News in Brief

DISA cloud providers, DHS streamlining, a new IT management bill and more

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kabakou): cloud computing concept, security.

DISA approves 23 cloud providers

The Defense Information Systems Agency has granted 23 cloud providers provisional authorization to host Defense Department unclassified data. Provisional authorization is a stepping stone toward receiving an authority to operate certification.

Among the cloud providers granted permission were AT&T Storage as a Service, IBM's SmartCloud for Government and Microsoft Windows Azure Public Cloud Solution. A full list of cloud providers granted provisional authorization can be viewed here.

Each of the cloud providers had been previously granted either a FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board Provisional Authorization or a FedRAMP Agency Authority to Operate.

"The granting of these provisional authorizations is an important step in our strategy to drive cost down by moving more of our mission data to the cloud," Defense Department CIO Terry Halvorsen said in a statement.

IT program management target of new legislation

A bill aimed at improving management of large-scale federal IT and other projects was introduced by bipartisan members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Government Operations Subcommittee and co-author of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, introduced the measure May 1.

Connolly and Young are members of the three-year-old Government Efficiency Caucus, which wants to establish formal job series and pathways for career program managers in the federal government. Their legislation also aims to attract talented management professionals from industry with experience in handling large projects.

"Conducting oversight of major federal IT failures, I have repeatedly found that when one begins peeling the onion back, the common underlying weakness running through a wide and diverse range of struggling programs is a serious deficiency in program and project management competencies," Connolly told FCW last month.

Because of those repeated management gaps, Connolly said legislators "were careful to explicitly require that program and project managers are key components of FITARA's specialized IT acquisition cadres."

House bill would streamline authority over DHS acquisitions

A bipartisan bill from leaders on the House Homeland Security Committee would introduce more oversight into agency-wide acquisitions at the Department of Homeland Security.

Overall management at DHS is listed as one of the government's "high risk" activities by the Government Accountability Office, and an April 2014 GAO report on DHS acquisitions found that the agency was hard pressed to deliver accurate cost estimates for long-term projects. The DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act, from Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), would give the DHS undersecretary for management more authority over major acquisitions programs, including the power to cancel, modify, or halt troubled projects.

Under the legislation, acquisition officials would be required to have an approved "Acquisition Program Baseline" document for every major project, and put into statute the existing Acquisition Review Board, establishing that board as the authority in charge of approving costs and schedule goals and estimates on major acquisitions. The bill would also require a chief procurement officer to oversee training programs for the DHS acquisition workforce, and require DHS to report to Congress on troubled acquisitions programs.

"This bipartisan legislation will ensure better management of large purchases by the department and will strengthen the management programs to ultimately better secure the homeland and save taxpayer dollars," said Rep. McCaul, chairman of the committee. "While Secretary [Jeh] Johnson is taking steps to improve DHS's acquisition process through his Unity of Effort initiative, we can't wait years to fix the department's mismanaged acquisition programs."

FAA takes next step in modernizing ATC system

The Department of Transportation reached a milestone in its effort to complete its next generation air transportation control system on April 30 when the Federal Aviation Administration put the final touches on its En Route Automation Modernization.

ERAM is an advanced computer system that air traffic controllers use to safely manage high-altitude traffic and the backbone of operations at 20 of the agency's air traffic control centers. The system drives display screens used by controllers to safely manage and separate aircraft.

The first ERAM system went online at Salt Lake City Center in March 2012, said the FAA, and the last installation was completed in March at the FAA's New York Center.

According to the FAA, ERAM uses nearly two million lines of computer code to process critical data for controllers, including aircraft identity, altitude, speed, and flight path. The system almost doubles the number of flights that can be tracked and displayed to controllers, and is designed to be the operating platform for other NextGen technologies such as Performance Based Navigation, satellite-based tracking, and a data communications system that allows a direct data link between air traffic controllers and pilots.

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