Tech Roundup

Dennis Brack/Newscom

CIA’s Virus Trouble

The Government Accountability Office found that the CIA gave Amazon an unfair advantage when it agreed to weaken security requirements on a $150 million contract for a massive intelligence community computer cloud it had already awarded to the Web giant.

During post-award negotiations, Amazon asked the CIA to weaken a requirement that all software in the cloud be verifiably free from computer viruses that might let unauthorized people see intelligence data, GAO wrote.

Amazon asked that it only be required to vouch for software it had built itself, not for third party and open source software it planned to include in the system. The CIA agreed, prompting a challenge from IBM, which had also bid on the contract.

If IBM had known in advance that requirement might be loosened, that could have substantially changed both the company’s bid and its competitiveness.

“It is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be conducted on an equal basis,” GAO said. “Offerors must be treated equally and provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals.”

GAO recommended that the CIA re-bid the cloud contract and reimburse IBM for the cost of challenging the award. GAO’s bid protest rulings aren’t officially binding but agencies often follow them.  

Computer clouds typically offer cheaper storage space than traditional government data centers and allow agencies to perform more complex computing operations with larger amounts of data.

GAO also upheld another section of IBM’s protest, which claimed the CIA unfairly adjusted the likely price of proposed cloud offerings based on inconsistent standards. 

- Joseph Marks

Twitter Diplomacy

The State Department’s social media presence vastly dwarfs that of other countries using Internet-based tools for public diplomacy efforts, according to a new report.

The 39 U.S. ambassadors with a digital media presence pack a significant punch, based on an analysis by the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute. U.S. ambassadors with Twitter accounts have a combined 538,942 followers and average more than 16,000 followers per account.

“Users of social media who do not engage in substantive, real-time exchanges are unlikely to make their voices heard,” the report says. 

State has pushed to incorporate the latest social media networks in its public diplomacy efforts. Recently, the General Services Administration struck a deal to allow agencies to use the video-sharing service Vine. Many embassies have begun posting videos that show off American culture.

- Kedar Pavgi

Goodbye Paper

In June, the Veterans Affairs Department finished installing its paperless Veterans Benefits Management System in all 56 of its regional offices. VBMS is a key element of plans to eliminate the backlog of disability claims.

“Now that the system is in place, much work continues to be done as we roll out more features and train more users,” says Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs.

“This is a big crossover year for us,” says VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “We have for decades sat astride rivers of paper. Now we are in the process of turning off paper spigots and turning on electronic ones.”

- Bob Brewin

Oops, About Those Loan Records

The Veterans Affairs Department inadvertently deleted 464,000 home loan files, and Sen. Ron Portman, R-Ohio, wants to know why.

In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Portman said he learned that the Cleveland regional office deleted almost half a million electronic records relating to loans, grants and applications. “While I understand the VA has taken steps to remedy the situation, the limited communication and delayed incident reporting are particularly concerning,” he said.

Portman had a lot of questions, including whether VA had backup systems and how often backups were performed.

VA spokeswoman Jo Schuda said human error on May 25 accounted for the deletion of the documents and images, which are used by lenders, appraisers and internal staff.

Employees are being retrained to prevent this error in the future, she said. No personal information was compromised.

- Bob Brewin

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.