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Federal | Agencies | Legislative

American Systems appoints VP of citizen safety strategic business area

Chantilly, VA-based American Systems, a government IT solutions provider, has named Brian Fitzpatrick vice president of the company's citizen safety strategic business area.


In this role, he will spearhead the company’s business development to help agencies ensure public safety and security.


"The federal government has no more important role than protecting citizens and critical infrastructure during times of threat, crisis and disaster. Few people know agencies' citizen safety challenges better than Brian, who has helped agencies deploy and leverage the latest technologies to prevent, detect and respond to public safety and homeland security challenges," William Hoover, president and CEO of American Systems, said in a statement.


American Systems describes itself as one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S., with approximately 1,300 employees nationwide.

Ridge Global names new principal for corporate strategy and growth

Washington, DC-based Ridge Global, an international provider of security and risk management services, has announced the expansion of the company’s executive team with the appointment of Steve Kohler as principal of corporate strategy and growth.  


Kohler previously served as president of Space Florida, a statewide Special District focused on economic development within the Florida aerospace economic sector.

 

Prior to joining Space Florida, Steve was the president of Winner Global Defense, a privately held company that focuses on military and non-military applications of aircraft countermeasures and laser-based detection technologies and, before that, served as senior vice president for Corporate Advisory Services for CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh.


In 1996, then-Governor Ridge appointed Kohler to lead the Pennsylvania Governor's Action Team, where he was responsible for the configuration of financial incentive proposals for industrial and business expansion projects.


“Steve Kohler has an exceptional and well-regarded background in economic development and business strategy,” Tom Ridge, formerly the first Secretary of DHS and now president and CEO of Ridge Global, said in a statement. “As we continue to see many opportunities ahead for both our clients and our company, Steve’s contributions will further enhance our ability to pursue them.”

GAO turns increasingly to Alternative Dispute Resolutions in bid protests

In an effort to cope with a rising number of bid protests being filed government-wide, the Government Accountability Office has relied increasingly on the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process during the past fiscal year, but has nonetheless seen a sharp increase in the number of fully developed cases in which it has had to conduct a full-blown hearing.

These are the trends that emerge from the GAO’s most recent presentation of its bid protest statistics, for the fiscal years 2005 through 2009, which were publicly released on January 26.

The GAO’s report indicates that bid protests have grown steadily for the past three years, showing a six percent increase in FY2007 (over the prior year), a 17 percent increase in FY2008 and a whopping 20 percent increase in FY2009, when a total of 1,989 bid protest cases were filed.

About half of the increased case load in FY2009 is attributable to the fact that the GAO has recently expanded its jurisdiction over task orders (139 filings), A-76 protests (16 filings) and Transportation Security Administration protests (13 filings), the report says.

The “Sustain Rate” – the percentage of cases in which the GAO agreed with the protester’s arguments – has dropped steadily for the past four years, declining from a 29 percent sustain rate in fiscal year FY2006 to an 18 percent sustain rate by FY2009. Nonetheless, the “Effectiveness Rate” – the rate at which a protester obtained some sort of relief from the procuring agency it had challenged – has risen for the past three years, reaching 45 percent by FY2009.

The GAO has turned to ADRs with increasing frequency in recent years. In FY2007, the GAO used ADRs 62 times, in FY2008 that number rose to 78 and in FY2009 the number zoomed to 149. By FY2009, the GAO had achieved an ADR “Success Rate” – defined as the percentage of ADRs that were resolved without requiring a formal GAO decision – of 93 percent, said the annual report, which was sent by the GAO’s Acting General Counsel, Lynn Gibson, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Even with its increased use of ADRs, the GAO has conducted an increasing number of formal hearings on bid protests in recent years. It conducted 41 such hearings in FY2007, 32 hearings in FY2008 and 65 hearings in FY2009, which represented 12 percent of all of its fully developed decisions.

Telecom advisory panel to meet via teleconference on February 9

The President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting, via a teleconference call, on February 9 from 2:00 to 3:00 PM, during which its members will vote on a recommendation from the panel’s Cybersecurity Collaboration Task Force.

The task force plans to recommend that data be collected to support the nation’s information sharing policy. “The data collection effort will involve a private sector-to-private sector information sharing pilot exercise,” said a notice published by the advisory committee in the Federal Register on January 25.

For access to the teleconference bridge and meeting materials, interested parties may contact Sue Daage at 703-235-5526 by February 2.

The panel advises the President on issues related to implementing national security and emergency preparedness telecommunications policy.

CBP records trade name of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced that it has recorded the trade name “Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB” for the Swedish based company of the same name, which was founded in 2001 and sells mobile multimedia devices, including cell phones, throughout the world.

“Trade names that are being used by manufacturers or traders may be recorded with CBP to afford the particular business entity with increased commercial protection, explained CBP in a notice published in the Federal Register on January 25.

CBP published the proposed trade name last November and had received no comments on the trade name by the closing date for comments, which was January 11, 2010.

Accordingly, the name is recorded as a trade name and “will remain in force as long as this trade name is in use by this manufacturer,” said the CBP.

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB has already trademarked the names of many of its individual products, including Aino, Akono, BeJoo, BestPic, Equinox, GreenHeart, Kita, PlayNow, QuickShare and many others.

The company said it lost approximately US $235 million during the fourth quarter of 2009.

OPINION / Two years later, where are we?

By Jim Giermanski

    In 2007, I wrote two articles on why 100 percent scanning was not doable. I laid out four fundamental reasons why 100 percent scanning would not work: its foreign acceptance, its limitation to seaports only, the non-existence of required technology, and the non-inclusion of land ports within the concept of critical infrastructure.

Two years later, where are we?


In October 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, SUPPLY CHAIN SECURITY -- Feasibility and Cost-Benefit Analysis Would Assist DHS and Congress in Assessing and Implementing the Requirement to Scan 100 Percent of U.S.-Bound Containers, in which the GAO concluded, in general, that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made limited progress in scanning containers, "leaving the feasibility of 100 percent scanning largely unproven." Furthermore, “CPB faces a number of potential challenges in integrating the 100 percent scanning requirement into its existing container security programs...,” said the GAO report, which concluded what I predicted back in 2007. 

Here are four reasons why 100 percent scanning won’t work:


1.    Foreign acceptance   


    In June 2008, the World Customs Organization (WCO) refused to support 100 percent scanning saying that it would, “be detrimental to world trade and could result in unreasonable delays, port congestion, and international trading difficulties.” In May 2008, the European Parliament called for the U.S. to repeal the 100 percent scanning requirement, and the report added: “Government officials from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that we spoke with have stated that the SFI program and 100 percent scanning are primarily for the security benefit of the United States and, as such, they are unwilling to pay for this security initiative. Further, officials from the World Bank and the WCO with whom we spoke stated that implementing 100 percent scanning would likely create additional shipping costs in certain parts of the world because of changes in trade routes that would be necessary.”


2.    Seaports-only appropriateness

 

    The report notes that, “C-TPAT members that transfer cargo by truck to the United States from Canada or Mexico will not be affected by the requirement. However, given that other companies who use maritime shipping may lose an incentive for joining C-TPAT or maintaining membership, the potential security benefit associated with the program could be diminished to the extent that C-TPAT membership does not grow or decreases.” The costs and time delays in attempting to scan 100 percent of cargo are impediments to acceptance by the commercial private sector. The report further noted the requirement to implement 100 percent scanning might actually risk the willingness of private companies to partner with CBP to improve their internal security programs since the benefits of faster CBP processing would disappear if implemented. The report recommended that CBP conduct feasibility analyses, develop comprehensive cost estimates to include alternatives to 100 scanning, and present its results to Congress.


3.    Appropriate technology


    It was determined that the scanning technology employed at participating foreign ports and U.S. ports is still not at the level of accuracy and reliability needed to reveal all that a container may contain. There are further concerns related to safety, logistical problems with containers transferred from rail or other vessels, scanning equipment breakdowns and poor quality scan images. “Every time responsibility for cargo in containers changes hands along the supply chain there is the potential for a security breach. As a result, vulnerabilities exist that terrorists could take advantage of by, for example, placing a WMD into a container for shipment to the United States or elsewhere,” the report noted.

 In addition to the time, costs and risks of acceptance by the U.S. commercial private sector, the technology itself is subject to weather, accuracy, unacceptable false/positive rates, fear of injury and the reliability of currently available technology.
 
4.     Land ports as critical infrastructure


    Critical infrastructure funds are still not available at land ports-of-entry to accommodate and install a 100 percent scanning requirement. The only reference to land ports-of-entry in the GAO report was a reference indicating that Mexican and Canadian commercial container/trailer traffic will “not be affected by the requirement.”

My alternative


    The report has estimated that the costs for scanning to meet federal legislation could go as high as $1.6 billion. As I observed in 2007, there is an "in-container" detection alternative that will not cost the government the millions -- if not billions -- to accomplish what scanning cannot. In fact, under certain circumstances, the private sector would be happy to accommodate CBP's needs and provide a zero cost alternative, especially since DHS has proven itself incapable of developing even one basic Container Security Device (CSD) on the shelf, ready for use.


In its own words, the DHS Science & Technology Directorate “began developing Container Security Device (CSD) technology in 2006 in response to a requirement from CBP.  The numbers reported below for CSD development, testing and evaluation are approximate as work (primarily T&E) for the CSD the Advanced Container Security Device technologies were funded via a single contract and conducted in tandem.


FY06: $3.9M
FY07: $1.9M
FY08: $1.9M
FY09: $2.0M
Total Obligated to Date: $9.7M

DHS S&T will deliver Open Performance Standards to CBP in Nov-Dec 2010 that will define the performance and operational characteristics for approved CSD technology.”
   
     In-container scanning for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is already doable. In May 2005, three scientists, Davabhaktuni Srikrishna, A. Narasimha Chari and Thomas Tisch, released a paper on detecting nuclear materials in transport, and concluded, first, that terrorists are most likely to use a highly enriched uranium (HEU) bomb, and, second, that terrorists can circumvent a network of fixed detectors, as at a transshipment port. Third, R&D will not likely change the physics of detection. Passive detection of HEU will continue to be limited by its natural rate of radioactivity, and the attenuation of radioactivity is sharp with distance/shielding.

In March 2006, the GAO’s undercover investigators brought radioactive material across the Mexican border. The primary portal scanning equipment did not detect the radiation. It was discovered only during secondary physical inspection. If HEU is shielded inside a container, a portal detector must contend with both the shielding of the container body, and the HEU shielding. If a terrorist weapon had 10 centimeters (about four inches) of shielding, it would take a detector a day-and-a-half to detect it from 20 inches away. Thus, X-ray machines currently used at ports simply cannot get close enough, or scan long enough, to detect the presence of HEU. 


    There are in-container systems available today that can detect radiation prior to its arrival at a port, at a transshipment port, or anywhere in-route and sound an alarm via satellite at a cost of a few dollars a month. Firms, such as ConSearch LLC, are now working with other container security device providers to incorporate radiation detection into, and along with, the chemical, biological, explosives and people sensors.  


    However, government has done nothing to encourage their use. What the private sector needs is a tax credit for investments in container and other security-related systems and products. As opposed to an expense deduction which reduces one's taxable income for every dollar spent on a qualifying deduction, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in one’s tax liability. There are tax credits for just about everything: home improvements, cars, solar energy, building contractors, appliance manufacturers, and even the orphan drug credit. And given the current rhetoric to create jobs in this economy, Congress could surely consider a tax credit for CSDs that secure the supply chain, report the existence of WMD and protect our ports, while at the same time create jobs. The obvious answer makes one question the degree to which Congress is really committed to protecting our ports and nation. The granting of a tax credit seems to be a minimal step in doing its job. Therefore, a tax credit for specific and qualifying homeland security investments -- along with the benefits of C-TPAT -- may accomplish what DHS and CBP cannot accomplish alone.


    It is both amazing and disappointing to witness the lack of vision by DHS and Congress in moving towards a container security system which was recognized as necessary in the Safe Port Act of 2006. Congress legislated the use of smart containers, satellite communications and tracking, verifications, and end-to-end supply-chain security in the Implementing Regulations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, but it fails to demand compliance with the laws it wrote. For the sake of politics, or favors, or its lack of understanding of the genuine vulnerabilities at our ports, Congress puts us all at risk.


Jim Giermanski is chairman of Powers Global Holdings, Inc. He can be reached at: [email protected]

DNI a ‘work in progress closer to the beginning of reform than the end,‘ says ex-9/11 Commissioner Kean

In their testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last week, former 9/11 Commission Chairman and Vice Chairman Tom Kean [left] and Lee Hamilton [right], now co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) National Security Preparedness Group, declared that the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who oversees the entire Intelligence Community, needs to find ways to deal with “information overload.”


"As we've seen from the recent terrorist incidents at Fort Hood and in the skies above Detroit, there is still work to be done," said Hamilton, who noted also that, “in the five years since the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the U.S. government has made significant strides to correct the shortfalls and mistakes evident on September 11, 2001.”


As part of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which was passed five years ago, created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the two men noted.


"The DNI has achieved a meaningful measure of success in its first years," said Kean. "But is a work in progress closer to the beginning of reform than the end."


And Hamilton observed that the "DNI has been hobbled by endless disputes over its size, mission and authority."


Kean pointed to “ambiguities in the law” that created the DNI. “These ambiguities can contribute to mission confusion and lack of clarity about lanes in the road.”


Kean also called on the President to “be clear on who is in charge of the Intelligence Community and where final authority lies on budget and personnel matters.”


The bottom line from the two men, who were widely praised for their bipartisan style as heads of the 9/11 Commission: “We must reject complacency and recognize we still face a serious threat from organizations like Al-Qaeda.”

TSA awards sole source alerting contract to Clickatell

TSA has decided to award a sole source contract to Clickatell, Inc., of Redwood City, CA, worth $860,000 to continue to provide 24/7 operational support to the agency’s TSA Alert system, which can send voice, e-mail and text message alerts to the nation’s airports.

In a “justification and approval” document released on January 20, TSA explained that it could avoid any possible disruption caused by switching to a new vendor, and can save approximately $250,000 per year, by sticking with the incumbent vendor, which deployed and manages the current TSA Alert system through its predecessor corporation, known as Multimode.

TSA identified several potential providers of similar alert systems, including Red Alert, RapidReach, eAlert, Amerilert and RSAN, but concluded that “no such custom program was available from other vendors.”

In praise of the Clickatell alerting system, the TSA document noted that Clickatell offered a unique system to send and receive alerts, a comprehensive system architecture that allowed for more open standards for data exchanges, and had already passed U.S. Government certification and accreditation.

“Unlike other agencies with similar responsibilities, TSA lacks a nationwide radio communications network,” explained the TSA document. “TSA Alert was designed to fill that gap by providing a centrally managed system that can be customized for local sites.”

TSA likes its current alerting system and seems reluctant to make an abrupt switch. “TSA Alert is an extremely complicated system requiring the ability to connect to various downstream messaging providers, such as voice networks and text messaging,” the J&A notice explained. “The system in its current state is functional, reliable and has been certified and accredited.”

TSA said it intends to compete this contract during the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 for a subsequent award in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010.

 

 

FCC seeks ‘deterrent’ force

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that the Federal Communications Commission is seeking a uniformed protective force, given the tone of civic discourse these days and the high-stakes, big-bucks media, telecom and IT issues the commission regularly debates. Plus, of course, people do feel strongly about their TV.


According to solicitation number SOL10000004, the FCC is looking for a contractor who can “manage, train and maintain a uniformed security force that shall constitute a deterrent against unauthorized, illegal, or potentially life-threatening activities directed toward the agency’s employees, visitors, sensitive information, and properties.”


The FCC requests quotations for these services in the solicitation posted January 15, 2010. No response deadline was specified in the solicitation.


For additional information, contact Joyce Terry-Butler, at [email protected] or at 202-418-1857.

Input forecasts emerging tech markets for state and local governments

Reston, VA-based Input, which specializes in government business, has unveiled new research detailing adoption trends for cloud computing, virtualization, service-oriented architecture (SOA), open source software (OSS) and geospatial technologies among state and local governments.

According to the company's projections, the total state and local cloud computing market is expected to grow from $230 million in 2009 to $620 million by 2014 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22 percent, with the largest growth predicted for platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service offerings.

Over the same period, Input predicts, the virtualization market is poised to grow from approximately $360 to $580 million at a CAGR of 10 percent.

Meanwhile, the market for open source software is expected to increase from $160 million to $280 million (11 percent CAGR), and the geospatial technology market is projected to grow from $520 million to $720 million (7 percent CAGR) over the next five years.

Input's report is based on a survey of technology decision makers across 50 states and the District of Columbia. The full report is available on Input's Web site, at http://tiny.cc/slemergingtechmarkets.

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