News in Brief

Security checks, Moore's law, spectrum sharing and more

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Cummings, Coburn seek answers on USIS award at DHS

Two senior lawmakers are looking for an explanation of a contract awarded to USIS by a Department of Homeland Security component earlier this month.

USIS, best known for its work conducting background checks for federal workers and contractors seeking security clearances, is currently defending itself against a civil lawsuit brought by the Justice Department that alleges the company engaged in a pattern of deceptive practices in which USIS executives obtained bonuses through a practice called dumping, which involves pushing through large volumes of faulty or incomplete background checks to meet performance goals.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking members of the House and Senate committees responsible for government oversight, sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson questioning a July 1 award to USIS by Citizenship and Immigration Services that is valued at up to $190 million.

The lawmakers want to know whether USIS is qualified to receive a federal contract under the ethics and past-performance requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation. They are seeking documents related to the acquisition, including information used by procurement officials to qualify USIS for the contract.

"We want to determine how an entity under DOJ investigation could receive such a lucrative contract from the federal government," Coburn said in a statement.

Lab aims to overhaul Moore's law

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wants to change the chemistry that helps microprocessors think in hopes of revolutionizing computer chips and squeezing ever more processing power onto them.

The notion that the number of transistors on a microprocessor doubles roughly every two years, called Moore's law, has fueled the computing revolution. The current model is named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who described the trend in a 1965 paper, but some say it is reaching a practical end as physical space on chips runs out.

In a July 15 statement, officials at Lawrence Berkeley said changing a chemical mixture that allows chip makers to lay down patterns for ever-shrinking lines and features on computer chips could overhaul Moore's law.

Called resist, the mixture is similar to the film used in photography. Changing it could allow transistors to decrease in size while enabling computation and energy efficiency to continue increasing, officials said.

Lawrence Berkeley researchers have set up a partnership with chip-maker Intel to design an entirely new kind of resist, which officials characterized as the chemistry of photoresist. They said the development is crucial to further improving performance in a systematic way.

Researchers said they believe the results could be easily incorporated by companies that make resist and could find their way into manufacturing lines as early as 2017.

NTIA releases final plans for moving and sharing spectrum

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration published final transition plans for federal agencies that use spectrum in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS-3) bands that are set to be auctioned to commercial users beginning in November.

Most federal agencies in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands will vacate those bands, although the Defense Department and other users plan to share spectrum for some operations either on a temporary or indefinite basis.

The effort touches nearly every federal department -- including Interior, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Treasury, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA -- although DOD has the most significant spectrum holdings in those bands.

The effort to vacate and relocate spectrum will cost $5.1 billion, which will be paid for out of auction proceeds. The Spectrum Relocation Fund run by the Office of Management and Budget compensates agencies for their costs.

Once the auction takes place, it is expected to take up to 10 years to transition federal agencies off the AWS-3 bands, according to plans submitted by DOD.

Citrix names new head of defense business

Citrix announced that it has appointed Mike Singer to lead its defense business.

A former executive at Dell Software, Adobe and Sun Microsystems, Singer will be Citrix's "spokesman in the federal IT community," the firm said.

Singer plans to use his "experience in the federal IT, defense and intelligence communities to help enhance our presence across both the [Defense Department] and overall public sectors," he said in a statement. He will work out of Citrix's Bethesda, Md., office.

Singer has also served as president of AFCEA's Washington, D.C., chapter.

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