News in Brief

Environmental datasets, reverse auction legislation and military email adds environmental

The White House's has added five datasets to the Ecosystem Vulnerability theme in its Climate Data Initiative, a big-data tool aimed at fueling public work on resilience to climate change.

The new datasets are the California Ocean Uses Atlas, the Environmental Sensitivity Index Threatened and Endangered Species REST Services, the U.S. Forest Service’s Forests to Faucets modeling and mapping data, the National Wildlife Chemical Effects Database, and the Threatened and Endangered Terrestrial Animal Species Richness database., launched in 2009 by then-federal CIO Vivek Kundra, contains almost 98,000 datasets from federal, state and local agencies, along with tools and resources to conduct research, build apps and design data visualizations.

Additionally, Amazon Web Services said March 20 that it was making up to 1 petabyte of Landsat data publicly available in support of the Climate Data Initiative. The Landsat Earth observation program is conducted under a partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA. It creates moderate-resolution satellite imagery of all land on Earth every 16 days.

The images are used for research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education.

AWS said it has made 85,000 Landsat 8 scenes available on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, and anyone can use the company's on-demand computing resources to perform analysis and create new products without paying to store or download the massive Landsat files.

Bill would protect small-business contractors

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, introduced legislation March 19 that seeks to increase protections for small companies that contract with the federal government.

Among the protections are stipulations for how reverse auctions are used with small-business contracts. A statement from Chabot's office listed unjustified contract bundling, significant delays in implementing previous congressional contracting reforms and the improper use of reverse auctions as obstacles to small-business participation in the federal procurement process.

The bill calls reverse auctions an "important tool" when used properly. When they are used inappropriately, the bill states that they can put taxpayers and small businesses at risk.

The bill would require formal training of contracting officers in reverse auctions and prohibit their use for sole-source contracts. The bill also makes it clear that the government must still follow all the usual procurement rules when using a third-party reverse auction service.

Army set to shut down AKO email

Army Knowledge Online will be out of the email loop effective March 31, when the Army shuts down AKO's classified and unclassified email systems, Defense Systems reports. Users must move to Defense Department Enterprise Email or other services.

AKO will continue to forward email until June 30, after which any messages sent to AKO's accounts will be returned to the sender, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems said.

The shutdown applies to mailboxes on both the non-classified NIPRnet and classified SIPRnet.

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