The Circuit

GovNet in the Shadows

The concept of creating GovNet — a secure intranet for government applications — is still very much alive, but no decision has been made on whether to move forward with it or exactly how to move forward with it, said Andrew Purdy, senior adviser for information technology security and privacy on the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.

The White House proposed GovNet last year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But how best to sustain service during an attack is still an unanswered question. GovNet is being considered as one option for doing that, but there may be others out there, Purdy said at a Cato Institute forum last week.

What's Behind the Curtain?

What's that expression about the best-laid plans? Patrick Schambach, the Transportation Security Administration's associate undersecretary for information and security technology, said there's no need for TSA to build its own human resources, financial management and acquisition back-end management systems if it can use the systems of another agency that is also destined for the proposed Homeland Security Department. Eventually, the entire department will function as an integrated whole.

Schambach was counting on the Customs Service as a potential candidate. Customs chief information officer Woody Hall said he, too, is looking forward to using what is being done by other agencies moving into the proposed department. Customs modernization apparently is still a work in progress. "We need a lot of work there," Hall quipped at a recent Industry Advisory Council gathering.

Under Pressure

Think your job is stressful? Consider the people responsible for launching the proposed Homeland Security Department. The department, which will combine pieces of 22 federal agencies, is expected to be ready to operate on Day One. But the standoff between Congress and the White House concerning workforce protections in the proposed department will likely mean that the debate will continue well into the new fiscal year.

But the longer the debates continue, the less time there will be to plan the department, said Ronald Miller, who is on detail to the department's Transition Planning Office. Miller said he expects the Jan. 1, 2003, deadline for launching the department to stand, so the sooner a compromise is reached, the better. Once the bill is passed, getting everything done in time will likely be hard, fast and painful, he said.

Another Look at Competition

Governmentwide acquisition contracts that offer products and services from many vendors stay true to the spirit of competition, but is the same true for smaller GWACs that only represent a handful of vendors? That's the issue facing an Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) interagency working group. The group is trying to figure out the perfect balance between operational efficiency and competition.

Part of the concern is that choosing from a small group of suppliers may not actually produce the best value, said Angela Styles, administrator of OFPP. "My office is and will continue to struggle with what we do with these vehicles," Styles said at the Homeland Security Tech Expo in Washington, D.C. The General Services Administration's e-Buy system provides a good model, she said, because e-Buy bids go out to all e-Buy vendors. But too many responses can slow things down. Who said procurement was easy?

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