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News briefs: Week of Nov. 25

Nov. 25, 2013 - 10:37AM   |  
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GSA wants better price for Microsoft software

The General Services Administration is looking for better deals on Microsoft software, according to a request for quotations released Nov. 20.

The RFQ is part of the agency’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and will reduce the prices agencies pay for purchases of Microsoft software, according to the agency.

Companies have until Dec. 18 to respond to the RFQ.

GSA Federal Acquisition Service chief Tom Sharpe said in a news release that agencies will find the contracting vehicle faster and easier to use.

“GSA is committed to working collaboratively with our partners at Microsoft resellers to reduce multiple contracts into a single set of agreements to save money and streamline the purchasing process for government agencies,” Sharpe said.

GSA said the new contracting vehicle will save agencies up to 20 percent on software purchases.

Budget cuts slow Army's energy efficiency effort

Congressional budget cuts have forced the Army to scale back its efforts to become more energy efficient and generate more renewable energy, a top Army official said.

Richard Kidd, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for energy and sustainability, said Nov. 20 at a panel discussion in Arlington, Va., that the Army had to cancel $250 million in energy projects in fiscal 2013 because of budget cuts.

He said the Army has also had to slow down its replacement of aging coal-fired boilers and plants because of a lack of funding.

But he said one of the most pressing issues is that sequestration has cut into the Army’s ability to maintain and repair its equipment and facilities — and those facilities will become less efficient over time and cost more money to maintain.

“Existing Army facilities are breaking, and they are not being repaired,” Kidd said.

He added the longer the Army struggles with lower funding, the worse the problem will get.

“This represents a significant long-term cost liability to the country because once they break, they are going to consume more energy and they are going to be more expensive to fix once we get the funds,” Kidd said.

Lawmaker: Too much secrecy could be fueling leaks

Excessive government secrecy feeds public mistrust and may be fostering a culture of leaks, a Democratic lawmaker said Thursday in urging a fundamental re-look at the scope of the classification system.

“It totally undermines public confidence in our institutions,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said at the National Archives and Record Administration’s headquarters in downtown Washington last week. “We simply classify too much information for too long at too great a cost.”

Shaheen spoke during a meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board, a seven-member advisory panel that last December released a package of recommendations for modernizing the classification system. Shaheen incorporated some of those recommendations, such as requiring automatic declassification of records with short-lived sensitivity, into legislation introduced in August.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, is awaiting action by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; in a short interview, Shaheen said she hopes to get a hearing on the measure.

The declassification board was also scheduled to meet last week with White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco; the board’s chairwoman, Nancy Soderberg, was optimistic that the Obama administration may be ready to act on last year’s recommendations, starting with creation of a high-level steering committee to guide implementation.

“What we’re looking for is a White House-led process to drive some of these decisions,” Soderberg told reporters. “In my own experience, that’s the only way you can get it done.”

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