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Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

ANOTHER CLASSIC

 (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again; this guy, whoever he is, is a satirical genius. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but we’ll go out on a limb and declare him on a par with Will Rogers and Mark Twain.

We have also said we wish we knew his identity so we could give him proper credit but we are fairly certain this is a state employee and to do so would result in his/her instant teaguing.

Regardless, the people of this state are indebted to this artist for demonstrating how the top players in this administration have completely and consistently jindaled things up.

It’s not the artwork, which consists of a few computerized re-creations of stock photo images of the characters, that provides the humor. In fact, many of the images appear repeatedly throughout the collection of brilliant strips.

The key to this series is in the way the cartoonist uses dialog to capture the absurd buffoonery that currently permeates the entire fourth floor of the Louisiana State Capitol in lieu of any sound political and economic philosophy.

Why, we would not be at all surprised to learn that he works in the Division of Administration—right under Kristy Nichols’ nose.

Nah. That would be just too perfect.

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The Baton Rouge Advocate had a superb story today (Sunday, Feb. 22) that revealed that Gov. Bobby was out of state 45 percent of the time during 2014 at a direct cost of $314,144 to taxpayers in travel, lodging, meals and rental vehicles for state police security details. You can add another $58,500 (45 percent of his $130,000 per year salary) in additional costs for which taxpayers got no return while he was chasing the pipe dream of becoming president. http://theadvocate.com/news/education/11626690-63/frequent-flier

What you are about to read, though, is not about that. We’ve written about his travels before and The Advocate’s story thoroughly documents the actual costs of his travel to the extent that it would be redundant for us to beat that drum here.

Instead, this story, while much shorter than my usual posts, is simply about a Smart Phone.

And it says volumes about just how casually this administration takes its responsibility for the looming $1.6 billion state budget deficit.

It also says a lot about how certain people are not above helping themselves as they prepare to head out the door even as the institutions they are sworn to protect are swallowed by the expanding financial crisis—non unlike the captain abandoning a sinking ship with passengers still on board. We can only hope they remember to turn off the lights as they leave.

It speaks to the disdain contempt these people have for moral codes and legal constraints which require that they put the welfare of the state first and their own interests last.

And it practically shouts the double standard, the hypocrisy, and the lack of character ingrained in the makeup of the very people entrusted with running the state in the most economical, most responsible and yes, the most principled, manner possible—and their willingness to take ethical shortcuts even as they create and then walk away from a huge fiscal mess for someone else to clean up.

All this fuss over a Smart Phone?

Yes, because the entire affair is symptomatic of a much greater illness—official callousness, obliviousness and indifference—character flaws this state can ill afford in its leaders.

All over a Smart Phone.

You see, Commissioner of Administration recently decided she wanted a new Smart Phone.

Not a state-owned Smart Phone, one that would remain for her successor when she leaves office, but a Smart Phone for her very own personal use, owned by her.

And she wanted the State of Louisiana (taxpayers) to pay for it, according to our source inside the Division of Administration.

And she wasn’t shy about asking the Office of Telecommunications Management (OTM) to purchase one for her.

But OTM said no.

Nichols persisted.

OTM continued to say no.

Nichols finally relented.

But it was the very act of trying to get the state to pony up the money for a Smart Phone for her personal use that rubs salt into the state’s festering fiscal wound and calls into serious question the very integrity of the entire administration of Gov. Bobby.

It Nichols’ apparent disregard for well-defined rules and regulations disallowing just such actions that leaves the authenticity of everything she says and does subject to scrutiny and justifiable skepticism.

She should never have made such a request…and she knows it.

Her attempt at compromising her office and that of OTM, however, was only an extension of an attitude that runs throughout the upper levels of state government.

From the purchase of the luxury Eddie Bauer and Harley-Davidson trucks by former Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley, to long-term Enterprise auto rentals for State Department of Education employees, to legislators who use campaign funds for LSU, Saints and Pelican tickets and for expensive meals, to last year’s unconstitutional attempt to bolster State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement by $55,000 a year, to Deputy Commissioner of Administration Ruth Johnson’s ordering of two desktop computers, a laptop and expensive furniture for her office, there is an attitude of entitlement that permeates the offices of those who impose a completely different set of standards on the rest of us.

And it’s an attitude that flows from the top down.

And the real tragedy is nobody will do a damned thing about it.

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The photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20140218/NEWS05/140218014/Computer-Sciences-Corporation-bring-800-jobs-Bossier-City

The company, partially owned by Lloyds Banking Group of London through its Scottish Windows funds, offers IT services, including cloud solutions, cyber security, technology consulting and, according to several sources, secret CIA flights for the purposes of interrogation and torture. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/may/06/lloyds-computer-sciences-corporation-cia-rendition

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

Louisiana Tech is scheduled to receive the bulk of the $14 million as it plans to quadruple its number of undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer information systems and cyber engineering over the next five or six years, Jindal said, adding that Bossier City was selected over 133 other sites in the U.S. He said the company’s decision will help northwest Louisiana to become “one of America’s new technology hubs, enabling the region to attract technology partners of CSC as well as other technology companies attracted to the growing IT work force here.”

And while Louisiana Tech will get most of the initial funding, the lease payments for the 116,000 square-foot technology center that will be constructed and leased to CSC by Cyber Innovation Center will be paid with $29 million in state funds. City and parish governments will chip another $5 million each to purchase data center equipment for the building while CSC will invest in the servers and other computer technology.

While we are not sure of the identities of the other “technology partners” of CSC, it’s somewhat interesting to note that CSC customers are being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240160206/Customers-urged-to-boycott-CSC-over-CIA-torture-flights

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Documents provided by Reprieve include invoices that show that CSC chartered N982RK, a Gulfstream jet, on the date El-Masri was abducted and logs provided by the civil-military air traffic safety regulator EuroControl show that N982RK few in stages from Washington to Kabul on May 26, 2004, and then to Kucova air base.

Aviation authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina called attention to the unusual flight patterns of the plane which had requested diplomatic permissions under a CIA identifier.

The U.S. has since admitted the abduction to German premier Angela Merkel.

“We think CSC was at the top of the contracting tree for this (CIA operation),” said Reprieve researcher Dr. Crofton Black. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that CSC was the prime contractor between the government and the companies that ran the flight operations.”

German ministries have been sharing IT services with the CIA and NSA and now it is learned that the German government does business with a company involved in abduction and torture—at a pretty handsome profit. http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/67143760611/outsourcing-intelligence-sinks-germany-further-into

For years, CSC was one of the CIA’s largest contractors and records show that the CIA paid the firm $11 million to have el-Masri picked up in Kabul and subsequently tortured for months on end before finally being released as a victim of mistaken identity.

One online news story about the company notes that CSC is a “massive company,” with at least 11 subsidiaries in 16 locations in Germany alone. CSC and its subsidiaries are part of a secret industry, the military intelligence industry but do the “traditionally reserved for the military and intelligence agencies,” but at cheaper rates and under “much less scrutiny.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Cyber Research Park and Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

Coincidence?

We certainly hope so.

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As anticipated, Deloitte Consulting, which met regularly with state officials over the past year to assist in planning for a comprehensive consolidation of information technology (IT) services for the Division of Administration, was named winner of the contract for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” according to an email announcement by the Division of Administration (DOA) that went out to IT employees Thursday morning.

The announcement, which did not mention a contract amount, came only hours after LouisianaVoice indicated that Deloitte had the inside track for the contract on the strength of its working with state officials in the planning of a request for proposals (RFP) for the work.

The email said that the evaluation of proposals was complete and that work under the contract is slated to begin on Monday, September 16.

The announcement cited five other states with full IT consolidation. These included Michigan, Utah, Colorado, New Hampshire and New Mexico. It also listed eight other states with limited IT consolidation: Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and North Carolina.

The email, however, made no mention of the massive cost overruns experienced by several states in attempts at computer conversion and IT consolidation, including North Carolina, one of those put forward by the administration as an example:

  • North Carolina, one of the states cited as a model by the email has seen costs of a contract to modernize only one system, one to process the state’s Medicaid payments, go from the original $265 million to nearly $900 million;
  • California pulled the plug on its court computer system that was to connect all 58 of the state’s counties when the price tag leapt from $260 million to more than $500 million—with only seven courts using the system before the project was terminated.
  • Tennessee experienced repeated delays, missed deadlines and cost overruns and finally stopped work after seven years of development of its Vision Integration Platform (VIP). As is becoming more and more common with bad news, the announcement came late on a Friday in order to have minimal political impact. Tennessee also experienced problems with its much ballyhooed IT state projects that affected the Department of Children’s Services, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the state’s Project Edison payroll system. Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, by the way, announced last April that all of the state’s 1,600 information technology workers would be required to reapply for their jobs.
  • A consolidated service and network support project was supposed to consolidate IT services for 20 state agencies in Wisconsin at a cost of $12.8 million but cost overruns ran the price to more than $200 million, wiping out anticipated savings.
  • In Virginia a 10-year, $2.3 billion contract with Northrop Grumman to consolidate the state’s computer systems has been an ongoing nightmare of cost overruns and missed deadlines

The email touted lower overall operating costs through leveraging volume procurement, elimination of duplication, data center virtualization and standardization of IT architecture statewide.

It also said the project’s approach strategies would include capitalizing on vendor experience in other states, phased approach to consolidation of staff, agency involvement in the process and effective communication with agency staff regarding consolidation goals.

Now that Deloitte has been chosen for the contract, the next steps, according to the DOA announcement will be the selection of a project team, education of the vendor on Louisiana’s IT infrastructure and operations, survey and assessment, development of a plan of operational changes, and the request of software and hardware inventory.

Nothing was mentioned in the approach strategies about impending layoffs of state employees but that is a near certainty given the track record of other privatization/consolidation schemes rolled out by the administration.

And while DOA assures us that 36 states were reviewed in reaching the decision to consolidate the state’s IT services, one has to wonder if any time was spent examining other states in an effort to determine the cause of massive cost overruns, delays and missed deadlines.

Or is this simply yet another program fronted by Gov. Bobby Jindal but being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council?

This is not to say IT consolidation is the wrong thing but with the state’s budget already in the tank, it seems that a more open discussion, more sunshine as it were, would be appropriate before plunging into something that could ultimately break the bank—and still leave us with an inoperative system.

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Ten companies have responded to that request for proposals (RFP) calling for the consolidation of information technology (IT) but because of the number of submissions, the scheduled awarding of the contract was moved back “seven to 14 days,” according to an email to bidders by Neal Underwood, assistant director of Statewide Technology.

One of the vendors being mentioned as the potential winner of the contract, expected to be worth millions of dollars, is Deloitte Consultants, one of three companies that met regularly with Division of Administration (DOA) representatives and state IT executives over the past year in discussions of what services they could provide the state.

Moreover, a confidential source said a Deloitte representative has already confided in several persons that the company “had a good shot” at winning the contract because it had been meeting with state officials over the past year.

That scenario evokes memories of the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) a couple of years back. DOA brought Goldman Sachs in to help formulate the RFP for the privatization and the Wall Street banking firm was subsequently the lone bidder—at $6 million.

Goldman Sachs subsequently withdrew from the project in a dispute over indemnification but re-bid when the RFP was issued a second time. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana eventually landed the contract to administer the agency’s claims.

So now we have Deloitte working with state officials for a year to help formulate the RFP and the company is now said to have the inside track to winning the contract. Déjà vu all over again.

At least two other companies, including IBM, were said to have held meetings with the state in the months leading up to the issuance of the RFP. One of those reported to have attended those meetings was Northrop Grumman but that company was not one of the 10 companies submitting proposals, sources say.

Several other companies reportedly requested permission to attend the pre-proposal meetings but were denied the opportunity.

The meetings would seem to fly in the face of a July 19 memorandum from Richard “Dickie” Howze, interim state chief information officer, to DOA section heads and Council of Information Services directors in which he cautioned against any contact with potential vendors during the RFP process at the risk of possible termination.

“During this procurement process it is crucial that you and your staff do not have any contact with vendors who are potential proposers or who may be part of a proposals as a subcontractor regarding this RFP or other related RFPs,” the memo read.

Besides Deloitte and IBM, companies submitting proposals included Dell Marketing, First Data, Gabriel Systems, Information Services Group (ISG), KPMG, Peak Performance Technologies, RNR Consulting and Tecknomic.

Even though the RFP was only for “Information Technology Planning and Management Support Services,” the state wrote into the RFP that the vendor awarded the planning RFP would not be precluded from the implementation of the consolidation, in effect guaranteeing the winner of the planning contract the contract for implementation of the plans.

It also alluded to recommendations for “potential legislation to support effective implementation and administration” for “effective governance models for the statewide centralized IT services organization.”

It was not immediately clear why “potential legislation” would not have been addressed during the 2013 legislative session and prior to the issuance of the RFP as opposed to issuing a contract and then attempting to address legislative issues as they arose during the course of the contract.

In conjunction with the RFP, DOA also issued a request for information (RFI) for business reorganization (and) efficiencies planning and implementation consulting services which would seem to be an exercise in redundancy given the fact that a similar efficiency study was conducted during the tenure of former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis and that yet another such study is already underway using Six Sigma methodology.

Six Sigma is a methodology that employs tools and techniques for process improvement. The concept was pioneered by Motorola in 1981 and is widely used in different sectors of industry.

Just as with the RFP for the planning and management support services, several vendors responded with proposals. Oral presentations, as with the RFP, however, were limited to a select few companies, including Deloitte, McKinsey & Co., Alvarez & Marsal and CGI Technologies.

McKinsey & Co. is primarily an organization offering internships to trainees for conservative political causes. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who seems hell bent on privatizing virtually every agency and service in state government, worked for McKinsey & Co. for less than a year in the only private sector job he has ever held.

The RFI required that vendors, among other things, present their approach/methodology to identify operational efficiencies, experiences in other governmental settings, and the areas of governmental services “that would produce the maximum benefit.”

Portia Johnson, executive assistant to Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, sent an email to companies who submitted responses to the RFI. That email said:

“Thank you for your interest in RFI 107:01-000001238 Business Reorganization Efficiencies Planning and Implementation Consulting Services. Due to the vast response and in the interest of time, the State has chosen several vendors representative of the industry to interview. Although you have not been selected to proceed in the process, we have taken any documents submitted by you under advisement.”

Said another way: “You have been eliminated for consideration because we have other vendors with whom we prefer to do business. But we are going to go through your proposals and we will probably steal some of your ideas and you won’t get a dime for your efforts. Thank you for your trouble.”

  • CNSI and the federal investigation of its $200 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and the ensuing resignation of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, who had maintained continued contact with his old bosses at CNSI during the bidding, selection and contract awarding processes;
  • Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) and its inside track advantage by virtue of its CEO/President also serving on the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, which issued the contract to BRF to run the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe;
  • Goldman Sachs helping to write the RFP for the takeover of OGB and subsequently being the only bidder on the RFP;
  • Meetings between state officials and vendors for a year leading up to the issuance of an RFP for the consolidation of IT services in more than 20 departments within the state’s executive branch;

Folks, we’re beginning to detect a pattern here.

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