Category Archives: Technology

SBA Advocacy Office Releases 2020 Small Business State/Territory Profile Stats

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Image: SBA

“U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION”

Advocacy’s Small Business Profiles are an annual portrait of each state’s small businesses. Included in each are snapshots into each state’s small business health and economic activity. Some economic data is also supplied for U.S. territories.

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“This year’s profiles report on state economic growth and employment. The data included in each profile answers the following questions:

  • How many small businesses are in my state?
  • How many jobs do they create?
  • Which industries have the most small businesses and small business jobs?
  • How many establishments opened and closed?
  • How many exports are small businesses responsible for?
  • Which counties in my state have the most small businesses?

The files below contain the 50 individual state profiles, plus profiles for the United States, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.

2020 Small Business Profiles
AlabamaAlaskaArizona
ArkansasCaliforniaColorado
ConnecticutDelawareDistrict of Columbia
FloridaGeorgiaHawaii
IdahoIllinoisIndiana
IowaKansasKentucky
LouisianaMaineMaryland
MassachusettsMichiganMinnesota
MississippiMissouriMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew Hampshire
New JerseyNew MexicoNew York
North CarolinaNorth DakotaOhio
OklahomaOregonPennsylvania
Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
TennesseeTexasUtah
VermontVirginiaWashington
West VirginiaWisconsinWyoming
American SamoaGuamNorthern Marianas
Puerto RicoU.S. Virgin Islands 
United StatesAll Profiles 

Notes on the data and methodology used are available here.”

DARPA Funds Earthworm-Inspired Soft Robot To Rapidly Dig Military Tunnels

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IMAGE: GOLF BRESSS HUTTERSTOCK.COM

NEXT GOV

“The earthworm-like robot now being produced for DARPA incorporates some of his previously developed characteristics like squeezing through tight spaces, while also being equipped to dig deep and rapidly move around. 

A prototype that is multiple feet in length, with artificial muscles that deliberately imitate earthworms’ agile movements through soil, it traverses “with the force of tree roots penetrating through soft rock.” 

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“General Electric Company’s technological development division GE Research is creating and refining a soft and smart tunnel-digging robot—inspired by the makeup and movements of earthworms—that could underpin critical underground military operations of the future.

The research wing was recently tapped for a 15-month, $2.5 million project through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Underminer program to perfect and prove the capabilities of its already-designed robotic prototype, which insiders believe will also have applications beyond the battlefield. 

“The key objectives of the DARPA program are to demonstrate a robot that can move at a speed of 10 cm/sec and dig a tunnel that is 500 meters in length and at least 10 cm in diameter,” GE Research’s project leader Deepak Trivedi recently told Nextgov. “We have made great progress in the project thus far and are on track to meeting these objectives.”

Through Underminer, DARPA aims to explore and demonstrate the rapid construction and uses of tactical underground tunnel networks to support the U.S. military’s efforts amid harsh environments. The ideal end result would be new solutions incorporating advanced robotics and sensing technologies that can outperform present commercial drilling capabilities. Aside from GE, the agency also selected teams from Colorado School of Mines and Sandia National Laboratories to demonstrate their own tech solutions and integrations. 

“The ability to quickly bore tactical tunnels could benefit contingency operations such as rapid ammunition resupply, rescue missions, or other immediate needs,” DARPA’s program manager Andrew Nuss told Nextgov Tuesday. “As a research and development agency, DARPA’s role is to advance technologies to address national security challenges.”

He added that the agency’s transition partners in the military services would ultimately determine the timelines for precisely when these new in-the-works solutions might be deployed to support operations on—or under—the frontlines. 

The inspiration for GE Research’s earthworm-mimicking soft robot and overall approach to the ongoing project stems from Trivedi’s graduate and doctoral research during his time in Penn State University’s mechanical engineering program. Embarking on his doctoral work—which GE’s release notes was “one of the earliest in soft robotics”—Trivedi sought to build and demonstrate a biologically-inspired robot based off of naturally occurring soft structures, such as the arms of octopi or the trunks of elephants. 

Though the team didn’t work with live earthworms in the effort, Trivedi said much of their understanding and insights were formed reviewing scientific literature, “which provided rich detail on how earthworms are able to move so efficiently through soil and can carve out nearly perfect tunnels.”

“It’s how they move that intrigued us most,” he said.

Earthworms rely on a flexible-but-powerful muscular structure filled with fluid, called the “hydrostatic skeleton,” the mechanical engineer explained—and that structure poses a stark contrast to conventional robots, which have rigid structures and discrete joints, limiting their ability to operate in unstructured and congested settings. Trivedi and team’s robot is made up of powerful, yet soft, earthworm-imitating “muscles” that he said enable it to “function in a similar fashion to a real earthworm in nature.” This system will adapt and autonomously change its gait in response to shifting soil conditions and eventually have a range of more degrees of freedom in movement that traditional bots with joints.

“The robot can apply large forces for making the tunnel, yet easily steer through obstacles due to its flexible structure,” Trivedi said.  

In their effort, the research team is taking a “very agile and iterative approach,” quickly fabricating new designs of robot-related prototypes as they uncover new insights from their tests and experiments. And one of the shifts they’re set on making early on is a move from a pneumatic to hydraulic muscle system for powering the movements of the robot. Initial prototypes for the project use a pneumatic system, which Trivedi explained relies on compressed or pressured air. 

“Hydraulic systems rely on liquids, which is more consistent with the makeup of earthworms,” he noted. “Earthworms use a combination of liquid and muscles to move efficiently through the soil.”    

The work is cutting-edge and soft robots are not yet the mainstream, so what Trivedi called the “building blocks” behind them—components like soft sensors and actuators—usually do not exist commercially. This means “a lot of ingenuity and effort goes into designing and fabricating reliable and capable soft active components for these robots,” he said, noting that while this might be a challenge, it is “also an opportunity for advancing the state of the art.” 

The team already performed some initial lab scale demonstrations of the robot tunneling through dirt, as well as some outdoor testing of the prototype. On top of perfecting the emerging robot’s structure, another top priority going forward is to “build more autonomy” into how the smart structure moves and operates.

“In the future, we’d like the robot to be given a destination from point A to point B that it can seek and find on its own,” Trivedi said. “This will require the integration of artificial intelligence, sensing controls and automation technology.”

To that end, the team plans to tap into AI and sensing expertise from insiders across GE’s Research Lab. And though DARPA’s end use for the to-be-completed solutions are being created with the intent to support U.S. military personnel, Trivedi said the use of the tool is not solely limited to underground tunneling. The company already previously produced and field-tested snake-like robots that could be used for jet engine inspection and repair.

“The work DARPA is funding also could lead to other significant advances in soft robotics that open up a whole new set of applications in new areas like industrial inspection and infrastructure such as optical fiber for high speed internet in remote places,” Trivedi said. “So much of what DARPA funds has a positive multiplier effect when it comes to technology advancements and paving the way to new applications, and this program could have similar positive impacts down the line.”

https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2020/05/darpa-funds-earthworm-inspired-soft-robot-rapidly-dig-military-tunnels/165655/

Army Will Spend $1.5 Billion For 3rd Prototype Attempt -Bradley Vehicle Replacement

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Image: QRA Corporationhttps://qracorp.com/pentagon-wars-movie/

Editors Note:

The undersigned was on the staff of one of the design companies for the gun system of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle development program. I witnessed first hand one of the most costly weapons system development programs in history.

I cannot help but observe that we are undergoing a similar debacle for the Bradley’s replacement. The bottom line question: With Pandemic and civil unrest economic impact today, can we afford to embark on the equivalent of a re-release and update of the famous HBO Movie, “Pentagon Wars”?

Ken Larson

HBO”

TASK AND PURPOSE“:

“The Army will likely end up spending upwards of $1.57 billion to develop a replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle that’s served the U.S. military for nearly four decades, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office — and that’s just for a fleet of prototypes.

As of January 2020, the service had doled out roughly $366.64 million in funding as part of a middle-tier acquisition program for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle Increment 1 the service initiated in September 2018, according to the GAO report.

The Army is expected to spend another $1.2 billion to procure 14 prototype vehicles apiece from two separate defense contractors, an acquisition that, planned for this past March, fell apart when the service cancelled its solicitation in January in order to “revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy and schedule” prior to prototyping.

The cancellation was reportedly prompted by the fact that the service only received one bid, from General Dynamics Land Systems, for the OMFV prototyping competition, as Army leaders told Defense News at the time.

According to the GAO report, the Army had previously planned on handing out an initial production contract award in late fiscal year 2023 and fielding the initial replacement vehicle by some time in early fiscal year 2026, but those dates are now up in the air due to the January cancellation.

“Officials stated that Army leadership is still committed to moving forward with the program, but they will need to reassess the achievability of their requirements within the desired timeframe,” according to the GAO report.

As Task & Purpose previously reported, the OMFV — part of Army Futures Command’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program — is just the latest attempt to replace the Bradley that has spanned nearly two decades.

In 1999, the Army adopted the Future Combat Systems (FSC) Manned Ground Vehicles (MGV) program was initiated as part of a broad effort to make the service’s legacy forces “lighter, more modular, and — most importantly — more deployable,” as the Army put it at the time.

That program was cancelled a decade later in 2009 and immediately replaced with the Ground Combat Vehicle program in 2010, which sought to replace the Bradley with the a Ground Combat Infantry Fighting Vehicle before being cancelled in 2014 amid rising costs and expanding requirements.”

https://taskandpurpose.com/military-tech/army-optionally-manned-fighting-vehicle-program-cost

GSA: “Pandemic Slowing ‘Beta.SAM’ Legacy Systems Shift”

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Image: GSA https://beta.sam.gov/help/new-to-sam

FCW

The General Services Administration has slowed its shift of legacy acquisition systems components to a new, more modern platform to avoid confusion and help users stay on top of contracting data.

As the pandemic advanced in the last few months, GSA has kept the old FPDS up, while porting some search functions to the beta site. The dual approach, said Zawatsky, allows critical purchasing data to remain available to contractors and agencies to generate reports.

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“Judith Zawatsky assistant commissioner in the Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Systems Management at GSA explained at a May 28 AFCEA virtual event that rapid modernization of customer-facing systems isn’t necessarily a good thing.

GSA is in the process of moving 10 legacy systems, including FedBizOpps, its old Systems of Award Management (SAM) and Federal Data Procurement System (FPDS) to its beta.SAM portal, which will eventually become the agency’s hub for contracting and grant management capabilities.

“We hoped to shutter FPDS this spring,” she said, but she said that fall is looking more likely.

Even before the pandemic, the agency was readjusting its approach to the move earlier in the year, after it completed moving its old FedBizOpps contract opportunities system to beta.SAM. That move, completed last year, led to user complaints about loss of functionality and complications arising from two-factor authentication requirements.

Zawatsky said earlier this month that those difficulties had already tempered GSA’s approach to the move. She said the agency had learned it needed to give users a longer time to get used to new capabilities and the overall new environment that differed from the agency’s legacy systems.

The pandemic environment injected more uncertainty into all businesses, including GSA’s. Keeping procurement data in readily available form, whether in FPDS or FPDS on beta.SAM, can lessen already heightened anxiety among users, according to Zawasky.

“You have to give people a long tail” moving over from legacy systems, such as FPDS, she said. “We’re slowing decommission of legacy systems to allow people to get used to that new experience,” she said.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/05/29/rockwell-sam-dot-gov-schedule.aspx

P-TECH: When Ambition Meets Opportunity, Success Happens

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IBM PTECH

Photo: IBM P-Tech

“IBM”

“Many of the scholars who participated in P-TECH, a grade 9-to-14 education model pioneered by IBM in partnership with educators, have completed the six-year program early — some in under four years — and many will be the first in their family to earn a college degree.

See how this public-private partnership is helping bright  young minds reach their full potential.”

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“By this summer, more than 150 students will have graduated from IBM P-TECH schools in four U.S. cities. The students, who graduate with both their high school diplomas and their associate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), attended Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy in Chicago; Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) in Norwalk, Conn.; and Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, N.Y.

What is P-TECH?

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) are innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college and career.P-TECH will grow from 1 school  in 2011 to more than 100 schools in 2018

Within six years, students graduate with a no-cost associate degree in applied science, engineering, computers or other competitive STEM disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into high-growth, “new collar” jobs. These are positions in some of the nation’s fastest-growing industries where what matters most is having in-demand skills.”

https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/ptech/

New Air Force Unit Focuses Funding On Small Business For Mobile APP Development

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Image: US Air Force

FCW

In a move that could put software factory BESPIN (Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation) center stage, the Air Force has been forced to consider its mobile future in addressing its telework needs.

BESPIN works with a $17 million budget — $14 million from SBIRs and $3 million from the Air Force budget.

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“I think the COVID situation has actually helped to highlight the fact that the Air Force has no mobile capabilities,” Lt. Col. Paul Cooper, BESPIN’s CEO, told FCW.

“We’re hoping that translates to budget allocation so that we can go out and build an organic mobile development capability,” Cooper said.

BESPIN’s acronym is yet another Defense Department Star Wars reference — the name of a gas planet that’s home to Cloud City. It followed in the path of Kessel Run, a pioneering Dev Ops program at USAF (also a Star Wars namecheck). BESPIN got its start with just a five airmen in 2018, according to Master Sgt. James Crocker, BESPIN’s CTO and lab director.

“Let’s take a few airmen, let’s lock them in a closet off base — literally like a closet, it was a really small room — find some problem sets, throw them at y’all see what you can do,” Crocker told FCW of the early days.

The first problem was taking the task of ordering of parts and putting it in a mobile device, reducing the protocol to six screens and nine button clicks in six weeks from idea to prototype.

BESPIN now boasts near 100 personnel – double its size from just September 2019 – and are working on 14 development efforts, 12 applications and two platforms. But the timelines for those projects could accelerate because of current needs.

BESPIN is also hoping to scale its mobile interface used by maintainers to order parts to the entire Air Force by 2023.

“Right now as we built this out, we realized that there was a lot of other hurdles and everything that we had to go through from the Air Force policy to getting access, remote access via iPads,” Cooper said of the project, adding that they were still wrestling with mobile platform access and legacy system challenges.

The group also wants to scale capabilities, such as mobile-delivery-as-a-service, its enterprise mobile and business platform which hosts applications and improve delivery times and help deliver on that mobile workforce.

Wake up call

“The Air Force has a tsunami of mobile requirements coming and we’ve started to do that. But the problem is is there’s not been really a budget allocated to going out and standing this up,” Cooper said.

But the trick is getting senior leadership bought in. Crocker said he’s frequently made the pitch, but it’s a hard sell because the assumption is that mobile capabilities exist in the Air Force — just as they do in the civilian world — and are cheap to make.

Andrew Hoog, founder of NowSecure, which specializes in automated mobile security testing, told FCW “traditional controls that have been in place to go test web apps or traditional apps are simply not effective testing mobile apps. It’s a different architecture…there’s a whole bunch of sensors that sit on your phone and they don’t sit behind firewalls.”

NowSecure partners with BESPIN to run automatic security testing on the apps it builds. The company was one of the first to be awarded an Small Business Innovation Research contract, and later a follow-on contract, via one of the Air Force’s first Pitch Day in 2019 to support continuous mobile security testing for BESPIN. The result was taking the company’s off-the-shelf product and tweaking it for the Air Force’s needs.

“Mobile basically runs the economy now. To a large degree, the federal government and DOD have been left behind those waves of mobile innovation because of stringent security requirements,” Brian Reed, NowSecure’s chief mobility officer told FCW.

But getting the Air Force to scale its mobile efforts will require a policy shift — including subverting the notion that mobile devices are inherently unsafe.

Jason Howe, the Air Force’s CTO and chief cloud architect for manpower, personnel and services (A1) said as much during a May 11 panel discussion on identity management.

“In the DOD, I truly believe that if we can start securely authenticating users on their personal mobile devices to interact with A1 systems on government devices to interact with A1 systems, that we will see growth occur. But you’ve got to get past that first step,” Howe said.

And that comes down to culture and policy.

“Policy doesn’t reflect mobile capabilities,” Crocker said, such as “how we secure and vet DOD-owned data versus public data. If we publish an application that’s a government-only application and our men and women our airmen download it and they put government data on there and there’s a breach between the two, that phone is now compromised. And so those, those capabilities are major hurdles to [bringing] your own approved device.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/05/31/bespin-usaf-mobile-williams.aspx

“Zero Trust” Security Model Design Requires Specific Mission Input From Within The Organization

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Image iStocksuphakit73

FCW

Information sharing and cybersecurity controls are pillars of good governance and areas of emphasis.

The move to the zero-trust model potentially puts guardrails around sharing and requires cooperation between techies and the mission side to work.”

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“For much of the past 20 years, the federal government has segmented its systems and networks, but, said Federal Chief Information Security Officer Grant Schneider, “you presumed once someone had access control … that they were entitled to see almost anything in there.”

“That’s great for information sharing, it’s a challenge from a security standpoint because it’s an opportunity for our adversaries,” Schneider said at a May 18 event hosted by FCW. “When an outsider or an adversary get into your system, they really only look like an adversary for a short period time, because they pretty quickly are able to pivot to leverage real credentials in some way shape or form, and suddenly your outsider looks like an insider. So the fact that you built an environment where you’re trusting all of your insiders is really not going to help you and not going to allow you the capabilities that you need.”

The choice to give employees “pretty much free rein” if they had access privileges was part of a larger shift that has taken place in the federal government to facilitate greater information sharing following 9/11, Schneider said.

However, over that same timeframe, agencies have also suffered a string of embarrassing security compromises, both from state-backed hacking groups and insiders who abused access privileges to steal or leak data unrelated to their day-to-day responsibilities.

Lately, a “zero trust” model has been trending, in which agencies architect their systems and networks with controls that by default assume malicious intent from both insiders and outsiders.

That means agencies will have to re-evaluate who gets access to what information and under which conditions. Employees physically present in a federal facility might have different access and privileges than they would if they were logging in remotely. Agencies must also get better at tracking and quickly updating when an employee’s role (and corresponding access) changes.

There’s a long way to go before that paradigm takes hold, however.

“We’re still riding a lot of networks and environments that your IT department or you don’t know much about,” Schneider said. “We don’t know how they’re run, we don’t know who’s on them, we don’t know what they look like.”

The technologies needed to put zero trust in place aren’t particularly sophisticated or difficult to implement, Schneider said. What’s trickier is ensuring agencies have clear rules for access. Those policies and decisions, he said, are “going to come from the mission side, from the business side who understand their data and their environment,” he said.

Schneider drew on his time as CIO at the Defense Intelligence Agency to illustrate this point.

“I didn’t know whether a Middle East analyst in Germany should or shouldn’t be looking at a piece of data or information on China or North Korea or somewhere else. Because there may be a nexus and a connection and a thread that they’re pulling on, and I don’t want to be the one that’s preventing them from connecting the dots,” he said. The alternative is that CIOs and CISOs get involved in training the mission side on security.”

U.S. Army Pandemic Planning

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Image: Health.mil

NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

While still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the Army is already thinking ahead about the impacts of future pandemics and how they will affect the service.

Industry has so far been extremely cooperative with the Army in keeping leadership up to date on any potential COVID-related issues.

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“The chances of this happening again are not zero for sure,” said Gen. John Murray, Futures Command’s commanding general.

“It’s demographics, it’s urbanization, it’s economies, it’s pandemics,” he said during a teleconference with reporters hosted by George Washington University’s Project for Media and National Security.

The Army is examining what alternative futures may look like and how they will affect the service, he said. It is particularly concerned about pandemics.

Nestled under Army Futures Command is Army Medical Research and Development Command. Murray noted that the medical command has many smart doctors and researchers who have done key work on viruses such as Ebola, SARS and Zika.

“They’re absolutely a key part of the research that’s going on right now” with COVID-19, he said.

These researchers have noted that over the past decade and a half there has been a substantial increase in the number of new coronaviruses emerging in the world, Murray said. Therefore, as the Army, military and country begin to look into the future, pandemics have to be accounted for and considered, he added.

Meanwhile, Army weapon programs across the board are on track despite the impact of the novel coronavirus, said Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“Industry has made a significant adjustment in order to try and make sure that they continue producing on time and on schedule,” he said.

While they haven’t hit those targets 100 percent of the time, the Army only has one program where it knows it will have to make a significant change, Jette said. That involves the Intelligence Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer, which falls under the Army’s program executive office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, according to an Army spokesperson.

“It’s one of our smaller programs and … is tied to a small company,” he said. The Army has found that the greatest sensitivities so far during the pandemic tend to be in the programs that have connectivity to smaller companies, Jette said. “If one person gets sick in the company, you often end up with the entire company being in quarantine for 14 days,” he said.

However, having only one major program slip is a “pretty good success and tells you a little bit about how hard industry is working to try and stay on track,” he said.

For the Army’s larger efforts, which include acquisition category one and acquisition category two programs, the Army remains on track for first unit equipped for all those, he said.

“That doesn’t mean that some of the programs aren’t having adjustments to delivery schedules or adjustments to milestones,” he said. “We’re making adjustments as necessary and then working with the companies to try and catch up.

Industry has so far been extremely cooperative with the Army in keeping leadership up to date on any potential COVID-related issues, Jette noted.

“Contractually, they don’t have to tell us a lot about their subs. In fact, in some cases they don’t have to tell us anything about their subs or their subs of subs,” he said. “But I have a 60-page report that gets updated on a daily basis of the status of the subs to the various major programs.”

That can only happen because of the cooperation of industry, he said.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/5/27/army-preparing-for-future-pandemics

DHS Facial Recognition Privacy Risk Assessment Report

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Image: “FCW

FCW

A new Privacy Impact Assessment details how the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency uses facial recognition and what protections it plans to put in place to prevent abuse.

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“The assessment, signed by DHS Chief Privacy Officer Dena Kozanas and ICE Privacy Officer Jordan Holz, lays out more than a dozen potential privacy risks associated with the agency’s use of and access to numerous databases and algorithms to identify travelers or suspects. Those risks include the possibility that ICE could abuse those services or use them outside of their intended scope, that the agency might submit or rely upon low quality images that have been found to impact accurate identification, that it might rely on inaccurate information contained in third-party databases and that it could mishandle data, leading to a breach or compromise of personally identifiable information by hackers.

The document makes clear just how much information and data are within the program’s reach. DHS has two systems, the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART), which stores and processes digital fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans along with biographical information for identified individuals.

However, the office that stores those images (the Office of Biometric Identity Management) is also in the process of connecting to the FBI’s primary identity management system, the Department of Defense’s Automated Biometric Identification System, the Department of State’s Consolidated Consular Database, databases compiled by state and local law enforcement organizations, region-specific intelligence fusion centers and databases maintained by commercial vendors.

Each system has its own database of images but many also track and collect other biometrics and information about individuals. Often DHS can also access that information and agencies like the FBI can hold onto and use probe photos sent by ICE later for other investigative purposes.

The report also notes that ICE investigators can run images through facial recognition systems that haven’t been approved for agency-wide use by the central Homeland Security Investigations Operational Systems Development and Management unit (OSDM) in the event of “exigent circumstances.”

One privacy risk cited in the assessment is the potential to use image for purposes other than that which they were initially collected. That risk is mitigated, according to ICE, by deleting images from facial recognition systems that were not vetted prior to use.

The assessment also notes the risk of abuse of facial recognition systems by employees and contractors. Training programs and rules of behavior that are being developed by Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s privacy office and DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate. Supervisors will periodically audit each employee’s use of facial recognition services to ensure compliance and ICE Privacy will only approve commercial vendors who provide auditing capabilities for their own systems.

To guard against data breaches, HSI will only submit “the minimum amount of information necessary for the [service] to run a biometric query,” such as the probe photo, the case agent’s name and the legal violation being investigated. If a breach occurs “the information lost by the FRS will be minimal and out of context,” the report claims. Another DHS agency, Customs and Border Protection, saw tens of thousands of photos from its facial recognition program stolen last year when hackers compromised a subcontractor who had been storing and retaining the images without permission.

The use of facial recognition systems by DHS under the Trump administration has come under scrutiny as tech experts have fretted over the technical limitations and activists have complained about a lack of transparency from ICE regarding how it uses the technology and the potential to facilitate widespread targeting of Latinos, Muslims and other vulnerable populations.

In line with previous assessments from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the privacy report also makes clear that numerous factors impact the accuracy of the many algorithms relied on by DHS, including lighting, photo quality, camera quality, distance or angle of the subject, facial expressions, aging and accessories like glasses, hats or facial hair.

Doctor Nicol Turner Lee, a fellow at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute who studies algorithmic integrity, said some of the guardrails outlined in the assessment — like emphasizing trainings and accountability measures — are a step in the right direction. However, she said the agency’s continued reliance on open source image collection and coordination with other major databases still leave significant concerns around accuracy, privacy and civil liberty.

“I think what they’re doing [here] is good but we still have a host of other challenges to address and remedy for the full-scale deployment of facial recognition,” Lee said in a phone interview. “We still need a better accounting of the types of training data that is being used, we still need a conversation on the technical specifications and its ability to fairly identify – particularly — people of color that are not sufficiently found in certain facial recognition systems.”

Lee also said there remain concerns about biases embedded in facial recognition system and “within the context of ICE, the likelihood of certain populations being more violently subjected to this over-profiling and overrepresentation in certain databases.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/05/27/ice-facial-recognition-privacy.aspx

Propel Your Small Business Virtually

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U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (SBA) By Michele Schimpp 

More than 4.5 billion people are now online, and that number is growing fast.  Every day an average of 640,000 people gain access to the internet for the first time, that’s 27,000 people every hour!  

SBA’s goal is to help you go global and succeed internationally. Here are five considerations to help your business excel through e-commerce.

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“If you have a website, you are already connected to this growing global marketplace, but do you have an e-commerce strategy?

  1. SBA’s STEP Program Can Help You Sell on the Global Marketplace

SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)provides grants to eligible small businesses to launch or expand their export activities.  A STEP grant can aid in translating or optimizing your website to ensure you:

  • Appear in international searches
  • Are mobile-friendly
  • Can provide options for delivery
  • Can calculate total delivery costs, tariffs and any value-added taxes
  • Can provide digital payment options

2. Use SBA’s Resource Partners to Get You Up to Speed

Tap into the e-commerce expertise of the SBA’s resource network of District OfficesSmall Business Development CentersSCORE chapters, and Women’s Business Centers for advice on your use of platforms, websites, and social media tools.  These local resources provide e-commerce training and can discuss financing options to support global intellectual property protections costs.

3. Do Your Research

Knowing your market can make all the difference in your success.  If you are interested in selling in new global markets, or maybe expanding in existing markets, get up to speed.  Don’t expect a cookie-cutter strategy to work across the globe. Take the time to learn the basics of the most popular social media and e-commerce platforms in your target market.

4. Tap into Government Expertise

The Federal Government has a wealth of resources for exporters. As you examine new online markets, the U.S Department of Commerce’s Market Diversification ToolCensus Market FinderCountry Commercial GuidesMarket Intelligence, and USDA GAIN Reports can help check for demand, industry, and county information.

Additionally, the U.S Department of Commerce can help ensure your digital strategy follows international trade laws through its Local Trade Experts and Digital Attachés.  In fact, a Digital Attaché can act as a business advocate ensuring your access to the digital economy and new markets.

 Another great tool is the eCommerce Innovation Lab which can provide an in-depth analysis and report of your website’s international strengths and weakness for a small fee.  The Innovation Lab can then recommend companies to assist you in internationalizing your website and in some cases, this can be done with SBA STEP support.  To request services, visit the Website Globalization Review Gap Analysis page. 

5. Find Partners

Along with market information and “how to” guidance, the U.S. Department of Commerce also provides Gold Key Services.  SBA STEP supports Gold Key services which for a fee will identify, vet, and arrange meetings with interested partners for you when traveling to an overseas market.

As more and more of daily life moves online, it is critical for businesses of all sizes to adapt. Using SBA’s resources can lay the foundation of your business being able to thrive in the e-commerce arena.

U.S. small businesses with questions about SBA and interagency support for going global or overcoming challenges can reach out to the SBA International Trade Ombudsman Hotline at (855) 722-4877 and international@sba.gov for additional information on support exporting or overcoming challenges.”

https://www.sba.gov/blog/propel-your-small-business-virtually

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michele Schimpp

Michele Schimpp, the Deputy Associate Administrator Office of International Trade has over 20 years of experience managing U.S. government organizations and start-up operations related to global job creation, competitiveness and economic growth.  She has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. House of Representatives, leading programs and partnerships with the private sector, foundations, universities, federal and state agencies, as well as foreign legislatures and governments.