News in Brief

Accenture retained, Army database approved, drones descend and more

Screen capture of HealthCare.gov in November 2014.

Accenture wins $563M award to maintain, expand HealthCare.gov

Accenture Federal Services, the contractor that took over responsibility for the embattled HealthCare.gov site after its dismal launch, won a five-year contract to continue work on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace.

The $563 million award comes in the midst of the second open enrollment season under the 2010 health care law – one largely free of the embarrassing glitches that attended the October 2013 debut of HealthCare.gov. News of the award was posted to FedBizOpps on Dec. 29.

"We are pleased that Accenture will continue to support HealthCare.gov, as we work together to help millions of Americans sign up for quality, affordable health insurance," said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a statement.

Accenture was first tapped to act as lead contractor on HealthCare.gov in January 2014, on a limited source basis, after a "tech surge" led by former federal CTO Todd Park and economic advisor Jeffrey Zients had restored basic functionality to the site. Accenture won a six-month extension in September. The current contract will keep Accenture in the lead on HealthCare.gov through July 2020.

DOD approves next phase of Army database

The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board has approved for deployment the next phase of the Army's service-wide database for personnel and pay data, the Army announced Dec. 30.

The next phase, known as Increment II, will see the database subsume the National Guard's existing personnel system to offer the National Guard personnel and readiness management services. Those capabilities will then extend to the Army Reserve, active component and other personnel, the Army said. A fuller timeline is available here.

The Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) offers information on soldiers' pay, awards, promotions and other data by consolidating or subsuming more than 40 disparate human resources systems. It is the Army's replacement for a Defense Department-wide system that the Pentagon scrapped after it became too costly.

Defense Acquisition Board approval means that contractor CACI-ISS Inc. can begin work on the contract it recently won for systems integration services for IPPS-A Increment II.

Drones descend on CES

The gigantic Las Vegas consumer electronics trade show extravaganza known as International CES has taken notice of the growing world of unmanned aerial systems.

Perhaps taking a page from the droid marketplace scenes in the Star Wars movies, CES will host its first Unmanned Systems Marketplace at the Las Vegas Convention Center starting Jan. 6.

CES is considered the bellwether show for emerging consumer electronics. Unmanned drone technology -- especially airborne systems -- have been adopted by a growing consumer audience. The Federal Aviation Administration is laboring to establish new rules to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the U.S. airspace.

Accordingly, Jim Williams, Manager, Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Office, FAA will speak on a panel -- "Drones: Consumer Technology Reaches New Height" -- along with drone company executives, examining safety, privacy and security issues surrounding the devices.

DHS: Recent cyberattacks were 'game changers'

The recent cyberattack on Sony and another on U.S. critical infrastructure interests were termed "game changers" in a January note to emergency responders nationwide issued by a Department of Homeland security unit.

DHS's Emergency Management and Response-Information Analysis Center's (EMR-ISAC) electronic "Infogram" newsletter said the Sony hack, allegedly by North Korea, and another, allegedly by the Chinese, on databases containing information on vulnerabilities in U.S. dams, were top 2014 "game changers" for emergency responders.

EMR-ISAC also noted the "Lizard Squad" hacker group's selling Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) tools online for as little as $6 per month to other cybercriminals. During the holidays the Lizard Squad also claimed responsibility for taking down Sony's Playstation network, as well as Microsoft's xBox network for a few days.

Coburn: DHS not a successful investment

The just-retired ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee took a parting shot at a favorite target on his way out the door.

The Department of Homeland Security, despite spending nearly $61 billion annually and $544 billion since 2003, is not successfully executing any of its five main missions, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in his final DHS oversight report. He said many DHS programs are ineffective and should be reconsidered.

Coburn did not absolve his congressional colleagues either, calling Congress one of the primary dis-enablers of the department. Parochial politics and overlapping jurisdictions have been major contributors to DHS dysfunction, he said, so reform "must begin with changing Congress' approach to homeland security." Coburn also noted that DHS hasn't had an authorization bill enacted since 2002.

"As with so many other government initiatives, Washington is spending billions of dollars hoping that the outcome will equal the expense, but with little evidence that this is indeed the result. This type of reckless spending and failure of leadership have amassed a national debt that poses the most significant threat to our freedom and security as a nation," Coburn said.

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