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President Outlines Priorities for Improving Program Quality for Health Care and Social Services

While debates for additional 2011 funding continue, below are some highlights from President Obama's proposed fiscal year 2012 budget for health and social services programs. Although the discretionary budget, specifically for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is down nearly three percent from estimated FY 2010 at $79.9 billion, priority investments for the administration include early childhood, a focus on child welfare systems to incentivize improved performance, and fighting fraud in health care. DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the funds are targeted to make each resource go a little further and each dollar count, but overall, the budget doesn't contain tons of drastic changes to services for children and families. There are increases to child care and Head Start programs, but decreases in the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The CSBG was cut by $350 million, or a 50 percent decrease from 2010 and 2011 continuing resolution funds. LIHEAP was brought back down to levels seen in FY 2008, with a decrease of $2.5 billion. The budget also proposes to change to the CSBG to a competitive structure. The Social Services Block Grant funding for states remains the same as previous years at $1.7 billion for the continuing resolution and $1.7 billion for FY 2012.

The FY 2012 budget includes $5.9 million for health information security work and states' efforts to plug away at personal health information safekeeping. The budget includes aid to support health departments' technology and workforce through the Public Health Infrastructure Program, but at a decrease of $9.8 million from FY 2010.The budget also cuts the Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement grants by $72 million from FY 2010. The budget proposals for the Health Resources and Services Administration include $1 million for telehealth programs. The Office of the National Coordinator included $6.5 million to assist regional extension centers, health care systems and hospitals, and electronic health record vendors to achieve meaningful use.

Highlights:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The FY 2012 budget includes $16.5 billion for state family assistance grants and $211 million for supplemental grants for the 2011 continuing resolution. There is also a legislative proposal of $108 million for supplemental grants in the 2011 continuing resolution, and $319 million for FY 2012's grants. TANF reauthorization was acknowledged with the mention that Congress wants to analyze strategies to bolster the program.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The budget includes $73.2 billion with $5 billion in reserve available through September 2013 to accommodate increased demand.
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC): A proposed $7.4 billion to include $7.3 billion in grants to states, $60 million for electronic benefit transfer (EBT)/management information systems (MIS), and $14 million for infrastructure grants and technical assistance.
  • Child Support Enforcement: Includes $3.4 billion for payments to states for child support enforcement and family support. The legislative proposal, subject to pay-as-you go budget rules, includes $5 million for administrative costs for FY 2012.
  • Child Care: Proposes $6.3 billion for child care, including $2.9 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to supplement assistance for low-income families. This is $800 million more than FY 2010 levels. Entitlement to states is $3.4 billion, including $500 million in legislative proposal. Head Start is funded at $8.1 billion, an increase of approximately 12 percent, or $866 million more than FY 2010 funding.
  • Child Welfare: Requests $7.25 billion for foster care and permanency services including adoption and guardianship assistance, foster care, and independent living. The budget includes a legislative proposal of $250 million for states to incentivize their performance around improved outcomes for foster care.
  • Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP): The budget proposes $581 million for state agencies to track and monitor prescription drug billing, prescribing, and utilization for fraud and abuse.

Federal Health, Social Services and Employment Assistance to State and Local Governments:

GovWin's Take:

  • The FY 2012 budget proposes somewhat flat funding for health and social services programs as the federal government looks for ways to improve program accountability
  • States will need to examine their program and performance management to do more with less
  • States and localities will receive less federal support in their capabilities to plan and respond to public health emergencies
  • Security vendors should take note that states will continue to press health information exchange privacy and security initiatives. They will look to fully establish practices for protecting confidentiality and using technology for electronic tracking of data integrity throughout access and exchange
  • Localities may need assistance with the newly competitive nature of the CSBG
  • Health insurance monitoring requirements for CHIP and Medicaid offer opportunities for vendors to assist in the detection of fraud. Look for program integrity tools that will mine and analyze data to identify cases of potential abuse

State and Local Information Services: Social Media

It would be an understatement to say social media tools and websites have grown exponentially around the globe. Ten years ago, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter did not exist yet, and while marketing and other business connectivity was conducted online, the idea that millions of individuals from around the world could connect even more was hardly a reality. Sure, sites like MySpace existed, but these were hardly seen as business tools. Sites like this were simply to keep in touch with your friends. Then, everything changed.

In 2003, LinkedIn was founded, allowing individuals to network and showcase themselves in the business world. A year later, Facebook launched. The site was initially created to connect with fellow college students, and has since grown to become the second most popular website in the world. Now, Facebook has more than 600 million members and includes many features outside of connecting with friends. Federal, state and local businesses and agencies are flocking to the website in droves, ensuring they are not left in the dust of the social media bandwagon.

We can't forget Twitter. The social media site with nearly 200 million users, and what many consider a microblogging interface, enables users to connect with one another via shorts entries and links to external content.

Earlier this year, GovWin reported on the usage of social media by law enforcement agencies. Over the next few weeks, GovWin's analysts will explore different facets of social media within state and local government, including use by public safety agencies, health and human services agencies, and the general public.

GovWin's State and Local Information Services is in the process of expanding its social media capabilities, and one of the first initiatives is polling. Members can now vote in a poll located on the My GovWin page which asks what social media tools are most useful in the course of your business efforts. Obtaining member's opinions is necessary to truly understand the social media marketplace.

GovWin utilizes Twitter along with individual analysts on the various State and Local Information Services teams. The justice and public safety team utilizes a single Twitter handle that provides articles and other insight into the public safety market as well as individual analyst opinions and content. The health and human services team features Twitter feeds from Principal Analyst Sherry Calvendra, Analyst Kate Tussey and Analyst Amanda White, while the general government services team features Principal Analyst Jason Sajko. GovWin's state and local team can also be found on LinkedIn. In the future, GovWin will look to expand its social media presence to Facebook and possibly other emerging tools. Look for additional blogs on social media in the coming weeks.

California's Proposed FY 11-12 Budget: A Vertical Overview

California Governor Edmund Brown presented his proposed state budget on January 10, 2011. In it, the governor identified several of California's financial concerns, including the lack of long-term solutions in place to cut the tremendous deficit. Governor Brown plans to close the budget gap by making significant cuts to several agencies ($12.5 billion in the FY 11-12 budget).

Table 1: California Budget Comparison Across FY 10 – FY 12


Click to see full-size chart

Note: GovWin's budget estimates and IT budget estimates are based upon reported expenditures in the Governor's budget. IT expenditures include both published line items and operations and management expenses; published IT budgetary numbers in the budget proposal may not reflect all state IT spending.

The top vertical IT budgetary reductions were in public finance (33.63 percent) and primary/secondary education (100 percent). These reductions are based on values given for these verticals, and do not indicate spending will be cut completely; however, they reflect the probable elimination of unnecessary IT spending. The top vertical IT budgetary increases (in order) were in justice/public safety (17.43 percent), general government services (5.18 percent), and higher education (4.51 percent). Most programs receiving increased funding are those with capabilities of making government more efficient by consolidating functions of other departments. IT procurement spending will likely be prioritized, with preference given to projects deemed most necessary. These will likely be projects in which the state spends more money to save money in the long run, such as consolidation and improved efficiency efforts.

Figure 1: California Budget Vertical Comparison Across FY 10 – FY 12


Click to see full-size chart

Note: GovWin's budget estimates are based upon reported expenditures in the Governor's budget.

Governor Brown's pared down budget will probably result in fewer or reduced-scale procurements. California will still need to obtain certain services, but these needs will likely be prioritized by necessity. IT spending has not fluctuated much over the past two years in California, and the anticipated IT budget for FY 2012 is essentially on track with previous budgets. It seems the state may maintain the theme from the past two years of the recession and keep IT spending to a minimum. That's not to say the state will eliminate procurement of software, services, or other IT-related items. Contrarily, the spending, as with all non-IT spending, will be based on what is deemed necessary. Referencing California's budgeted line items, departments will likely seek vendors for IT services and projects that will automate and make governmental functions more efficient. These projects include a business information system and a strategic offender-management system for the Department of Corrections; an electronic records system for the Department of Rehabilitation; and electronic testing terminals for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

*The budgetary numbers presented by GovWin may not reflect values in most government and media announcements. The numbers presented by GovWin are all-funds values, which include all state funds, federal funds, non-government cost funds, and reimbursements. The values presented by most media announcements include only state funds and federal funds.*

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(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

Cloud Computing: A Budget's Savior?

For awhile, cloud computing seemed erroneous when coupled with technological advancement. Concerns with privacy and security made it especially difficult to build the case for cloudware technology, particularly in the government sphere. Only recently has cloud computing been seen as the next step in the enhancement of information technology. For instance, cloudware technology has manifested extensively on a national level, which can be seen with the federal government's Cloud First initiative. The main objective of Cloud First is cost efficiency through the adoption of light technology and shared services. The strategy evolved from the Obama administration's information technology reforms from the 2012 budget. The feds are expected to close 800 data centers in 2012, and 2,100 by 2015. The General Services Administration (GSA) will be the first federal agency to adopt a cloud-based solution for email. Agencies will be required to "default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists."

One of the most touted benefits of cloud computing is its cost effectiveness. Implementation of cloudware technology is quick, and startup costs are significantly lower than information systems. With cloud computing, infrastructure can be manipulated instantly, making enhancements and modifications to systems much easier and less time consuming. When state and local departments utilize this technology, they are able to rid of ongoing maintenance and operational expenses that often place heavy burdens on budgets. Departments are able to save on investments and no longer have to worry about shelling out money to fix antiquated legacy systems. For instance, in 2008, Colorado's Office of Information Technology began to consolidate its IT systems across 17 executive branch agencies. The effort grew from the desire to steer away from an unsustainable siloed environment. Cloud computing seemed to be a natural fit for the state because of its ability to host multiple agencies. The state ended up saving an average of $8 million per year and consolidated a total of 40 data centers. Similarly, Utah's Department of Technology Services is currently spearheading a cloud computing initiative with a goal to deliver hosted email and Web applications to cities and counties within the state. The effort was triggered by budgetary challenges, whereby the state's legislature agreed to find a way to reduce the state's technology budget by $4 million. The initiative is services-oriented, where common infrastructure, information and solutions will be shared and reused across state government agencies. Utah's overarching goal is to create a more agile state enterprise where services can be reused and provisioned instantly to meet agency needs in a cost-effective manner.

States are aware of challenges with integration and have been exploring ways it can be achieved within state and local organizations. For example, New York is currently involved in a project known as the IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud. The effort will allow local governments to appropriately share information internally and across governments. The project is expected to improve integration, collaboration and transparency. Clients will be able to access Software as a Service (SaaS) on the cloud rather than paying for hardware, software and solution development. Users will be able to select what they need and subscribe as necessary. The project is also expected to terminate competition and instead encourage sharing between governments. IBM's platform will support safe sharing between governments providing standard services with variations customized to local needs. The platform will also provide dashboards for government officials and citizens, making operations more transparent and enforcing an open government. The project is expected to launch in early 2011 in New York municipalities and Michigan, and extend to other cities throughout the year. To read more about states and their corresponding cloud computing initiatives visit GovWin's recent Analyst Perspective on Cloud Adoption. (Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

GovWin's Take

With the rising acceptance of cloudware technology and the challenges states continue to face with budgets, integration and consolidation; it is only a matter of time before more solutions are adopted across health and human service departments. States are inevitably at different levels in moving toward the cloud platforms. For that, the implementation of cloud computing for system integration in health and human services departments will be driven by diverse factors and motivators within states.

President Obama Proposes Major Changes to State & Local Transportation Grant Programs

President Obama's recently released budget for fiscal year 2012 includes details about many transportation-related grant programs for state and local governments. The president proposes sending $101.5 billion in the form of transportation grants to state and local governments during the next federal fiscal year. The president further proposes reclassifying several discretionary grant programs included in the surface transportation reauthorization proposal as mandatory outlays in accordance with the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recommendations. Other transportation grant programs currently funded out of the General Fund would be moved to Transportation Trust Fund.

The goal of the $556 billion surface transportation reauthorization plan is to modernize the country's infrastructure, create jobs and pave the way for long-term economic growth. It streamlines 55 duplicative, often earmarked programs into five streamlined grants. It emphasizes fixing existing assets and moving toward a cost-benefit analysis of large transportation projects. In order to incent states to keep current transportation infrastructure in good condition, the administration would require them to report on highway condition and performance measures. Included in the reauthorization is $30 billion to establish a National Infrastructure Bank (I-Bank), which would provide loans and grants to support individual projects and significant activities that support economic competitiveness. Also included is $32 billion for a competitive grant program designed to create incentives for state and local governments to adopt reforms in a number of areas including safety, livability and demand management. The Department of Transportation would set goals and tie resources to goal achievement. A new $4.1 billion grant program aims at making communities more livable and sustainable for projects like multi-model hubs and streets that accommodate pedestrian, bicycle and transit access.

The proposed budget includes $8 billion in 2012 towards the president's goal of having 80% of the population have easy, convenient access to a passenger rail system. This is the first time intercity passenger rail programs have been included in surface reauthorization. The president proposes merging Amtrak's stand-alone subsidies into the high-speed rail program as part of a larger, System Preservation initiative.

The distribution of airport grants would focus on smaller airports while providing larger airports additional flexibility to raise their own resources.

The budget embraces a data-driven approach to safety. The budget includes new performance-based programs to advance commercial motor vehicle safety, new safety oversight authority for rail transit and more thorough oversight of the Nation's pipeline network.

Federal Transportation Assistance to State and Local Governments

(1) These programs are included in the surface transportation reauthorization proposal. As part of that proposal the Administration proposes to reclassify all surface transportation outlays as mandatory and also move a number of current General Fund programs to the Transportation Trust Fund.

GovWin's Take

While governments spend heavily on transportation only about 5% of that funding is usually spent on technology to support transportation objectives. However, there are some interesting new opportunities in Obama's proposed budget for technology vendors:

  • The data-driven approach to safety will create many new opportunities for data storage and business analytics vendors
  • Consultants with transportation practices should be prepared to help state and local governments with the new accountability requirements, performance reports, and cost-benefit analyses that will be required by the surface reauthorization
  • Companies specializing in toll systems should fare well as demand management strategies such as variable tolling, or "Lexus lanes" will be on the rise
  • Asset inventory and work management applications will be required to document work done to existing transportation infrastructure so that states and localities may meet new performance measurement requirements.
  • State and local governments will need assistance understanding the several new competitive grant programs and perhaps even assistance with their grant applications

Cloud Computing: States Pursue the Last Piece of the Puzzle

The federal government's Cloud First initiative promises to establish the "center of gravity" for governmental cloud implementations, including those at the state and local levels where cloud computing investments are forecasted to grow from $230 million in 2009 to $610 million in 2014 (according to GovWin's Emerging Technology Markets in U.S. State and Local Governments, 2009-2014 report). The main objective of Cloud First is cost efficiency through the adoption of light technology and shared services. Other goals include strengthening program management, aligning acquisition and budget processes with the technology cycle, streamlining governance, and increasing accountability and engagement with the industry. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will be the first federal agency to adopt a cloud-based solution for email. Agencies will be required to "default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists." The Cloud First policy will be threefold and include using commercial cloud technologies where feasible, launching private government clouds, and utilizing regional clouds with state and local governments where appropriate. Further, the federal chief information officer is expected to publish a strategy to accelerate safe and secure adoption of cloud computing across the government within the next six months.

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(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

DHS' third Real ID delay and its impact on vendors

Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security made an inevitable decision: delay the compliance requirements of the Real ID law. The delay pushes mandatory state drivers' license requirements 21 months to January 2013. This comes amid the continued onslaught of budget cuts and belt tightening taking place in states across the country, along with state agencies' requests for additional funding measures. Since its 2005 launch, state agencies have been wary about complying with Real ID as the cost to do so could potentially exceed $11 billion.

In 2009, the Obama administration delayed the original deadline in hopes of implementing a new program called Pass ID, which would cut costs, invoke fewer requirements, and offer more federal aid for state programs. The proposal died in Congress and since then states have been in limbo on what will actually happen. Twenty-four states have refused to comply with the Real ID act, 16 of which passed laws prohibiting compliance.

So, what does this mean to vendors? It means vendors will have more time to provide the necessary solutions and services to comply with Real ID requirements. This will include additional time to develop new drivers license backend data capture systems along with migrating existing legacy data into new systems. It will also allow vendors to propose enhanced card production services to states that currently produce cards internally or onsite.

On top of this, vendors who sell facial recognition software will have a chance to propose these solutions to states that have either just begun or are going to begin the transition to enhanced drivers licensing. This extra time will offer states the opportunity to fully vet and secure additional credentialing measures that eat up a lot of program development budgets. States will also have the ability to better inventory and analyze current environments and business processes, which could have an impact on other segments of the market.

GovWin is currently tracking more than 50 active drivers licensing, issuance, and processing opportunities across the country. Additionally, GovWin continues to provide updates on the measures each state is taking or has taken to comply with Real ID. For more information, please see GovWin's Vertical Profile for Real ID. For additional information on the history of Real ID and the requirements expected, see GovWin's 2008 report on Real ID.

FCC Interoperability Forum Recap Part II

This is part two of GovWin's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Interoperability Forum recap. Part one covered sessions on the utilization of LTE 4G technology and the Radio Access Network (RAN) to achieve nationwide interoperability. Throughout both morning sessions, panelists stressed that no matter what form the network ultimately takes, it has to be reliable, not only in cities, but across rural portions of the country. This theme was also present during the forum's afternoon session, which consisted of two panel discussions, beginning with an introduction from Special Counsel to FCC Chairman Genachowski Amy Levine. Levine spoke on the chairman's behalf and reminded attendees that the impetus for the FCC's focus on building an interoperable network for first responders and all public safety officials lies in the 9/11 Commission's recommendation. She also stressed the present and future life-saving advances this network could bring for those in emergencies, from police being able to identify accident victims, to paramedics being able to access a patient's medical records before they arrive at the hospital.

Panel Three: Core network, security and services

Panel three picked up where Levine left off, with the panel agreeing that creating an interoperable network would have significant life-saving possibilities. However, the panelists raised numerous questions and ideas about how to keep the network secure and accessible. While traditional hacking and security breaches are big concerns in network development, they are not the only ones. Panelist John Powell, interoperability chair for the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), mentioned the concern that different states have different laws for who can access what information. Using the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) as examples, Powell detailed potential problems with individuals from different states accessing the same information. While it might be acceptable in one state for a paramedic to access HIPPA records, it might be illegal in another. The ability for the national network to have different levels of security and ensure only certain people access certain information was a theme echoed throughout the discussion.

Director of Telecommunications at Texas A&M University Walter Magnussen explained how college networks, particularly university federation networks, have managed to achieve such security by allowing individuals to access only very specific information. Magnussen is also the director of the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center (ITEC), an advanced network consortium developed from the need for universities worldwide to connect and share information. University networks were built using a bottom-up approach by connecting only a small number of university campuses across a state and then across a region. Now, with Internet2 and similar networks, hundreds of thousands of university students nationwide can access the network while high-level security is still maintained. Magnussen suggested that a similar special-purpose network be established for use by public safety personnel.

Throughout the panel, it was stressed that interoperability is not a new or a foreign concept. Companies today constantly work on different secure networks without problems, which is why email can be sent from a secure Microsoft account to a secure Gmail account. While the information exchanged over a public safety network may be more sensitive than a basic email exchange, the principle remains the same. It is already possible to establish different levels of security to access different information on a network. Further authentication such as a certificate and a password can be established as a requirement to access more sensitive information. Governance is the primary factor needed to ensure networks are secure and accessible. It is essential to know what common practices will be expected amongst the network's users, what information will be on the network, what will be shared, and with whom.

Panel Four: Where we go from here

Panel four reiterated the idea that governance is crucial to a successful network. There was also a consensus that strong governance and strong practices had to be the foundation of the network rather than something applied later. Bill Price, director of broadband programs for Florida's Division of Telecommunications, also stressed the fact that recommendations must come from the bottom up. Local public safety officers, first responders, and those on the ground should determine what good governance should look like, and ultimately, how the network will be built. Edmond J. Thomas, technology police advisor for Wiltshire & Grannis, cautioned against providing state and local public safety officials with complete control over governance. While agreeing that local officials will need to have a say in the way the network is developed, he expressed there needs to be a federal body like the FCC regulating the process. The panel discussed the FCC acting not only as the license holder and controller for the network, but also as part of a sitting panel of experts in charge of monitoring and recommending improvements from construction through implementation of the network.

One of the most essential questions raised was how to ensure the network could take advantage of economies of scale as well as assure it will be dynamic and able to respond to changes in technology. One suggestion was for counties and states to procure services rather than build a network. Procurement would allow states and localities to solicit new technologies instead of constantly struggling to maintain and upgrade the network themselves. Another suggestion was to use applications to enhance the network and keep it up to speed with emerging technologies. Police officers could use an augmented reality application to tell them whether a person they pulled over is who they say they are. Firefighters could have an application that allows them access to building plans so they understand the layout prior to entering. By allowing open-source development of these applications, public safety officers will have immediate access to cutting-edge technology without having to rebuild an entire network.

GovWin's Take:

Governance and reliability were touted as the most important factors in building and improving the network. These are serious considerations that must be thought through before construction of a network begins. GovWin feels it is essential for vendors to stay on top of this discussion, particularly should the idea of creating applications for various agencies and departments take hold. This would provide a dynamic chance for firms to develop similar products and market them to a wide consumer base.

FCC Interoperability Forum Recap Blog Part I

Today, GovWin attended the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Interoperability Forum hosted in Washington D.C. This is the first of a two-part blog series covering the forum. The FCC recently adopted interest in Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks as a common technology platform for an interoperable nationwide public safety network. Interoperability is the first priority in all aspects of the nationwide network creation; governance, funding, structure, and architecture. Through the forum, the Commission seeks comment on architectural vision, principles to guide the network, roaming regime and viable roaming framework of a nationwide public safety network. The forum is crucial for stakeholders to bring potential issues to the forefront of the conversation.

Panel 1: How to ensure nationwide interoperability for public safety broadband utilizing LTE 4G Technology

Panel 1 discussed the different aspects that would involve creation of a LTE nationwide network; including testing, global standards, and system evolution. Ken Budka, Senior Director, Advanced Mission Critical Communications, Bell Labs Alcatel-Lucent and Emil Olbrich, Lead Project Engineer, Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) spoke on testing the network. Budka explained the vendor's testing processes, and explained ways to leverage existing testing for public safety agencies. He also spoke on the current processes for inter-vendor testing. It usually happens as a result of customer's contracts, but ensures interoperability across networks and vendors. Olbrich explained how their labs have utilized LTE; testing it with commercial vendors. Insuring that vendors are interoperable with mission critical voice and data is crucial. Standards are moving fast, and Olbrich cautions that the network will need to continually update testing as development continues.

Brian Daly, Director, Core & Government/Regulatory Standards, AT&T Mobility Services, LLC, spoke on global and technical standards with regard to the nationwide network. Daly gave an overview of the networks AT&T has worked with, and explained the specification and interoperability guideline development process. Standards are being built to focus on interoperability, and supporting interoperability, including roaming, and support associated with multiple network connections.

Finally, Dennis Martinez, Chief Technology Officer, Harris Corporation Radio Frequency (RF) Communications Division, discussed nationwide network system evolution. Martinez showed the forum a roadmap for migration addressing mobility and interoperability. He explained that all layers of architecture must be addressed. The associated challenge with the deployment of a "network of networks," is to make sure a level of interoperability is achieved that all carriers have. Those involved will need to make sure that policies and governance structures make this possible.

Panel 2: Solutions for the development of Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment to achieve nationwide Operability and Interoperability

Panel 2 discussed how the nationwide public safety network would ensure the minimum level of performance. The panel covered a wide range of interests, from federal officials, state public safety officials, and the vendor community. The vendor community was represented by Jeff Anderson, Wireless Broadband System Architect, Motorola Solutions, Inc.; Mark Funka, Director of Network System Performance, Verizon Wireless; and Mark McDiarmid, Vice President, Radio Network Engineering, T-Mobile USA, Inc. Jeff Anderson expressed the need to drill down, and look at devices, applications, and economics to determine the minimal levels of performance. Anderson also described the way Motorola designs their networks, and supports a common methodology for designing the nationwide public safety network. Some general trends to Motorola's methodology include a phased in approach, put in different demographic areas for different levels of use. Finally, he explained the three broadband operability rules to consider: 1) experience based on test data, 2) consensus with public safety and industry, and 3) flexibility for phased deployments with variable density.

Mark Funka described how there needs to be a starting point of design, with three levels of service, urban, surburban, and rural. Funka did explain that the network does evolve, and the public safety network will evolve as well. Simple packet data has evolved to voice data, to video data. He suggested that the commission should not set up levels of optimization at this point because what will be put on the network will change overtime. The FCC should instead look at how the network will evolve overtime.

The last of the vendor community, Mark McDiarmid, gave some key insight on the capability to remotely upgrade devices to maintain performance as a key element in the ecosystem. This capability will need to be utilized for the public safety network as well. Finally McDiarmid illustrated how important backhaul scaling is to the network. Without scaling, the cost will increase dramatically with increased traffic. This will ultimately become a burden to government agencies. T-Mobile built a scale into their business, and as a result obtained economies of scale. Partnering will also retain a higher degree of reliability.

Allan Sadowski, Information Technology Manager; North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP); Security Lead, North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety (CC&PS) made very clear that information technology is not the primary mission of any public safety agency. Being the first responder to an emergency is. Public safety agencies respond to rural, tribal, wilderness, maritime, and park areas with or without technology. It is up to the commission to make sure the network works for their safety. Sadowski listed affordability, reliability, security, scalability, standards and – most importantly – coverage, as top issues.

John Santo, Executive Director, Wireless Systems Program Office, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gave a unique perspective of our nation's borders. Santo gave a quick overview of their current capabilities, and applications for the future of border protection. In the near-term, Santo looks to utilize more spectrum; as the currently used VHF spectrum is not enough for current capacity. He also cites challenges with P25 standards as they are slow in coming and not robust enough. Long-term, Santo would like to go to mobile broadband solutions that have a mission-critical grade of service. The challenges he foresees in a nationwide network were some that were echoed throughout the morning's two panels: seamless national roaming, technical challenges – capacity needs are dynamic, secure encrypted communications, mission need coverage areas vs. commercial coverage areas, governance models and graceful migration and transition.

GovWin's Take: The FCC was smart to get the points of view from a variety of public safety agencies and industry members. The most echoed sentiment at the forum was reliability. This seems to be the most critical component of the system. When it comes to public safety agencies, Allen Sadowski said it best when he said "it's just got to work!" GovWin recommends vendors to continue to communicate with the FCC and leverage their knowledge on standards, testing, and network development to allow for an easier process of development for the nationwide network. But be prepared for open standards and lots of collaboration. To state and local agencies, GovWin suggests to acclimate yourself with the FCC's future plans, and begin to take stock of your region and any potential equipment, terrain, or other issues. Getting involved will always insure the most information, and control of the future of a nationwide public safety interoperable network.

Stay tuned and check back often for the final installment of the FCC's Interoperability Forum Recap Blog!

GovWin Pulse: Health Care and Social Services Review for February

February was an interesting month for the health care and social services market. Despite multiple court challenges, House repeal, and 21 governors threatening to overturn Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $241 million to Kansas, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, and a multistate consortium led by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. This funding will enable these states to design and implement IT infrastructure needed to operate health insurance exchanges. (Note that the governors from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin all signed the February 7, 2011 letter to Secretary Sebelius)

These early innovators are tasked with developing exchange IT models that can be adopted and tailored by other states. The multistate consortium already has a running start, piggy-backing off of the Massachusetts Health Connector started in 2006. Kansas is investigating a cloud solution; Oklahoma and New York are proposing to build off their respective Medicaid management information systems (MMIS); and Oregon is going to use commercially available off-the-shelf software. Cash-strapped states will undoubtedly look at these possible transfer systems with hungry eyes: $25 million was appropriated in start-up funding for the Health Connector in 2006, and Wisconsin is projecting nearly $49.6 million to design, develop, and implement a state health insurance exchange. Luckily for Oklahoma, being an early innovator led to $54.6 million, which will be put to use immediately. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) is planning to release a request for proposals (RFP) for gap-analysis services for exchange design.

Elsewhere, the Rhode Island Department of Administration, on behalf of the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, released an RFP for health insurance exchange planning services on February 25, 2011. Connecticut's Office of Policy and Management also released an RFP for health insurance exchange planning on February 1, 2011. Both states will be utilizing the $1 million federal planning grant awarded in 2011.

As you can probably deduce, despite the outspoken opposition of many Republican governors and state Congress people to the Affordable Care Act, states are moving forward with exchange planning. Why? Republican counterparts in Congress have not found the votes they need at the federal level to overturn the act. GovWin's human services team has spent the last couple of months studying exchange grant applications and speaking to workgroup committees and exchange directors, and one message seems to be clear: to meet the 2014 deadline, states need to act now regardless of their feelings on the act itself. Many states, like Kentucky, are looking toward available 90/10 funding to develop a standalone MMIS eligibility system to handle the exchange. GovWin is looking forward to the next couple of months when planning opportunities are released and awarded; exchange designs are developed; and sustainable budget numbers hit the streets. Vendors should expect not only exchange opportunities, but call center development, eligibility system design, Web design, financial and tax system design, outreach, and training.

Other happenings in February included:

  • The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released a request for information (RFI) for automated benefit payments audit and fraud detection system services.
  • The New Mexico Department of Human Services recently received a $250,000 Work Support Strategies grant to help create an innovative way of streamlining work support services for assisting low-income families. The department may release an RFP for planning services.
  • The Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum (LHCQF) released an RFI for health care quality measurement and evaluation consulting services on February 18, 2011. The estimated release date for an RFP is March 25, 2011. The winning vendor will perform an assessment and provide customized project management to support the launch of a consolidated data warehouse.
  • The Alabama Medicaid Agency released an updated draft RFP for the MMIS recipient subsystem on February 25, 2011. The MMIS recipient subsystem will also act as the eligibility system for the soon-to-be-created Alabama health benefit exchange.
  • New Mexico's Department of Workforce Solutions released an RFP on February 4, 2011 for unemployment insurance claims overpayments project services.
  • The New Hampshire Department of State released an RFP on February 14, 2011 to replace the current vital records system. Proposals are due by 2:30 p.m. EST on March 25, 2011.
  • The Louisiana Office of Purchasing, on behalf of the Department of Health and Hospitals, released an RFP for rural health care pilot program network implementation on February 14, 2011.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Long Term Care, released an RFP on February 18, 2011 for information systems services for Wisconsin Long-Term Care programs. Proposals are due by 2 p.m. on April 15, 2011.

Notable awards in February include:

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment awarded the Colorado emergency Medicaid services data system project to ImageTrend, Inc. in the amount of $487,360.
  • Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare awarded the state Medicaid health IT plan contract to Public Knowledge, LLC for $429,555.
  • The Indiana Department of Administration has recommended the award of the ICD-10 assessment and implementation services project based off RFI responses. The award is to CSG Government Solutions for $9,997,848. Responses were also received by Cognizant Technology Solutions, Health Care Excel, KPMG, and Safis Solutions. The contract will run for three years.
  • On February 11, 2011, the Indiana Department of Administration also recommended the planning advanced planning document contract be awarded to JRW Service Corp for $88,330. A proposal was also submitted by Ii2P, LLC.
  • The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, and Purchasing, awarded the statewide automated child welfare information system (SACWIS) contract to Unisys Corporation for $45,459,770 on February 9, 2011.

Keep a look out for an upcoming analyst perspective on cloud computing and its potential use in the health and human services arena. Connect with our team on Twitter (@sashbyGovWin @ktusseyGovWin @awhiteGovWin and @smossGovWin) or through LinkedIn.

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