted attention when computer equipment was lost or stolen from the agencies. Well, apparently U.S. officials aren't the only ones who have trouble hanging onto portable computers.

The London Mirror tabloid reported last week that a British Ministry of Defence laptop containing national security secrets was missing after an official left it in the back of a taxi. The laptop was said to contain information about new weapons systems, the Mirror reported.

The official notified police about the missing laptop, but last week's blunder was the latest in a string of laptops with military or intelligence information reported lost in Britain since March of last year, the paper reported.

It's good to know we aren't alone. Or is it? (Re)Wired at Commerce

The Commerce Department hopes to make an award this week for a contract to rewire its headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

Through the five-year, $6.4 million contract, Commerce will procure the infrastructure it needs to move to an all-digital department by 2002. The winning contractor will install fiber-optic cable to create a single managed backbone to carry voice and data, and will provide services such as help-desk support.

Three contractors are believed to have bid on the contract after surviving a down select, including Network Designs Inc. and Computer & Hi-Tech Management Inc.

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley made a pledge about two years ago to make the department all digital. His plan included building an intranet for employees, making procurement electronic and revamping the Web site.

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