recommended reading


Bob Brewin, 1944-2014

By Katherine McIntire Peters // December 22, 2014

Bob Brewin served in the Marines in Vietnam.
Bob Brewin served in the Marines in Vietnam.

Dedicated readers of What’s Brewin’ may wonder why it has been quiet of late. Here’s the story.

The greatest professional pleasure any editor can have is to work with an exceptionally talented reporter. I’ve worked with many excellent reporters, but none more passionate, fearless or committed than Bob Brewin, the originator and driving force behind What’s Brewin.’ To borrow a marketing tagline from a defense contractor, Bob never forgot who he was working for. That is to say he never was happier than when he was taking on powerful interests on behalf of the powerless.  

Bob was a brilliant reporter with a gift for slogging through jargon-laden government documents to find hidden gems—the stuff lesser reporters lack the patience for, but which was Bob’s stock in trade. FedBizOps never had a more committed reader. Bob could ferret out waste and inefficiency in the defense world more quickly and effectively than a team of inspectors general. He was not impressed with rank—a legacy of his days as a Marine infantryman in Vietnam—but if you earned his respect, you could find no better friend. 

I first began working with Bob in the fall of...

DISA in Compliance with Cloud Security Standards

By Bob Brewin // November 4, 2014

Blue Island/

The Defense Information Systems Agency currently offers its military customers certified cloud computing services from three vendors and has another seven under assessment for compliance with governmentwide security standards, top agency officials told Nextgov.

FedRAMP reviews aim to speed the adoption of cloud deployments across government by allowing cloud services to be vetted once – at a particular security level – and then deployed by a multitude of agencies. Agencies must comply with FedRAMP as a matter of federal policy.

But as noted in a recent review from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, neither the FedRAMP program office nor the Joint Authorization Board -- made up of the chief information officers of General Services Administration and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security -- can force agencies to comply with FedRAMP.

The report identified 348 federal commercial cloud contracts with a value of $12 billion as of fiscal 2014. But it did not identify specific agencies that failed to meet certification requirements.

Mark S. Orndorff, the mission assurance executive for the Defense Information Systems Agency, said three commercial cloud services are currently available to DOD users: Autonomic Resources, CGI Federal and Amazon Web Services.

Assessments of FedRAMP-compliant offerings from providers...

Army Wants Better Teeth Tracking

By Bob Brewin // October 31, 2014


The Army Dental Command wants to acquire software to help its dentists and dental technicians better manage troops’ dental care and treatment.

Modules for the new system should include case-tracking capabilities and a digital dashboard with “dynamic scheduling” capacity, whatever that means.

Who wants nondynamic dental software? 

(Image via InnervisionArt/

VA Eyes New Medical Imaging System

By Bob Brewin // October 30, 2014


The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to acquire a new medical imaging system based on commercial standards and wants to hear from interested vendors by Monday.

That’s just six business days after the department posted a request for information on the FedBizOpps website.

The VistA Imaging System runs today on the VA-developed Picture Archive and Communications System, installed in 143 imaging facilities nationwide.

VA now wants to acquire a new imaging system that works on the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine standard for distributing and viewing medical images, including X-rays and more advanced systems such as CT body scans and MRI brain scans.

Note: All the links in the RFI page are dead at the moment. VA, please fix. 

(Image via lendy16/

Today's Lesson -- Aging Soviet Rocket Engine Doesn't Fly

By Bob Brewin // October 29, 2014

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, as it suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch.
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, as it suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch. // NASA/AP

Orbital Sciences Corp. tried to launch a mission to the International Space Station yesterday using rocket engines built four decades ago, only to see the rocket blow up seconds after liftoff from a Virginia launch site.

Or as Orbital’s executive vice president, told the Guardian after the crash, “The asset stopped, there was some, let’s say, disassembly of the first stage, after which it fell to Earth,” said Frank Culbertson, in a deadpan description of an explosion that could be seen for miles and terrified observers. 

Lost in old Soviet smoke: hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment, ranging from “classified cryptographic” gear to school science experiments, which were destroyed in a giant fireball Tuesday evening after technicians detonated a self-destruct mechanism six seconds after launch because of a “catastrophic” equipment failure.

Oh well, we’re still ahead in the smartphone payment race.