News in Brief

USAF cloud pilot, FSSI protests, highway hackers, a new day for drones and more

Image from Shutterstock.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Lockheed, Air Force demo cloud-based web portal

Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force are piloting a cloud service they hope will eventually reach 800,000 users of an Air Force-wide Web portal. The pilot concludes next month and is meant to show that the cloud is technically and operationally suited for the Air Force, the Bethesda, Md.-based defense giant said June 10.

Moving the portal to the cloud could also speed the Air Force's processing time for service requests, according to Lockheed Martin, which developed the cloud with the Global Combat Support System – Air Force (GCSS-AF).

"The cloud pilot enables us to assess the viability of achieving significant costs savings while also increasing warfighter efficiencies," GCSS-AF Program Director Michael Clark said in a statement.

Angela Heise, a vice president at Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions, also touted the cloud's cost-saving potential. "Migrating to a cloud-based environment introduces on-demand service requests and enables the warfighter to bring the capability to the frontlines with lower start up and maintenance costs," she said in a statement. Lockheed Martin officials interviewed by FCW declined to say what the next concrete step would be after the pilot.

GCSS-AF recently began giving warfighters portal access via mobile devices, Lockheed noted.

GAO upholds FSSI office supplies deal

The Government Accountability Office's dismissal of several protests against a government-wide office supplies contract was hailed by the General Services Administration as an important step in the effort to implement the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

On June 10, GAO dismissed a number of protests alleging that the procurement for GSA's FSSI Office Supply Third Generation (OS3) solution for government-wide provision of office supplies did not comply with the Small Business Jobs Act.

"This ruling is an important step in our efforts to continue buying smarter on behalf of the federal government to help small businesses and save taxpayer money," said GSA Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Tom Sharpe. "Everyday shoppers know that buying in bulk saves both time and money, and the government has a similar responsibility to leverage its buying power to get the best value for the taxpayer."

The GAO found the contract was "consistent with the relevant statutory requirements," and that GSA had "reasonably considered the potential impact on small businesses and concluded that the consolidation would result in substantial benefits to the government."

The protestors, which included American Toner & Ink and Capital Shredder Corp., said GSA's OS3 solicitation consolidated existing contracts for office supply items into a smaller pool of multiple-award contracts that shut out small businesses.

Arguments concerning small businesses' rights slowed GSA's solicitation for its $60 billion One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) contract aimed at management consulting, program management, financial management, engineering, and scientific services. Those protests were eventually dismissed. The GSA awarded the OASIS contract in May, but protests of the awards are expected.

DHS targets highway hackers

The Department of Homeland Security wants to stop the road sign hijinks of some highway hackers.

An electronic highway messaging sign used by road maintenance departments of states and municipalities across the country has become a favorite target of pranksters, who have learned to hack the device. A slew of bogus -- sometimes humorous -- warnings to motorists (think "Zombie Plague Ahead" and similar fare) have been posted on the signs over the last few months.

DHS issued a warning to the official users on June 6, saying the sign's configuration software had a default password that was supposed to be changed upon installation. The alert from DHS Industrial Control Systems-Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), said the sign's maker, Daktronics Vanguard, was working to identify mitigations to block unauthorized access. The alert recommended sign operators to review messages, update access credentials and harden communication paths to the signs.

ICS-CERT also said the signs' display programming capabilities should not be made available through publicly accessible IP addresses, but through a private network or a VPN. Disabling networking, webpage and web LCD interfaces when they are not needed was also suggested, as was changing the default password as soon as possible.

FAA approves first commercial drone flights over land

On the heels of unveiling a third U.S. drone test site, the Federal Aviation Administration said it has issued its first authorization for a company to conduct commercial drone operations over land.

The FAA said June 10 that it has approved energy provider BP and unmanned aircraft systems manufacturer AeroVironment to fly a Puma AE for aerial surveys in Alaska. The hand-launched craft is about four-and-a-half feet long with a nine-foot wingspan.

The agency said it had issued restricted category type certificates to the Puma and Insitu's Scan Eagle, another small UAS last summer, but those certificates were limited to aerial surveillance over Arctic waters.

The FAA said it issued a certificate of waiver or authorization to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, the largest U.S. oilfield. AeroVironment performed the first flight for BP on June 8.



Army finalizes $774M ITES 2H extension

Washington Technology reports that the Army has extended the ITES 2H contract for hardware, software and related services for another year and another $774 million dollars.

The $5 billion contract needs more time because the Army isn't ready to make awards for the follow-on ITES 3H contract.

The Army first signaled the need for an extension with a FedBizOpps notice last month. On June 9, it announced the extension on the DefenseLink webpage.

CrowdStrike flags another China cyberattacker

There is at least one more unit of the Chinese military launching cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure aside from the one highlighted last month by a Department of a Justice indictment. So said a report publicized June 9 by Irvine, Calif.-based IT security provider CrowdStrike.

Shanghai-based Unit 61486 of the People's Liberation Army, which supports China's space surveillance network, is hacking away at the trade secrets of satellite, aerospace and communications firms around the world, the report alleged.

CrowdStrike said it has been tracking the unit, which it dubbed "Putter Panda," since 2012. About half of the more than 70 cyber-espionage groups tracked by CrowdStrike operate from China, probably at the behest of the Chinese government, the firm added.

In response to the DOJ indictments, Beijing vociferously denied any wrongdoing and canceled a cybersecurity working group with Washington.

In publicizing the report, which was initially meant only for clients, CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz wrote of a need for corporations and governments to "keep up the pressure and hold China accountable until lasting change is achieved."

FCC honors new communications tech to help people with disabilities

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler honored seven innovative products and services designed to improve access to technology for people with disabilities. The winners of the Awards for Advancement in Accessibility include an app called Chirp that makes Twitter more accessible to the visually impaired and people with cognitive disabilities; an Android-based Braille tablet; a service from a group of Texas state government employees to make Microsoft 2010 documents more assessable via web-based training modules; and an application protocol interface for creating and sharing text descriptions of YouTube videos.


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