The Circuit

Separating Winners From Losers

The push to consolidate and eliminate redundant systems under the Bush administration's e-government strategy has already signaled fewer contracts for industry in the future. But unfortunately, it looks like there could be more bad news in store for vendors.

The administration's efforts to consolidate the systems at the agencies tapped to go into the proposed Homeland Security Department will leave several current contract-holders out in the cold, said Jim Flyzik, senior adviser for information technology in the Office of Homeland Security, at a Sept. 10 luncheon hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Washington, D.C., chapter.

As the Office of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget review agency investments that are considered redundant, "there will be some winners, there will be some losers," Flyzik said.

It's a safe bet that some people in the audience lost their appetites.

Half Full or Half Empty?

The investment reviews being conducted by the Office of Homeland Security, OMB and several interagency review groups may be getting a bad rap in some corners for delaying the deployment of new systems. But at least one chief information officer is speaking out in favor of the process.

Scott Hastings, CIO at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, is leading one of the most high-profile systems in the homeland security effort — the entry/exit system for foreign visitors to the United States — and the vendor community is concerned that the acquisition is not on schedule. INS is taking a phased approach to the project and plans to fully deploy the system by the end of 2005.

However, it is probably "healthy" that the schedule is slipping a bit, because it is important to get the system right the first time, Hastings said. "I think it will benefit from the kinds of reviews it is going through."

Priority Access on Tap

The Wireless Priority Service — which government officials have been pushing since last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks wreaked havoc on wireless telephone networks — is on schedule to provide priority access to the first cellular tower dedicated for national security officials and first responders nationwide by the end of this year, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency.

In times of a national emergency or crisis, when localized wireless networks typically become congested, the Wireless Priority Service will ensure that national security officials and first responders equipped with special phones have a better chance of having their emergency calls go through. The system puts calls in a queue for the next available channel.

The Wireless Priority Service is on track to be fully operational by December 2003. That will include "end-to-end, device-to-device priority queuing capability" and full integration with the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, Raduege said.

GETS provides government workers with a code that categorizes their calls for priority access. That system worked well after last September's attacks, he added, speaking Sept. 10 at the Homeland Security and National Defense Symposium in Atlantic City, N.J.

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