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Huge Bidder Pile-On for VA’s $22.3 Billion Tech Deal

By Bob Brewin // October 16, 2014

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald // Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The number of companies that have expressed interest in bidding on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation contract -- known as T4NG -- hit 635 vendors Tuesday, according to a VA spreadsheet.

The list of interested bidders ranges alphabetically from A1C Partners LLC to Yakshna Solutions and is dominated by small-business hopefuls. VA plans to award up to 20 indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts under T4NG, which will run for an initial five years with an option for another five years

VA has reserved eight awards for companies owned by veterans: four for veteran-owned small business and four for service-disabled, veteran-owned small business. Another four awards are reserved for other small business firms, including woman-owned companies.

If all these interested vendors actually submit a bid, the VA acquisition folks will have to go into overtime to weed through all the paper. 

Institute of Medicine Plans Ebola Research Workshop

By Bob Brewin // October 15, 2014

Bellevue Hospital nurse Belkys Fortune, left, and Teressa Celia, Associate Director of Infection Prevention and Control, pose in protective suits in the Emergency Room, during a demonstration of procedures for possible Ebola patients.
Bellevue Hospital nurse Belkys Fortune, left, and Teressa Celia, Associate Director of Infection Prevention and Control, pose in protective suits in the Emergency Room, during a demonstration of procedures for possible Ebola patients. // Richard Drew/AP

The Institute of Medicine said it will hold a one-day workshop Nov. 3 to examine the areas of biomedical and public health research that should be conducted to best prepare the United States to safeguard the public as a result of the emergence of Ebola.

IOM said the workshop, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a venue for real-time discussions about immediate science needs that will inform HHS, public health officials, providers and the general public with the most up-to-date information about virus transmission, mitigation of health risks and appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Our goal for this workshop is to provide a forum for key experts and decision makers to discuss what research is needed and can be performed now to assist the public health response to the occurrence of Ebola in the United States," IOM President Victor J. Dzau said.

The workshop will start 8:30 a.m. at the National Academy of Sciences building, 2101 Constitution Ave. N.W. in Washington and will be webcast.

What’s So Secret About the Price of Dell and HP PCs?

By Bob Brewin // October 14, 2014

Hadrian/Shutterstock.com

The Army Intelligence and Security Command posted a justification and approval notice on FedBizOps last Thursday that it had to buy a whole bunch of Dell and HP PCs or laptops as “hardware requirements and compatibility issues with installation and operational needs require and justify the use of brand name products.”

The J&A document then lists the number and types of PCs, but blacks out the price. I realize INSCOM deals with a lot of shhhhh kind of stuff, but I don’t think the price of Dell and HP PCs or laptops is a military secret.

I did a Web price search for all the models covered in this order for 6,535 boxes, averaged that out to $800 a box and came up with a total price of $5.2 million – in some circles, real money. Why hide this?

(Image via Hadrian/Shutterstock.com)

Some Good VA News: Agency Processed Record-Setting 1.3M Claims in Fiscal 2014

By Bob Brewin // October 9, 2014

Allison Hickey, under secretary for benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs.
Allison Hickey, under secretary for benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs. // Cliff Owen/AP

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it processed more than 1.3 million disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal 2014, which ended last week. That’s the highest number in history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims. 

The quality of claims decisions increased along with the number of claims processed, VA said.

The accuracy of VA decisions rose from 83 percent in 2011 to 90 percent this year, according to the agency. Looking only at medical issues, the accuracy rate rises to 96 percent.

VA said its move to a Web-based electronic claims-processing system has enabled quicker, more accurate and integrated benefits delivery. 

VA once processed 5,000 tons of paper annually. Today, it processes 93 percent of veterans’ disability claims electronically.

Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey gave a hoorah to the employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration for the record-setting year.

“I am so proud of our employees – more than half of whom are veterans themselves – who continue to work tirelessly to deliver the benefits our veterans have earned through their service to our nation,” Hickey said. “But we all also recognize there is still much more work to do to ...

BadUSB Denial?

By Bob Brewin // October 7, 2014

You can more/Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post briefly displayed an outdated story. The post has been updated.

I asked the Pentagon and the White House what they planned to do about vulnerabilities in Universal Serial Bus drives used in practically every computer and received generic and not very specific replies.

SRLabs of Germany says controller chips in the ubiquitous USB drives have no protection against reprogramming. Once reprogrammed, benign devices can turn malicious in many ways including installation of malware and stealing files.

"No effective defenses from USB attacks are known. Malware scanners cannot access the firmware running on USB devices. USB firewalls that block certain device classes do not (yet) exist,“ SRLabs said.

Wired, which reported Oct. 2 the BadUSB code had been released to the public, said today "Unpatchable USB Malware Now Has a Patch … Sort Of."

The fix, Wired said, requires the messy process of coating USB drives with epoxy to keep them being opened and a patch which disables boot mode that "would virtually eliminate the threat of malware that spreads from USB stick to PC and vice versa…"

But that patch has problems, Wired said. "Karsten Nohl, who first put the fundamental insecurity ...