Grants and missile defense hit hardest in DoD’s science and technology budget request

April 25, 2014 by

Overall funding for the Defense Department’s science and technology budget undergo about a $500 million reduction in the president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, with grants and missile defense bearing the brunt of the cut, says a DoD official.

About $200 million of the proposed budget reduction would come from cuts to grant programs nationwide, which equates to about 1,500 grants, said Alan Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

The department also took about $150 million out of its Missile Defense Agency Science and Technology program, said Shaffer during an April 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. The decision made sense because much of the technology has matured to a level where it could be moved to other parts of the department, he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/grants-missile-defense-hit-hardest-dod-st-budget-request/2014-04-17 

Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center is a startup powerhouse

March 19, 2014 by

When he enrolled as a Ph.D. student in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing five years ago, Vijay Balasubramaniyan never expected to become the CEO of one of Atlanta’s hottest young information security companies.

Today, the phone call fingerprinting technique he developed provides the foundation for Pindrop Security. The three-year-old company has attracted $12 million in investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firms. Pindrop already has customers among the top U.S. companies, including two of the nation’s five largest banks.

As CEO, Balasubramaniyan handles duties that are vastly different from his Ph.D. days, such as meeting with marketing and engineering staff and dashing off to customer meetings on the West Coast. In addition, he regularly checks a large computer screen that monitors potentially fraudulent calls going into call centers of the company’s customers.

From an office in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, the company is building a business to help battle the multi-billion dollar problem of fraud committed using the telephone.

On March 27, Pindrop will be one of three companies celebrating their success with “graduation” from the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s startup incubator. The ATDC was started 33 years ago to create technology jobs and economic growth for the state of Georgia.

Three companies show the technology diversity of ATDC

  • Pindrop Security​
    Pindrop Security provides solutions to protect enterprise call centers and phone users from fraud.
  • SalesLoft
    Headed by Georgia Tech graduate Kyle Porter, SalesLoft helps companies find prospective customers using information available on the Internet.
  • MessageGears
    MessageGears helps clients customize their email marketing messages while keeping customer data securely behind firewalls.

“These three companies demonstrate the kind of diversity that we have in the ATDC,” said K.P. Reddy, an entrepreneur, author, and Georgia Tech graduate who serves as the incubator’s interim general manager. “If you look at any ecosystem – and we are part of a larger technology ecosystem – diversity like this is what drives its health.”

Making a difference for startups

ATDC assists companies spinning out of Georgia Tech, those headed up by Georgia Tech alumni, and companies that have no direct Georgia Tech connection. The common denominator is fit with the ATDC program.

ATDC emphasizes coaching, support from a community of entrepreneurs, and connections to a broad range of resources. The companies receive access to Georgia Tech resources – students, faculty, and research facilities. Additionally, they can connect to industry giants such as AT&T, which recently located one of its Foundries in Technology Square to be close to the startup community there.

“We are not trying move the needle 5 percent or 10 percent,” Reddy explained. “We are trying to make orders of magnitude differences for startup companies. We are able to help companies do much more than they could on their own.”

Everything an entrepreneur needs

Each of the 2014 graduates cites a different benefit from ATDC, which isn’t surprising, said Reddy.

“We are all about supporting entrepreneurs,” he explained. “It isn’t just about space. It isn’t just about coaching or mentoring. It isn’t just about investors or customers. We have all the things that an entrepreneur needs at ATDC.”

Among the newest programs are Industry Connect and Campus Connect. Industry Connect brings in representatives from Atlanta’s largest corporations to learn about startups that may have solutions to the challenges they face. In 2013, ATDC’s Industry Connect program facilitated more than 20 contracts between ATDC startups and Global 1000 companies.

Campus Connect helps ATDC companies leverage Georgia Tech resources, connecting them to one of the nation’s top ten 10 publicly-supported universities, with a science and engineering research program that is among the largest in the United States.

“There is a lot of brain power and a lot of talent at Georgia Tech, and we are leveraging that,” said Reddy. “Being connected to a top university really makes a difference.”

Beyond faculty and research assistance, the Georgia Tech connections also lead to great students. A recent career fair held with the Georgia Tech College of Computing and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering attracted 150 students, who learned about opportunities at 25 startups. Internships and new hires will likely result, Reddy said.

ATDC companies tend to fall into two categories: those with high market risk and low technical risk – such as social media companies, and those with high technical risk and low market risk, including many of the science-based startups spinning out of Georgia Tech. Those two groups help one another, and build a robust ecosystem.

“Our scientists have to learn how to market, and our marketers have to learn about science,” Reddy noted. “That’s where the ecosystem gets really strong.”

Reddy believes ATDC has a great reputation, one that should make it top of mind for any technology entrepreneur in Georgia.

“If I’m looking for hash browns, I go to Waffle House,” he added. “If I’m going to start a company, I go to ATDC.”

Click here to view video about ATDC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0KUcUJE4LSQ

GTRI launches Trustmark website at identity ecosystem steering group meeting

February 11, 2014 by

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) hosted the 7th plenary of the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) Jan. 14-16, 2014 in support of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).

During the event, GTRI launched a new website on the Trustmark technology at https://trustmark.gtri.gatech.edu/. A trustmark is a rigorously defined, machine-readable statement of compliance with a specific set of technical or business/policy rules. The use of trustmarks has been pioneered by GTRI and developed with funding from the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), a White House initiative to work collaboratively with the private sector, advocacy groups and public-sector agencies to create an “identity ecosystem” in which technologies, policies and consensus-based standards support greater choice, trust, security and privacy with online transactions.

IDESG has been established as a new organization led by the private sector in conjunction with, but independent of the federal government.

In October, GTRI was awarded an NSTIC pilot project grant. Under the grant, GTRI will develop and demonstrate a trustmark framework that facilitates cost-effective scaling of interoperable trust across multiple communities of interest within the identity ecosystem and enhances privacy through transparency and third-party validation.

Trustmarks have the potential to enable wide-scale trust and interoperability within the identity ecosystem by helping to foster transparency and widespread operational convergence on the specific requirements for each dimension of interoperability, including communication protocols and profiles, cryptographic algorithms, business-level user attributes for access control and audit purposes and various levels of policy such as privacy policies and practices.

Trustmarks can also reduce the complexity of the identity ecosystem’s trust landscape, and turn what would otherwise be a collection of poorly interconnected “federated identity siloes” into a more cohesive trust environment. In addition, trustmarks can enhance privacy within the identity ecosystem by helping communities of interest define clear, concise and rigorous privacy rules that participating agencies must follow.

“The concept of trustmarks and a trustmark framework mean different things to different stakeholders,” said John Wandelt, principle investigator for the GTRI NSTIC trustmark pilot.  “The vision of identity ecosystem where trustmarks can be broadly re-used and trusted across several communities of interest to satisfy interoperability, privacy, security and trust needs will require transparency, collaboration and sufficient engineering rigor to concretely specify.”

The new website will facilitate a common understanding of trustmarks and a trustmark framework.  Artifacts resulting from the GTRI pilot project will be posted at this website along with blogs and other related information.

“The objective is to solicit comments from the IDESG, other NSTIC pilots, and the community at large while maintaining the integrity of our pilot schedule,” said Wandelt.

“Trustmarks and Trust Frameworks are a common theme across multiple pilots and discussions in the IDESG,” said Jeremy Grant, Senior Executive for the NSTIC Program Office.

“GTRI’s decision to provide visibility into their trustmark pilot artifacts and findings early on is a great example of the type of collaboration we are encouraging between NSTIC pilots and the IDESG,” said Grant.  ”It should contribute to accelerating substantive discussion and progress in this important area.”

posted at: http://gtri.gatech.edu/casestudy/gtri-launches-trustmark-website-identity-ecosystemP

Tensions brew between government and contractors over intellectual property

January 24, 2014 by

Tensions are brewing in the defense contracting business over government efforts to secure rights to manufacturers’ intellectual property. The clash pits military buyers who want to break up suppliers’ monopolies against companies whose livelihood depends on keeping tight control over their designs.

With the Defense Department under pressure to slash costs as budgets shrink, officials are targeting weapons programs for potential savings. They are particularly keen on reducing the cost of weapons maintenance and production by opening up the market to new competitors.

To do that in a market that is dominated by single-source manufacturers, the Defense Department needs what is known as “rights in technical data.” When the Pentagon buys a weapon system, it retains unlimited rights to the data if the item was designed with government funds. But when a product is financed by a private company, the firm keeps full control of the intellectual property and the government is simply a buyer.

Except in limited circumstances, contracting officials cannot disclose a private company’s proprietary data outside the government.

As the Pentagon in recent decades has become more dependent on the private sector for high-tech equipment, it now realizes that many of the existing arrangements restrict the government from seeking competing bids for maintenance or production of that equipment unless the manufacturers grant data rights. For most suppliers, that equates to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2014/January/Pages/DoDClashesWithSuppliersOverDataRights.aspx 

Procurement reform is one of 3 tech trends predicted for 2014

January 22, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Steve Towns, executive editor of Governing magazine.]

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr famously said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” I tend to agree with him, but as we enter the New Year there are three interrelated technology issues that we can’t ignore. They’ll demand more attention from state and local leaders in 2014.

1. Data Analytics - Governments are great at collecting information, but they often do a lousy job of using it effectively.

2. Civic Innovation - While governments are struggling to get a handle on analytics, many have done a good job of opening data for public consumption.

3. Procurement Reform - One of the biggest barriers to harnessing the growing momentum around civic technology is government procurement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-government-technology-trends-to-watch-in-2014.html

Reflections of a small IT contractor on the government shutdown of 2013 and 2014′s uncertainties

January 14, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Terry Verigan, vice president of CompuCure.] 

Hurricane Katrina nearly killed CompuCure. In the wake of the storm, just three of us remained by Oct. 1, 2005, and the weeks ahead promised to be grim for our New Orleans-based IT services firm — what was left of it anyway. But we weren’t going to let that damn storm chase us away from our city.

By September 2013, eight long years after Katrina wiped out so many lives and businesses, CompuCure had rebounded sufficiently to make Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest growing businesses in America. With a talented staff of 30 delivering projects that had achieved national recognition for quality and value, it was tempting to think we’d made it to some sort of safe high ground, economically speaking. But by late September, our president and owner, Angelina Parker, faced another storm, this one political. The federal shutdown nearly took down the business again.

While we had become accustomed to the disruptions that stemmed from continuing resolutions — the stop-gap budgets lawmakers typically adopted while they continued to disagree over larger spending questions — those rarely impacted our work at federal sites. Employees would clock in while budgets were frozen and eventually CompuCure would be reimbursed. Our line of credit was more than sufficient to carry on. Interest charges eat away at profitability, but we could keep going, knowing that our people and their families felt secure. Our most valuable resources, our employees, would still be on the job.

But the shutdown was different. It meant lost revenue to CompuCure, not just a delay in getting invoices paid. Disturbing questions emerged, notably: How would we keep our talented employees from moving to other companies less dependent on federal contracts?

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2013/12/reflections-2013-year-nearly-killed-one-small-federal-it-firm/76097/?oref=nextgov_cio_briefing

Accenture to replace CGI as HealthCare.gov contractor

January 13, 2014 by

The Obama administration has decided to jettison from HealthCare.gov the IT contractor,CGI Federal, that has been mainly responsible for building the defect-ridden online health insurance marketplace and has been immersed in the work of repairing it.

Federal health officials are preparing to sign early next week a 12-month contract worth roughly $90 million with a different company, Accenture, after concluding that CGI has not been effective enough in fixing the intricate computer system underpinning the federal Web site, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private negotiations.

Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, has extensive experience with computer systems on the state level and built California’s large new health-insurance exchange. But it has not done substantial work on any Health and Human Services Department program.

The administration’s decision to end the contract with CGI reflects lingering unease over the performance of HealthCare.gov even as officials have touted recent improvements and the rising numbers of Americans who have used the marketplace to sign up for health coverage that took effect Jan. 1.

The government is able to sever its relationship with CGI readily because the company’s contract to work on the exchange is to run out at the end of February. Federal officials had the option of extending it for another year and possibly two more times, or of not renewing it. While rejecting a year’s extension, federal officials are discussing with company executives ways to try to ensure a smooth transition, according to individuals familiar with the conversations.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-administration-to-end-contract-with-cgi-federal-company-behind-healthcaregov/2014/01/10/001eb05a-719e-11e3-8b3f-b1666705ca3b_story.html

HealthCare.gov contract: Politics not a factor, but neither were firm’s ties to failed projects

January 6, 2014 by

CGI Federal, the company responsible for building the problem-plagued Web site for the Affordable Care Act, won the job because of what federal officials deemed a “technically superior” proposal, according to government documents and people familiar with the decision.

Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago. But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.

By 2011, CGI Federal already had been cleared to do government work at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency overseeing the rollout of the new health-care law.

The company had been included in a pool of pre-screened, approved contractors in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, and only firms in that pool were later allowed to bid for the Affordable Care Act work. It was at that earlier time that the problems at American Management Systems, the Fairfax County IT contractor acquired by CGI, would have figured into the assessment of CGI Federal, contracting experts say.

In hindsight, one former CMS official said, the AMS record “could well have knocked [CGI Federal] out of the competition, and probably should have.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/healthcaregov-contract-politics-not-a-factor-but-neither-were-firms-ties-to-failed-projects/2013/12/22/61728fca-6753-11e3-a0b9-249bbb34602c_story.html

Contractors preparing for acquisition vehicle worth up to $20 billion

November 19, 2013 by

Contractors are readying for the release of a sprawling new contract program worth up to $20 billion over 10 years to provide government agencies with technology hardware, software and other infrastructure.

The program is the fourth iteration of a contracting vehicle managed by the National Institutes of Health’s Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center, or NITAAC, a body tasked with managing several major procurement programs.

This particular vehicle, known as the Chief Information Officer-Commodities and Solutions, or CIO-CS, program, will be used to buy IT commodities such as personal computers, servers and printers, said Robert Coen, acting program director of NITAAC.

This contracting program is meant to complement the center’s IT services contracting programs, which were awarded last year.

The previous iteration of CIO-CS was awarded in late 2002, and 66 vendors won spots on the program, said Stephen Morris, research analyst at Herndon-based Deltek, which analyzes the government contracting market.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/contractors-preparing-for-acquisition-vehicle-worth-up-to-20-billion/2013/11/08/982f8838-41ab-11e3-a751-f032898f2dbc_story.html

VA Awards health IT contract at triple the price of lower bids

November 14, 2013 by

The Veterans Affairs Department awarded ASM Research a $162.5 million contract to improve the user experience for VA’s electronic health record system, a price more than triple two competitive bids, Nextgov has learned. The Sept. 30 contract award is for improvements to the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, known as VistA.

HP Enterprise Services and Triple-I of Overland Park, Kansas, each submitted bids under $50 million on the contract won by ASM, two independent sources told Nextgov. The companies competed for the VistA work through task orders issued under a $12 billion IT umbrella contract known as Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology, or T4. The T4 contract, awarded to 16 companies in June 2011, is an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract that gives the department considerable flexibility in awarding technology deals.

The VistA enhancement contract calls for a new graphical user interface that will display a wide range of patient information. It also calls for other tasks one source described as so general it would allow the department to use ASM for a wide range of work without further competition.

On Oct. 28, a month after VA awarded the contract to ASM, David Waltman, a senior program officer within the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Information and Analytics who had done preliminary work on that contract, sent an email to colleagues at VA and the Defense Department telling them he would leave government service Nov. 2 to take a job as chief strategy officer for ASM.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/health/2013/11/va-awards-asm-research-health-it-contract-triple-price-competitors-bids/73223/