Tag Archives: Labels: Government Service Contractors

Feast or Famine? How Will The New Budget Impact Federal Contract Spending?

Standard
Feast or Famine

Image: “FCW – The Business of Federal Technology”

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By David Berteau

“We are halfway through the fiscal year, and we now have a full appropriations act for the entire federal government for fiscal 2018, the “Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018.”

What will be the impact of this on government services contractors?”


“First, the act means the end of the constraints imposed on both funding and programs by the series of continuing resolutions under which the government has been operating since Oct. 1.

It also eliminates any risk of another government shutdown due to a lapse in appropriations, something that has occurred twice this year already.

Second, it provides substantial increases in funding for numerous agencies and programs. Under the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2018, enacted on Feb. 9, the Budget Control Act caps for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 were raised significantly, and the fiscal 2018 final appropriations provides funds for most of those increases.

The Department of Defense has the largest appropriations increase, $80 billion above the previous budget cap for 2018 and $26 billion above the president’s requested budget level. For non-defense agencies, the cap was raised by $63 billion, but the omnibus appropriations bill distributed that increase unevenly and incompletely across those agencies. We are still sorting through the bill’s 2,100 pages, but it’s apparent that some departments and agencies will see an increase well above both their fiscal 2017 funding levels and above the president’s budget request for 2018, while other agencies will see lower funding levels.

In the aggregate, though, these increases, spanning many agencies and programs, may well turn the second half of fiscal 2018 into a very different market for contractors than it was in the first half. To understand how it will change, let’s look back at government contract spending in the first half of 2018.

Public data for DOD contract obligations have not yet been released, even for last October. However, monthly defense spending (as reflected in Treasury Department outlay data) for the first five months of fiscal 2018 show that defense spending was up by more than $10 billion (nearly 5 percent) compared to the same period under the fiscal 2017 CR, even though fiscal 2018 CR funding was slightly less than fiscal 2017. It appears that DOD has been spending at a rate that anticipated an appropriations increase.

The total defense increase is 15 percent above the previous caps, but only 4 percent above the programmed budget that DOD had prepared. For contractors, this likely means increased opportunities, but perhaps not as much as the numbers might indicate at first glance.

For non-defense agencies, the first half spending story is quite different, and here we do have official data to analyze. Comparing fiscal 2018 CR first quarter contract obligations to the same period under the fiscal 2017 CR shows a drop of 27 percent year-over-year. This is the largest single quarterly decline in a long time.

Obligations for services contracts declined only slightly less, 23 percent year-over-year. In some agencies, the decline has been even greater. For example, contract obligations for the U.S. Agency for International Development saw a year-over-year decline of nearly two thirds.

This pattern raises two important questions for services contractors; Why did that decline happen? Is it about to change?

First, why the decline in contract spending? Maybe it’s because the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018 included significant funding reductions for many non-defense agencies. With CR spending levels unchanged from 2017 throughout the first half of fiscal 2018, and the prospect (or risk) of final funding even lower under the president’s budget, some agencies appear to have planned for and spent at rates equal to the lower numbers.

Second, will that decline in contract spending reverse itself under the significantly higher full-year appropriations levels? Since the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 for many of these non-defense agencies does not include that increased spending, this can put agencies in a bind. Do they spend the money Congress appropriated for fiscal 2018 and anticipate similar levels of appropriations for fiscal 2019, or do they spend only to the president’s budget level while anticipating reductions for 2019?

Comments from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, at the Feb. 12 release of the president’s 2019 budget may offer some insight. With regard to the $63 billion increase in the non-defense appropriations cap that the president had just signed on Feb. 9, Mulvaney stated that “we don’t need to spend all the money.”

Another indicator is the omnibus appropriations bill itself. Congress expanded only DoD’s flexibility to permit more spending in the final two months of the fiscal year, for the DoD operation and maintenance accounts. Year-end spending is typically limited, but despite the late enactment of 2018 appropriations, other agencies will have no greater flexibility to spend the additional funds than in the past.

Finally, will OMB constrain non-defense agency spending? If so, will it do so indirectly, or will it issue direct written guidance? How rapidly and fully will OMB and agency comptrollers apportion and allocate funds to program offices? Independent of OMB guidance, will agencies be able to spend the additional 2018 funds in the remaining half of the fiscal year? It’s too soon to know the answers to these questions, but they will directly determine contract spending over the next few months.

PSC will be tracking and reporting on this regularly in the coming months, so stay tuned!”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/04/02/insights-berteau-budget-analysis.aspx

About the Author

Mr. Berteau became the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Services Council (PSC) on March 28, 2016. With nearly 400 members, PSC is the premier advocate of and resource for the federal technology and professional services industry. As CEO, Mr. Berteau focuses on legislative and regulatory issues related to government acquisition, budgets, and requirements, helping to shape public policy, lead strategic coalitions, and work to improve communications between government and industry. PSC’s member companies represent small, medium, and large businesses that provide federal agencies with services of all kinds, including engineering, logistics, operations and maintenance, information technology, facilities management, international development, scientific, and environmental services. 

Prior to PSC, Mr. Berteau was confirmed in December 2014 as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness. He managed logistics policy and processes to provide superior, cost effective, joint logistics support to the entire Department of Defense. He oversaw the management of the $170 billion in Department of Defense logistics operations. 

Earlier, Mr. Berteau served as Senior Vice President and Director of the National Security Program on Industry and Resources at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. His research and analysis covered national security, management, contracting, logistics, acquisition, and industrial base issues. Mr. Berteau is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and has previously served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, a Director of the Procurement Round Table, and an Associate at the Robert S. Strauss Center at the University of Texas. 

Before he joined CSIS full time in 2008, he served as a CSIS non-resident Senior Associate for seven years. In addition, he was director of national defense and homeland security for Clark & Weinstock, director of Syracuse University’s National Security Studies Program and a professor of practice at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and senior vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He served a total of 14 years at senior levels in the U.S. Defense Department under six defense secretaries. 

Mr. Berteau graduated with a B.A. from Tulane University in 1971 and received his master’s degree in 1981 from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense Companies Are Here To Stay

Standard

“DEFENSE NEWS” By Charles Mahoney

“Like it or not, government agencies responsible for national security are dependent on private defense firms.

These companies are primarily responsible to shareholders rather than the American people. How can they be held accountable to the nation’s interests?

What is certain is that for-profit military and intelligence firms will remain an integral part of U.S. national defense. My research focuses on the changing nature of the private defense industry. Military contracting is still big business, although media coverage of private military firms has diminished since the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq in 2011. Today, contractors’ work ranges from assisting in drone missions to analyzing signals intelligence to training police forces in fragile countries like Afghanistan.”

top-100-image1

Image: “Defense News”

“New frontiers

In recent years, private military companies have adapted to changing demands from U.S. defense agencies. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military relied heavily on contractors to support counterinsurgency operations. However, high-profile incidents of alleged human rights abuses by the company CACI at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Blackwater at Nisour Square, Iraq brought to light the difficulty the American military faces monitoring private defense companies.

At the same time, Americans have since become averse to nation-building campaigns in failing states. So, private defense firms have shifted away from supporting “boots on the ground.” Instead, they are increasingly assisting military and intelligence agencies with counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

While the American people generally want to avoid deploying troops to conflict zones, they still demand protection from terrorism. The Pentagon, CIA and other defense agencies receive assistance in these areas from private companies with expertise in drone warfare, special forces operations and analysis of electronic surveillance of potential terrorist threats. These traditionally were duties of public employees.

Cybersecurity is another area in which private military companies see increasing demand. Information gleaned from hacking government agencies, world leaders and political campaigns can be used by rogue states like Russia and nonstate actors like WikiLeaks to harm American interests.

Serving the public interest?

Most defense analysts now acknowledge that the question is not whether to privatize, but where to draw the line. If the U.S. government is going to work extensively with contractors, it requires a more robust oversight system. Government agencies and courts also need assurances they can hold defense firms accountable if they break the law overseas.

During the Iraq War, this was a point of serious contention. It was unclear what legal jurisdiction applied to employees of private defense firms. The uncertain legal status of contractors caused significant tension between the U.S. and the government of Iraq and hampered American counterinsurgency efforts.

Here are three ways Congress could increase accountability for private defense firms as the industry becomes more enmeshed in national security.

  • Congress could create an independent regulatory agency to report on contractors’ performance. While major firms in the industry insist they can regulate themselves, an independent oversight agency could more adequately assess how defense contractors perform.
  • As things stand now, the U.S. government often overlooks bad behavior and renews contracts with companies that have less than stellar records. Instead, the government could more severely penalize firms that do not fulfill the terms of their agreements.
  • Government employees often transition from public service into lucrative positions at billion-dollar defense corporations. Stricter rules to limit this “revolving door” would make government employees more willing to penalize firms.

Private defense contractors will likely be a major part of U.S. national defense for the foreseeable future. Diligent oversight and regulation of companies in this rapidly evolving industry, I believe, are necessary to ensure that these firms advance the public good of American security.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/private-defense-companies-are-here-to-stay-what-does-that-mean-for-national-security

Charles Mahoney is a professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach. His commentary was originally published on The Conversation .

 

 

 

No Protection for IC Whistle Blower Contractors

Standard

edward-snowden-whistleblower-575

(Photo: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

“POGO”

“The restoration of Intelligence Community (IC) contractor whistle blower rights would help safeguard billions of taxpayer dollars in government contracts, grants, and reimbursements annually.

“Snowden:  “I had read the laws. I knew that there were no whistle blower protections.”

Snowden’s disclosure to the media is a perfect example of why intelligence contractors need a mechanism to safely disclose suspected waste, fraud, and abuse.

Three years after Edward Snowden’s leaks, it appears that everyone has an opinion about him—traitor, hero, or somewhere in between. However, there is one undeniable fact surrounding Snowden’s circumstances that has been misreported by Congress and the Executive Branch far too many times: the Intelligence Community (IC) contractor would have had almost no protections had he come forward through proper channels.

Sure, Snowden could have gone to his supervisors and disclosed his concerns. However, had that supervisor retaliated against Snowden by firing him or demoting him, he would have had no protections because he was an IC contractor. In the absence of adequate protections, IC contractors have only two alternatives to almost certain retaliation: 1) remain silent observers of wrongdoing, or 2) make anonymous leaks.

This has not always been the case though. In fact, IC contractors enjoyed the gold standard of whistleblower protections for four years, between 2008 and 2012.

The NDAA for fiscal year 2008 contained temporary provisions that allowed all Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, including those at the National Security Agency (NSA), to enforce their whistleblower rights through district court jury trials. Additionally, in 2009, comprehensive whistleblower protections were enacted for all government contract employees paid with stimulus funds, including other IC agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency. Contrary to predictions that contractor whistleblowers would flood the courts, only 25 cases were filed from 2008 through 2012 under the DoD contractor provision (including from the intelligence community).

This whistleblower shield was so successful in deterring contractor waste and abuse that the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency proposed a permanent expansion for all government contractors. In 2012, McCaskill introduced a whistleblower protection amendment for all government contractors that won bipartisan Senate approval in the fiscal year 2013 NDAA.

However, during that NDAA’s closing conference committee negotiations, whistleblower rights were extended only to contractors outside of the intelligence community. Preexisting rights for IC contractors were also removed, despite a proven track record that the law was working as intended and no evidence that the law had any adverse impacts on national security during its five-year lifespan.

To better protect taxpayer dollars, our country and Americans’ privacy, Congress must restore whistleblower protections for intelligence contractors and stop feeding the false narrative that such protections exist.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/09/protect-whistleblowers-ic-contractors.html

 

 

VA Buying System Archaic & Improvement Slow

Standard

wounded_vet

“FCW”

GAO Report:   ordering interface looks like something from when people “first started using computers.”

The VA procurement policy framework as being “outdated and fragmented,” with different procurement regulations covering different parts of the agency. Revisions and standardization of the VA’s overarching procurement regulation isn’t due until 2018.

The Department of Veterans Affairs embarked on an update of its fragmented, overlapping and out-of-date procurement system in 2011. Capitol Hill critics say implementation could be going faster.

“Companies doing business with the VA don’t know what the rules are, and even the VA contracting officers get confused,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) at a Sept. 20 House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) said the way the system works right now is “unacceptable” and that she will be “anxiously waiting” any updates to the system.

Greg Giddens, VA’s executive director for acquisition, logistics and construction, said the agency has “strategies in place that align with GAO’s recommendations” in most areas of oversight concern.

Acting Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Rick Lemmon said the agency is in the process of developing and launching a new Windows-based ordering interface, to replace the aging, text-based legacy system in fiscal year 2017. The current VA system is integrated with the agency’s homegrown VistA health record system, and is coded using the legacy MUMPS computer language.

Giddens noted that VA is in the midst of a financial management IT initiative, and launching plans for a digital healthcare platform. Both of these efforts “will impact legacy and contemporary supply-chain systems and interfaces, as well as influence system-improvement alternatives and investment decisions over the next two to five years,” he said.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2016/09/21/va-procurement-oversight.aspx?admgarea=TC_Management

 

Federal Cyber Incidents Up 1,300% In 10 Years

Standard

federal-cyber-reporting-incidents

“WASHINGTON POST”

“The number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies jumped more than 1,300 percent, from 5,503 to 77,183, over the 10 years through fiscal 2015.

This is not just a theoretical warning.

Federal information security has been on the high-risk list of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 1997, and the situation has only grown worse.

These statistics, at once sobering and alarming, were included in a GAO report presented to the President’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity this week. The report was in the form of a statement from Gregory C. Wilshusen, the GAO’s director of information security issues.

“Over the last several years, we have made about 2,500 recommendations to agencies aimed at improving their implementation of information security controls,” Wilshusen said. “These recommendations identify actions for agencies to take in protecting their information and systems. For example, we have made recommendations for agencies to correct weaknesses in controls intended to prevent, limit, and detect unauthorized access to computer resources. … However, many agencies continue to have weaknesses in implementing these controls, in part because many of these recommendations remain unimplemented. As of September 16, 2016, about 1,000 of our information security–related recommendations have not been implemented.”

Ineffective cyberprotection “can result in significant risk to a broad array of government operations and assets,” he added.

Press secretary Jamal Brown of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) responded by saying that “cybersecurity is one of the most important challenges we face as a nation. Over the last nearly eight years, federal agencies have made significant progress in strengthening their overall cybersecurity posture. Yet, as cyber threats continue to evolve and grow, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat them.”

Among of those efforts was release of a first-ever cybersecurity workforce strategy and implementation of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which established the commission that heard Wilshusen’s statement.

“GAO’s recommendations to the commission are important and welcomed,” Brown said.

These examples from Wilshusen show how broad that array can be: “Sensitive information, such as intellectual property and national security data, and personally identifiable information, such as taxpayer data, Social Security records, and medical records, could be inappropriately added to, deleted, read, copied, disclosed, or modified for purposes such as espionage, identity theft, or other types of crime.”

In June 2014, the Office of Personnel Management announced that personal information, including Social Security numbers, belonging to 22 million federal employees and others had been hacked. That is the largest announced cybertheft but far from the only one. The private sector also has been repeatedly hit by cyberthieves.

“These threats come from a variety of sources and vary in terms of the types and capabilities of the actors, their willingness to act, and their motives,” Wilshusen said. “For example, advanced persistent threats — where adversaries possess sophisticated levels of expertise and significant resources to pursue their objectives — pose increasing risks.”

In a March report to Congress, the OMB linked the rising number of cybersecurity incidents to “an increase in total information security events and agencies’ enhanced capabilities to identify, detect, manage, respond to, and recover from these incidents.”

Although the report indicates that about 40 percent of the GAO’s recommendations have not been implemented at any one time, in an interview, Wilshusen said the government’s long-term record is significantly better. Within four years, 88 percent to 90 percent of the recommendations are followed, he said by phone. “Over time,” he added, “the agencies do a pretty good job of implementing our recommendations.”

The GAO offered several recommendations, including strengthening oversight of government contractors that provide information-technology services. That was a lesson learned the hard way through the OPM breach.  In 2014, the GAO found that five of six selected agencies “were inconsistent” in their oversight of contractor cyber controls.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/09/22/federal-cyber-incidents-jump-1300-in-10-years/?utm_campaign=EBB%209.23.16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Sailthru

 

Military Tech Matchmaker Getting Ready to Open Wallet

Standard
diux-mayoradler-dot-com

Image: mayoradler.com

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUX  DIUx connects smallish companies with potential customers inside the Defense Department. It has plans to fund another 22 projects to the tune of $65 million.

For every dollar DIUx puts toward a new  company, a  military branch contributes $3.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act charged “outreach is proceeding without sufficient attention being paid to breaking down the barriers that have traditionally prevented nontraditional contractors from supporting defense needs, like lengthy contracting processes and the inability to transition technologies.”

Folks close to [Defense Secretary] Carter have said that he remains deeply, personally committed to the effort, and would open a DIUx cell in every city in America if he could.

“I created DIUx last year because one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America’s wonderfully innovative and open technology community,” Carter said.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/09/militarys-tech-matchmaker-getting-ready-open-its-wallet/131554/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

 

 

Corruption Lessons from US Experience in Afghanistan

Standard
afghan-corruption-politifact-dot-com

Image:  Politifact.com

“POGO”

“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released the first in a series of reports imparting lessons from the 15-year, $115 billion Afghanistan reconstruction effort.

The core lesson:  establish an anti-corruption strategy before plunging into nation-rebuilding.

The report, Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan, is a review of how effectively the US government—primarily the Departments of Defense (DoD), State, Treasury, and Justice, and the US Agency for International Development—responded to corruption in Afghanistan reconstruction spending. SIGAR identifies six key lessons that will hopefully inform future contingency operations, and makes recommendations for executive and legislative action.

The report defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted authority for private gain,” as exemplified by such acts as bribery, embezzlement, extortion, fraud, and nepotism. It asserts that, while certain forms of corruption have been a part of Afghan culture for centuries, the problem grew to epic proportions after 2001. SIGAR faults the US-led reconstruction effort in three respects: by rapidly injecting billions of dollars into the Afghan economy without adequate oversight, by failing to recognize the scope and severity of corruption, and by subordinating anticorruption efforts to short-term security and political goals.

The recommendation that seems most sensible (to provide the most bang for the buck, if you will) is for the agencies to establish a “joint vendor vetting unit” to more carefully screen contingency operation contractors and grantees. For reconstruction missions to succeed, international aid money must be kept out of the hands of what SIGAR calls “malign powerbrokers”—those who thrive off corruption, such as local warlords, crooked government officials, and insurgents. Robust screening of recipients will also help ensure reconstruction funds aren’t lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.

The United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan for several more years, and it will likely embark on relief efforts in other war-torn countries as well. It is therefore critical that the government heed the lessons collected over the years by its watchdogs: the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which ceased operations in September 2011, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which closed its doors in October 2013, and SIGAR, which will carry on until appropriated funding for the reconstruction drops below $250 million.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/09/government-watchdog-identifies-lessons-from-afghanistan-reconstruction.html

 

Uncle Sam Wants You

Standard

uncle-sam-wants-you

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a skeptical tech community.

It’s part of an all-out effort by the military’s civilian leader to get the technologically best and brightest to work with or even for the often-hidebound Pentagon.

Carter has created the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX) and the Defense Digital Service, both of which report directly to him.

The outbound lane on Carter’s new bridge is the DIUX, the much-publicized project to put Pentagon reps in Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin and (soon) other high-tech hotspots around the country. The inbound lane is the Defense Digital Service, which brings civilian techies into the Pentagon.

“A SWAT Team Of Nerds”

The Defense Digital Service is “a SWAT team of nerds,” said Chris Lynch, the DDS director. They spend a year or more at the Defense Department helping with particularly knotty and important problems. “On this particular trip,” explained to reporters on Secretary Carter’s plane en route to the TechCrunch conference, “we’re going to meet with some high-profile engineers to try to convince them to come out for at least a year to serve their country.”

To ease that transition, Lynch’s outfit is consciously counter-cultural. He’s made a point of wearing jeans and sneakers from day one. His team call themselves and any friends they find in the bureaucracy “the Rebel Alliance.”

The “service” is also awfully small. “We have about 18 people today,” Lynch said, and they are working on half-a-dozen projects.

“Our goal is to stay small and be very selective about the projects that we’re engaged in,” Lynch said. Defense agencies, services, and commands come to him to pitch their projects, but which ones DDS ultimately takes on is in large part guided by the personal interests, expertise, and passion of the individuals who join the service. The service doesn’t try replace the people already working on a problem for the Defense Department. Instead, DDS aims to help defense insiders over crucial hurdles with a well-timed infusion of outsider knowledge, then move on.

But how can less than 20 people make an impact on the two million-strong Department of Defense? “This model has been proven out many, many times over history, in particular at DoD,” Lynch said. “Small, highly empowered teams can actually make history and can change things.”

“The Department of Defense got to pull off the first ever federal bug bounty,” Lynch said. “It’s probably the last place that a lot of people would have thought it would have happened.”

Now the effects are “cascading “across the federal government, , said D.J. Patil, the Chief Data Scientist at the White House, speaking alongside Lynch. Just as the Defense Digital Service was the catalyst to get the Defense Department to move, the Defense Department’s example is the catalyst getting other agencies to move.

“Since the Department of Defense launched this first-ever Hack the Pentagon bug bounty program, we have seen a number of other departments who have said, ‘oh, that was really good, we’re going to go do that too,’” said Patil.

Marijuana? Maybe. Treason? No.

The audience at TechCrunch seemed more than a little skeptical of Carter’s pitch. Their questions ranged from the National Security Agency to digital privacy, Edward Snowden — a traitor to many in the Pentagon but a hero to many here — and even drug use.

What if a really good engineer went to Burning Man and decided to “partake in some goodies,” the moderator asked. Would that disqualify them from working for the Pentagon?

“Times change,” Carter said. “The laws change respecting marijuana…. Yes, we can be flexible in that regard.”

The call to serve their country “animates a lot of people,” the secretary said, “but they want to know if it can be done in a way that’s consistent with their lifestyle, their values, with everything else that’s important in their lives.” The Pentagon needs to meet them halfway.

But some things cannot change. Asked if the president should pardon Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who illegally disclosed vast archives of highly classified material, Carter refused to comment on individual cases but came down emphatically against leaks.

“All of us who enjoy the public trust and handle classified information have the responsibility” to safeguard it, Carter said. That does not mean we have the right to tell the world secrets that we personally feel uncomfortable keeping. “To arrogate to oneself the authority to (disclose) something that’s been trusted to you,” he said, “that is something we can’t condone.”

The cultural divide is very real. The day after his talk at TechCrunch, Carter went to Austin to announce a new DIUX outpost to be hosted by the Capital Factory there. A poster on the wall quoted Buckminster Fuller on the need to “reorient world production away from weaponry,” and a local reporter asked whether techies working with DIUX should be worried their technology would be “militarized” or “misused.”

“We’re actually looking to reach out and build bridges to people who have not worked with us before — and yes, that includes people who have reservations,” Carter replied, “because I think when they get to know us, they’ll learn two things. The first is the United States military conducts itself in a way that I think makes people proud,” Carter said. “We’re extremely careful in what we do that we don’t harm civilians. No other military is as scrupulous.”

“The other thing they’ll discover,” Carter continued, “is the great satisfaction that comes from knowing, when you go to bed at night, that you spent your day doing something that contributes to the security of the country and a better world.”

SecDef Carter Wants YOU For The Defense Digital Service

 

 

Special Ops Microdrone – No Human Piloting or GPS (Video)

Standard

shield-al-autonomous-drone

                                                                          Shield AI Autonomous Drone

“DEFENSE ONE”

“Taking off with the push of a button, the Shield AI drone flies into a building and autonomously maps its interior using cameras, lasers, and inertial and ultrasonic sensors.

A San Diego company called Shield AI is bringing that vision to life.

On Sept. 1, the company received $1 million from the Naval Special Warfare Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUX, the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outreach office, for a nine-month prototype project.

Shield AI’s creation is not the only microdrone on the battlefield. Norway-based Prox Dynamics makes a bug-sized reconnaissance drone called the PD 100 Black Hornet, which British special operators have used on the battlefields of Afghanistan since 2011. U.S. special operations forces and U.S.Marines have also conducted tests with it. At a Defense Oneevent in March, Prox Dynamics demonstrated a new version of their drone that could function without GPS.

But only the Shield AI microdrone can fly without a human.

“Our drone can operate completely autonomously (no remote pilot) inside dense urban environments and GPS-denied areas (inside buildings, tunnels, beneath heavy tree coverage),” ShieldAI’s Brandon Tseng said. “Most commercial-off-the-shelf drones say ‘autonomous flight’ but what they means is they can followGPS way points. If you launch our drone outside of a building, it will fly inside without GPS, map the building, and multi-cast HDvideo of what’s inside to any number of users…It is the AI that makes it more suitable for all ground operations. Infantry and special operations forces need to have situational awareness at all times, and they lose it if they’re trying to pilot a drone inside. Our AI removes the requirement for a remote pilot.”

The push for drones that are GPS-independent says as much about bigger computer intelligence coming in ever-smaller packages as it does about the strategic vulnerability in relying too much on GPS. In 2014, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, put out a request for new algorithms to help small drones navigate the same way that birds do — in other words, without receiving a spoofable signal from an aging satellite.

“Goshawks, for example, can fly very fast through a dense forest without smacking into a tree. Many insects, too, can dart and hover with incredible speed and precision,” program manager Mark Micire noted in the announcement.

The following year, the Army issued a call to “expand the capabilities of GPS Denied (GD) autonomous unmanned systems sensing and collaborating architecture and related components.”

But where nature soars, humankind can but crawl. Birds and insects come out of the egg with onboard visual sensors fully integrated into complex processors that exemplify size, weight, and power efficiency. (That is: Birds have eyes and brains.)

In this 2014 paper, a group of researchers, primarily from NASA, explain why building those same smarts into a micro drone is so hard. The human-designed platforms of 2016 can host only a small camera, computer, and battery. That puts extra pressure on the software – and the algorithms behind that software —to turn that sensor data into autonomous flying, landing, etc. (The paper also introduces the world’s smallest autonomous quadcopter drone that can fly on its own. It weighs in at less than 500g, or half the weight of the Shield AI drone.)

The good news is that the same market forces that are bringing better cameras and more processing to smartphones will also make micro drones smarter as well.

“As recent developments in multi-core smart-phone processors are driven by the same size, weight, and power constraints, micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) can directly benefit from new products in this area that provide more computational resources at lower power budgets and low weight, enabling miniaturization of aerial platforms that are able to perform navigation tasks fully autonomously,” they write.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/09/special-operators-are-getting-new-autonomous-tactical-drone/131431/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

 

Government”Sentiment Analysis”To Identify Insider Threats

Standard
our-social-times-dot-com

Image:  oursocialtimes.com

“DEFENSE ONE”

“A spy agency plans to identify people within the organization likely to abuse their access privileges by analyzing pieces of text.

If one-year pilot program is successful, a ‘full and open competition’ could follow.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is investing in “sentiment analysis” technology, which generally works by parsing text and categorizing its author’s sentiment as positive, negative or neutral. NGA intends to sole-source an award for a 1-year pilot to WT Government Services, which sells such a system calledSCOUT Tool.

The pilot, to be operated by NGA’s Security and Installations Directorate Insider Threat Office, Behavioral Science and Engineering Divisions, is supposed to help the agency identify insider threats, according to a notice on FedBizOpps. WTGovernment Services is the only vendor who can modify its configuration, the posting said.

NGA plans to issue the firm fixed-price contract to the small business on Sep. 19. Anyone who works on the project needs to have a top secret security clearance, the posting said.

If NGA finds that sentiment analysis technology helps it identify insider threats, it intends to “conduct a full and open competition for future support,” the posting said.

This isn’t NGA’s first foray into sentiment analysis. Recently, the agency began gathering information about how the technology could be used to measure how effective its public relations efforts are—including speaker programs and media engagements—in changing public perception about the agency, a FedBizOpps posting earlier this summer said.

That agency’s Office of Corporate Communication is working on an “aggressive campaign” to raise NGA’s profile especially among recruits, college students and private industry. A contractor on that program would need to create a dashboard measuring the efficacy of NGA’s communication programs and find areas for improvement, the posting said.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/09/one-americas-spy-agencies-will-test-sentiment-analysis-help-sniff-out-insider-threats/131319/?oref=d_brief_nl