Government Contractors in Iraq not Withdrawing as Quickly as Military Personnel

Though the military is “aggressively accomplishing its drawdown” in Iraq, the government contractors supporting the military aren’t going quite so easily according to an article on Federal News Radio and a report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting.  It appears as if contractor staff members exceed the required level of support in many cases. 

“In fact,” there are come very noticeable examples that were brought out (in a hearing yesterday) where there are a lot of people sitting around waiting to work,” according to Commission co-chair Michael Thibault.

Both military officials and contractors are pointing fingers at each other.  Military officials say it is the contractor’s responsibility to identify where they see significant numbers of staff sitting around idle.  Contractors say they aren’t getting any guidance from the DoD contracting officers, and they have an obligation to maintain staff levels until instructed otherwise.

“The solution will require exceptional communication on both parties,” said Thibault.    However, we suspect deeper communication on this issue won’t really happen.  Companies are not incentivized to communicate about staff cuts that reduce their revenue numbers.  Military officials see their staff being drawn down, and most likely like the idea of having some extra bodies in place “just in case.”

-LBB 

FCC’s National Broadband Plan Released

On Tuesday, March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the much-anticipated National Broadband Plan.  The plan is designed to be a roadmap for the next decade with regards to implementing broadband Internet access to unserved and under-served populations within the U.S.

While the plan itself is lengthy, there are six stated goals the FCC wishes to achieve with the implementation of this plan:

1. At least 100 million U.S. homes with affordable access to 100 megabits per second download and 50 megabits per second upload.
2. The U.S. should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the world’s fastest and most extensive wireless networks.
3. Every American should have affordable access to “robust” broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
4. Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions (schools, hospitals and government buildings).
5. Every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
6. Every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

While the goals of the plan are lofty, many questions remain as to whether or not the FCC can pull off the various tenets of the plan.  For example, a key proposal for funding the massive program is to reclaim a chunk of spectrum from broadcasters and re-auction these to companies offering broadband service.   Some $20 billion of spectrum auction money would have to wind its way through the labyrinth of Congress without being diverted, according to an article from the Associated Press.  

 The FCC plan also lays out a concept for overhauling the Universal Service Fund to pay for broadband instead of basic telephone service–its historical focus. The $8-billion-a-year program was originally established to subsidize telephone service in sparsely populated places.  Apparently laws must be changed to allow for the transition from telephone service to broadband.

Not surprising, early reactions from the big phone and cable companies were positive as this could mean billions of dollars to their business over the course of a decade.  Other business opportunities will certainly be spawned in the areas of installation, construction, development, even education and marketing.  It will be fascinating to watch how all this plays out as our nation addresses the building of its “highways of the future.”

All the best,

Lorin

Pentagon Loosens Policy on Use of Social Media

The Pentagon is supporting the use of social media through the easing of its policy for using social networking and other Web 2.0 sites according to an article in Government Technology.  The Department of Defense (DOD) recently released a new policy statement “for responsible and effective use of Internet-based capabilities.” It basically lifts existing bans on access to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Prior to this policy change, most social media sites were essentially banned due to potential national security concerns.

The policy doesn’t completely open up the Internet, however.  Pornography, gambling and other assorted “vice” sites will remain inaccessible.  The policy also allows for the temporary suspension of access in order to “safeguard missions” by “temporarily limiting access to the Internet to preserve operations security or to address bandwidth restraints”.

One interesting reason for allowing access:  lack of media coverage.  The policy will help the DOD press office distribute stories typically overlooked by the mainstream media.  Examples cited include the building of schools and hospitals in Iraq.

While the news may not have a direct effect on many government contractors, it is nevertheless interesting to see the government–particularly the DoD–struggle with issues of open access, privacy, connectedness and potential conflicts with national security.  It’s also interesting to see how government is embracing these technologies to communicate its own messages, a testament to their power.  Products and services that help solve this problem will get attention and funding.  Look for more examples of loosening reigns on technology (and possibly more examples of problems this creates).

All the best,

Lorin

FCC Discusses Key Component of Funding Upcoming Broadband Plan

The FCC will propose creating a $4.6 billion fund to support the penetration of high-speed Internet service into underserved areas.  The initiative would replace a similar program that currently falls underneath the $8 billion federal Universal Service Fund.  This fund was originally designed to reduce the costs of phone service for certain eligible citizens and help fund high-speed infrastructure for schools, libraries and rural hospitals according to an article in NextGov.

FCC officials outlined a plan to move the USF away from traditional telephone subsidies and toward exclusive support of broadband. The proposal will be a key component of the agency’s national broadband plan due out March 16, 2010.  The FCC said these changes can be accomplished without Congressional intervention, but the broadband plan will nevertheless recommend Congress approve a $9 billion appropriation (over three years) that would enable the FCC to accelerate the fund’s shift in focus.

All the best,

Lorin