This weekly feature surveys top government IT-related news -- involving all levels of government, from the federal to state and local, and international news. It is designed to give readers a primer on current trends and developments affecting the industry's major and interesting players, surveying news headlines from around the world. Washingtonpost.com's Cynthia L. Webb pens the feature. E-mail Cindy Webb Cindy Webb's Daily Filter Column
The New York Times's David Pogue followed up on his recent online column on e-voting, noting that he got a lot of reader response to his run-down of the whole debate last week. Pogue wrote, "One note came from David Dill, the Stanford computer science professor who has created a Web site, verifiedvoting.org, dedicated to the cause of voting-machine security. 'With electronic voting, a single programmer could make a change in voting machine software that would be installed in every machine in the country. And there is no reliable way to detect that this has been done. I intend this to be a strong statement!'" Pogue said he responded that "there will be a huge amount of scrutiny in place for this fall. Among other precautions, many states will be conducting surprise random spot checks during election day. How, realistically, could an evil programmer at, say, Diebold (the largest electronic voting machine maker) write software that would skew an election without getting caught?"
Meanwhile, e-voting concerns are being voiced south of the border. "Venezuela is using untested touchscreen computers for its recall referendum on Hugo Chavez's presidency. Critics fear touchscreen voting machines in the August 15 vote could fail spectacularly, exacerbating a crisis over Chavez's rule that has polarized the world's No. 5 oil exporter and killed dozens in sporadic political violence," the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. "The touchscreen machines on which a third of the U.S. electorate will vote in November are dangerously vulnerable to hackers, rigging and mechanical failure, computer scientists generally agree. That didn't deter the Chavez-dominated Venezuelan Elections Council from choosing Smartmatic Corp., a little-known Boca Raton, Florida-based company, to provide similar technology -- albeit with a printed record of each vote -- for the referendum."
Army Tech Delays
It's going to take longer for the U.S. Army to get a handle on how it will modernize its information technology operations. The Army plans at least a two-year delay of a $92 billion program, spearheaded by Boeing, "that aims to meld satellite communications with a new generation of mobile weapons and unmanned vehicles to create a smarter, swifter fighting force. In briefings on Capitol Hill, Army officials conceded that the development of technology envisaged for the Future Combat System program will take longer than planned. This is the second delay for FCS, which most recently was scheduled for initial, limited deployment in 2010, and some will interpret it as a possible first step to scaling back the venture. But Army officials maintain that they are committed to the high-technology concept and have confidence in Boeing's ability to integrate its many and complex elements," The Wall Street Journal reported.
More from the article: "The technological challenge is daunting. A person briefed on the new FCS strategy said the Army plans to shift money to research and development and away from procurement, indicating that the Army will invest more in developing networking technologies at the expense, at least for now, of ground vehicles. ... The impact of the latest delay on the companies involved in FCS is unclear. Chicago-based Boeing and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego are the lead contractors. Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp. and Raytheon Co. are among the program's two dozen subcontractors."
The Office of Management and Budget is out with its latest scorecard rating federal agencies on their implementation of the President's Management Agenda. "The Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration and the Transportation Department moved to green from yellow in e-government, joining the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management as the only agencies to reach e-government success. Overall, 17 of 27 agencies received green or yellow scores, up from 15 in March, and only nine agencies received red grades, down from 11 earlier this year," Government Computer News reported.
An Internet server operated by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department was hijacked by al Qaeda sympathizers and used to host pro-Osama bin Laden videos and other anti-American and anti-western materials, washingtonpost.com and other media outlets reported. According to wp.com, the incident "highlights an increasing trend of hackers hijacking vulnerable Web servers for the purpose of advocating radical political and terrorist ideologies." The server was used by agency contractors to upload large files.
"This is the first time something like this has happened. We're looking at developing a protocol to avoid this in the future," an Arkansas government spokesperson told Government Computer News. The spokesperson "said the department's Web site was unaffected by the hacking. ... Nor was any sensitive data affected, he said."
Some Noteworthy Government IT News:
* Tennessee is planning to use global positioning system technology to track the whereabouts of violent sex offenders. According to the Nashville Tennessean, the state will "award a contract by the end of the year for the $2.5 million pilot project," which will aim to track about 600 sex offenders currently being supervised by the state. The newspaper said vendors will be asked to bid on the project starting on Oct. 1; seven vendors have already expressed an interest. The state Board of Probation and Parole "board will collect a year of data on the program and take it back to Gov. Phil Bredesen [D] and the legislature so they can decide whether to take the program statewide or possibly expand it to include other types of offenders, such as those convicted of domestic violence and those behind in their child-support payments."
* The Department of Homeland Security has awarded $30 million in contracts to Thomas & Herbert Consulting LLC, BearingPoint and SRA International to help integrate databases that screen for potential terrorism activity, Government Computer News reported. "The contract is to help DHS meet requirements to consolidate terrorist screening activities, now handled in a number of separate databases by separate agencies. The initial task order is to study existing work processes and data flow of terrorist information within DHS and to develop plans for a future system with improved data sharing. Two key elements in the screening program are the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the Terrorist Screening Center."
* The National Weather Service has a new CIO. Peter Chan used to be chief information officer for the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News noted in their coverage of the appointment.
* Kentucky's government is changing the way it oversees its technology purchases and initiatives. Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) authorized the overhaul last week. The change eliminates the Governor's Office of Technology in favor of a new Commonwealth Office of Technology. A copy of the new order is available here in Microsoft Word format.
Names and Faces
* Another e-government official from the OMB is heading for the private sector. Tad Anderson, associate administrator for e-government and IT, has accepted a job as vice president of Dutko Government Markets at the Dutko Group Cos., Government Computer News reported.
* Connecticut's CIO will leave his post Aug. 1, several publications reported. Rock Regan announced "his resignation in a letter to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers of Lexington, Ky. He was an active member of the leadership, having served as NASCIO president in 2001-02. ... The change of administration follows the tumultuous resignation of Connecticut Gov. John Rowland (R) June 21. Rowland tendered his resignation amid a growing financial scandal stemming from allegations that he had failed to disclose receiving gifts from people doing business with the state," Washington Technology reported.
E-mail government IT tips, comments and links to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com