News and notes from around the federal IT community.
NTIA to update federal spectrum inventory with new agency data
Masters of government spectrum take note – the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released its fourth interim progress report on the government's 10-year plan to open up 500 megahertz of federal spectrum to commercial use for mobile broadband.
A pair of presidential memoranda on spectrum policy put agencies on notice that they would have to take inventory of their holding and actual use of spectrum, and it appears the time is coming for agencies to justify their holdings or give them back.
In an appendix to the interim report released June 5, NTIA gets into the weeds about the 960 MHz of federal spectrum it has identified for possible sharing with commercial firms, and wants detailed data from agency users on radio transmission, reception, time of use and more.
The NTIA will feed the verified agency data into a new metric called Total Spectrum Usage, which explains the "percentage of time the authorized systems within a geographic area transmit or receive on a frequency and bandwidth."
Agencies will receive detailed instructions on how to comply with the data request in early July. The NTIA is scheduled to have its calculations ready in May 2015.
VA releases wait-time audit
The Department of Veterans Affairs on June 9 released the results of its internal audit of scheduling practices at VA hospitals, which the agency said aimed to "identify factors that interfere with schedulers' ability to facilitate timely care for veterans."
The auditors found that front-line scheduling staff said the lack of available appointments with health care providers was the biggest barrier, and that poor training or "the inflexiblity of the legacy VistA scheduling software" -- which had been "posited as significant inhibitors" -- were cited "much less often."
Whatever the obstacles, though, 13 percent of the schedulers surveyed said they'd been instructed to enter dates into the system "other than the date a veteran asks to be seen."
Amtrak plans Northeast Corridor broadband
Amtrak is soliciting bids for a proof-of-concept project to upgrade its on-board Wi-Fi service in the Northeast Corridor.
The plan is to build a dedicated, wireless, trackside network that provides broadband-speed Internet between Washington and Boston, the passenger rail service said in a news release. The proposal would allow Amtrak to drop existing restrictions on streaming media and large file downloads.
The goal is to increase available bandwidth per train from 10Mbps to a minimum of 25 Mbps, and scalable to faster speeds as technology allows.
"We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience -- something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time -- and we want to make that possible," said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Matt Hardison.
GSA awards CAMEO task orders to Lockheed, Alliant
GSA moved a step closer to a common acquisition platform by awarding task orders for its CAMEO program to Lockheed Martin and Alliant Solution Partners.
The GSA Application Maintenance, Enhancement, and Operations (CAMEO) program supports its Office of Chief Information Officer with a transformative update to the agency's Federal Acquisition Service's (FAS) business systems, the agency said in a June 9 statement. The task orders, made under CAMEO (for Lockheed) and CAMEO Small Business (for Alliant) contracts, will support the agency's mission to deliver products and services by updating mission-critical systems that are used to support agencies across the federal government.
The program streamlines an integrated IT portfolio of about 90 business applications, covering development and modernization, as well as operations and maintenance of the business applications used by FAS to deliver products and services. The applications support a wide variety of FAS systems and programs, including GSA Global Supply, Multiple Award Schedules, Personal Property Management, Travel, Fleet, Purchase Card Services and Integrated Technology programs.
Nevada set to launch as drone test site
Nevada has received the Federal Aviation Administration's third certificate of authority to begin operating an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site in the United States.
The state is one of six sites across the country that the FAA tapped to host one of the facilities. The others are at the University of Alaska; Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y.; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; Texas A&M University's Corpus Christi campus; and Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. The University of Alaska received its COA in early May and North Dakota received the first one in April.
The FAA said in a June 6 statement that it granted Nevada a two-year certificate of waiver or authorization to use an Insitu ScanEagle at the Desert Rock Airport in Mercury. The facility, according to the FAA, is owned and operated by the Department of Energy and is not for general use. The ScanEagle will fly at or below 3,000 feet, monitored by a visual observer and mission commander. Initial flights will verify that a UAS can operate safely at the airport, said FAA.
The Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development said in a June 6 statement that the FAA's COA authorizes the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle for a first responder exercise in which the vehicle "will be 'eyes on scene' during a mock emergency exercise."
NIH facilities shut down by shaky building
Hundreds of National Institute of Health employees working at a building leased by the agency in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., have been telecommuting for weeks because the edifice suffered structural failure after a jolt in mid-May, but the agency's GWAC operations were not affected.
After NIH personnel observed cracks in the building, the building manager commissioned a structural engineer to conduct an analysis to determine what occurred and when the building can be occupied, NIH spokesman Bradley Moss said in an email to FCW.
Moss said that operations for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of the Director and NIH Clinical Center were housed at the affected building, with 396 employees.
Earlier reports had said that NIH's government-wide IT acquisition contract administrator -- the Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) -- was also headquartered at the building.
However, Moss said NITAAC has no employees in the building and isn't a tenant there. According to Moss, all NITAAC offices are located in a building across the street at 6011 Executive Blvd. in Rockville and it has no satellite offices or staff located elsewhere.
Structural members that hold the building up show rust and deterioration at their bases, where they're bolted to the concrete foundation, Hadi Mansouri, chief operating officer at the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services, told FCW in a telephone interview. But Mansouri said the bump that building occupants heard May 16 most likely wasn't associated with the cracks and rust. He declined to estimate how long it might be before occupants could return to the building.
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