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December 23, 2008
Jones Lang LaSalle

State Dept CIO;


We recently met State Department CIO Susan Swart, who tells us the agency is near completion of a five-year overhaul of its internal messaging system (based on Western Union-like telegrams which you thought were only in museums), used to communicate with embassies and consulates overseas. The new system, SMART, incorporates official messages, informal messages and a variety of collaboration tools. "It's our all-in-one messaging system," says Susan, who's also overseeing consolidation of the agency's desktop support.


What's your guess about the artwork next to Susan: Chinese? Thai? Malaysian? Try her second-grader. Susan grew up as a military brat and lived in many locations around the country, including NoVa while her Dad worked at the Pentagon. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth and the National War College and joined the Foreign Service in 1989. She's served in a number of posts around the world from Cairo to Caracas. Before becoming CIO earlier this year she served as Deputy CIO for Business, Planning and Customer Service, and as the Chief Knowledge Officer.


Of course being at the State Department, Susan is shoulder deep in cyber security. "Based on what we do, there are not many agencies that are as popular a target" says Susan. She says the department is following all federal cyber mandates and taking extra steps to keep the bad guys at bay. Susan is a career Foreign Service Officer, so hopes to stick around through the transition and beyond. If she weren't in her current job, she tells us she'd like to return to an overseas position where we're sure she'd want to be near water since she just took up water skiing.


So you think it's tough finding employees now? Well, starting next month (pending legal action, of course) the Feds are requiring contractors to use the government's E-Verify program to confirm work authorizations of many employees. Since there's so much confusion around the issue, we ran out to Rockville to meet with Denise Hammond, managing partner of Hammond Claxton, P.C., and one of the area's top immigration lawyers, who is consulting with companies on E-Verify compliance. "Our immigration system is broken and it's affecting contractors more than ever before. Severely limiting the ability to hire foreign workers is the legal equivalent of setting a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit on the beltway," she says.


Denise tells us the mandate requires companies to E-Verify all new hires and employees assigned to prime contracts awarded as of Jan. 15 of at least $100,000 and 120 days and flow-down subcontracts of $3,000. The requirement also applies to IDIQ contracts. It doesn't apply to employees with security clearances or those working abroad or funded by grants and cooperative agreements. Complicating the process, DHS announced changes to the I-9 form (which companies use to verify work authorization) changing the list of acceptable documents. The new form takes effect Feb. 2. "We're seeing two big changes in a short time that make it more difficult and costly for contractors to get employees, especially foreign nationals, on the job and working," Denise says. But, she says, they also make it "critically important to comply with the employment verification laws."


Matthew Lee, CEO of FASTech Inc. on his company's plan for the new administration: "We do work for a number of government agencies, including DoD and the U.S. Army, but once those contracts are up, we're likely to shift some of our resources to places like HHS that we think the new Administration will push. We plan to keep doing work for the military, because they are a great customer. We're going to keep watch on the contract landscape and see where our strengths are best suited."

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Tower Oaks

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