James Nazz/Corbis

Tech Roundup

Reforming IT purchasing, a worm-proofing app and predicting suicides.

Rebooting Federal IT

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is floating proposed legislation that would drastically reform the way federal technology is purchased and grant agency chief information officers authority over their information technology budgets—authority currently held only by the Veterans Affairs Department CIO.

If approved, the draft legislation would be the most significant amendment to the federal technology landscape since the 1996 Clinger Cohen Act, which created agency CIOs, and the 2002 E-Government Act.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees much of the government’s technology spending, described those previous acts of Congress as worthwhile reforms that had nevertheless failed to stem inefficiency, duplication and waste in government. The proposed legislation calls for the creation of a Commodity IT Acquisition Center to oversee large, governmentwide IT contracts. Agencies would be required to consult the center regarding most acquisitions that cost more than $500 million and the center would “establish guidelines that, to the maximum extent possible, eliminate inconsistent practices among executive agencies and ensure uniformity and consistency in acquisition processes for commodity IT across the federal government.”

In an op-ed on Nextgov, Issa noted “because of the antiquated way the government defines its requirements and acquires IT, we are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars each year on failed programs.”

Issa spent months gathering feedback on the proposed legislation from industry IT leaders and plans to gather more from his colleagues and others before formally proposing the Federal Information Technology Reform Act in Congress.  

-Joseph Marks

As the Worm Turns

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been developing an online Android app store for troops on the battlefield since 2010, and now the agency wants to ensure any tools loaded into the marketplace are worm-proof. To help achieve that goal, officials awarded a service-disabled veteran-owned small business called Aderon LLC a $73,879 contract to help build testing software. The security tool is slated to be released in September 2013.

The software “will expose potential security vulnerabilities through fault injection”—or the introduction of errors into code—as well as enforce access controls, the federal documents state. And it will “scan, annotate, modify and instrument Android mobile application software” to comply with Defense Department security requirements.

The testing software also must be able to analyze third-party app libraries invoked by the Android tool. The work will be performed through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s computer security division. 

-Aliya Sternstein

Mind Readers

The Pentagon’s research wing is seeking technology that can determine whether a soldier is prone to commit suicide or murder. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to fund the development of “mathematical and computational models that predict whether a person is likely to commit suicide,” contract databases reveal. The goal is to extend prototypes to “predict other neurocognitive states of extreme order, including homicidal intent.”

The algorithms, called Predicting Suicide Intent, would derive data from a person’s brain chemistry and behavior and deliver a snapshot of the individual’s frame of mind.

-Dawn Lim

Stormy Forecast

Get ready for some really bad space weather. That’s the message from four space scientists at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who warned of increased solar activity, which can disrupt all types of communications, including Global Positioning System signals, with the sun pumping out more solar flares during the next five years than any time since 2003.

The scientists cautioned, “if you are used to space weather being a nonfactor in your operations, that is about to change.”

In a presentation to a civil GPS confab in Nashville, the APL scientists warned that “solar max”—what happens when the sun tosses off a lot of high-powered flares—is approaching, resulting in increased GPS interference, including signal fading and precision errors. If you have a secret decoder ring, you can learn more at the Space Environment Applications, Systems and Operations for National Security conference in Laurel, Md., Nov. 14-16.            

-Bob Brewin

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