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Earlier this week, Reuters obtained a draft copy of a bill circulating around Capitol Hill which would give the president the power to declare an emergency in the case of a major online attack. The bill could force certain businesses to enhance their cyber defenses and open themselves to greater scrutiny by the Federal Government. Specifically, the bill would allow the president to declare an emergency if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. electrical grid or other critical infrastructure (such as the water supply or financial network) because of a cyber attack.
Entire industries, companies or portions of companies could be temporarily shut down, or be required to take other steps to address the situation. The emergency declaration would last for 30 days, unless the president renews it. However, it cannot last more than 90 days without action from Congress.
This piece of legislation will be interesting to watch. On one hand, many experts believe cyberspace is the battleground of the not-so-distant future. With most of the nation’s critical infrastructure in the private sector, effectively preventing and responding to attacks is desirable. However, any time the Federal Government ordains itself with the power to seize control of a private sector business, people get nervous (including the very vendors from which the government buys).
This story highlights the growing interweaving of government, commercial concerns, citizens and technology. Don’t expect this debate to end anytime soon.
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The House has passed a bill to allow state and local agencies to buy products and services through the GSA‘s Federal Supply Schedules in the event of an emergency. The Senate passed the bill in May. According to an article in Federal Computer Week, the bill allows governments to buy from schedule contracts in order to prepare for an imminent disaster and also gives the American Red Cross permission to use the schedules. Since the House amended the Senate’s original version, the Senate must now approve the bill as written.
This is likely a good thing as no one wants to see local response inhibited in preparation for disasters such as hurricanes or oil spills due to government red tape. While the GSA is now temporarily allowing access, this law will make it permanent.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently released its 2010 state CIO survey report, “Perspectives and Trends from State Government IT Leaders.” Forty state CIOs participated in survey. Here are a couple of intersting findings for contractors.
First, the majority of CIOs expect budgets to be tight through 2013. Many expect ongoing maintenance spending to continue, but new funding will be limited. To balance budgets, some CIOs are cutting staff. While 64 percent reported a decrease in budgets, 23 percent expect their budget to hold steady, and 13 percent expect an increase due to funding from sources like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
CIOs also provided feedback on the importance of emerging technologies such as cloud computing, social media, and green IT. Half of the state CIOs surveyed said their organizations are looking into cloud computing, but have yet to implement it. One in five said their organization currently employs active or pilot cloud computing projects.
Though only 25 percent of states have statewide social media policies, nearly half have CIO organizations using social media, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Ten percent of CIOs reported their states prohibiting the use of social media.
92 percent of CIOs recognized the importance of green IT in saving money on electricity. 46 percent of those surveyed said state policies are currently in place to mandate green IT while 21 percent reported having no active policies. 31 percent reported these policies were in development.
For IT contractors, it appears the belts will remain tight for another two years. Still, bright spots clearly exist in the areas of cloud computing and green IT initiatives.