Tag Archives: Pentagon

Pentagon Intellectual Property And Enterprise Tool Challenges

Image: DAU


The Pentagon is in the midst of releasing a flurry of guidance related to its new adaptive acquisition framework. The public got its first look at the software pathway early in January when a Navy official informally released the interim guidance.

Besides the usual bureaucratic challenges of documentation and approval, two highlights could make or break the Pentagon’s ability to move fast on software.


“Like the middle-tier acquisition pathway, the budding software pathway is exempted from the regular requirements and milestone review processes. But software programs must still submit abridged requirements documents through a parallel, but “expedited,” approval process. Similarly, an acquisition strategy and set of metrics must be submitted in lieu of formal milestone reviews.

Intellectual property

A crucial component of the acquisition strategy is a plan for intellectual property (IP). As the recently released intellectual property policy specified, IP plans emphasize “the criticality of long-term analysis and planning during the earliest phases of the program.” Long-term planning is required for IP so that specified terms and pricing can be set up front, for such things as who owns the data, whether third-parties can modify the code, and which interfaces will be used. But if used improperly, it could lock in technical plans at the expense of course correction.

The IP process may run against the stated intentions of the software pathway policy — that programs use agile development methods. Some of the values from the Agile Manifesto include: responding to change over following a plan; collaboration over contract negotiation; and working software over comprehensive documentation. The requirement of defining all IP needs upfront runs counter to the values of agile.

If software is supposed to be incrementally released, then the definition of IP needs and pricing should also be an iterative exercise. Otherwise, the Pentagon’s IP policy would in practice necessitate a waterfall planning process. Developers would have to execute within the constraints of the IP plan.

Enterprise tools

The challenges of defining — and the unresolved problem of pricing — IP rights may be alleviated by a second highlight of the interim software policy: enterprise tools. Using government-owned infrastructure and platforms, many parts of the software program do not need to be recreated and separately priced. Firms can compete primarily on the application layer.

Building on enterprise tools like a government cloud, for example, would have saved the Pentagon from its IP struggle with Lockheed Martin over F-35 sustainment data. The company claimed ownership of data collected by the Automated Information Logistics System and stored on its premises. Data reports delivered to the government had Lockheed’s proprietary markings.

The U.S. Air Force has taken the lead in standing up enterprise tools for the services. Chief Software Officer Nicholas Chaillan is in the process of releasing the Unified Platform layer upon which applications can be built and deployed. The Air Force has increased funding for its Unified Platform and related elements from just over $55 million in fiscal 2019 to a request of nearly $100 million in 2020.

The Unified Platform will in turn run on government cloud solutions, which will incorporate the forthcoming Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract expected to run $10 billion over the next 10 years.

Chaillan explained. “You go to big companies, they have infrastructure cloud team, they have a platform team, you don’t have each software team building the entire stack from scratch. They can reuse all these existing enterprise capabilities in terms of testing and security.”

Enterprise tools help minimize the amount of effort, and thus IP planning, required of individual software efforts. By reducing the cost of building and operating new applications, more modularized software can be written by competing suppliers. It increases participation from companies of all sizes.

With viable alternatives not only in development, but in operations, tugs and pulls of the market may reveal efficient pricing for IP without lock-in effects from sole-source providers. In other words, the government will be less reliant on lifecycle planning and cost data.

By building on government-owned infrastructure and platform layers, applications can be modularized and priced incrementally. That will help bring the business team into a culture that supports agile developers. Enterprise tools may then help move the software acquisition pathway away from “water-agile-fall” and toward a real agile development process.

Investments in enabling tools and technologies can accelerate program developments. They should be given higher funding priority as programs in themselves. If enterprise tools are built, the question remains whether the services and contractors will adopt them.”


Department Of Defense Updates Mid-Tier And Urgent Acquisition Policies

Image: Roper Center, Cornell University


The Defense Department issued updates to mid-tier and urgent acquisition policies that allow the military to quickly develop prototypes and field systems. The policies took effect in the last days of 2019.


“Reworking the DOD 5000 series instructions that govern acquisition practices has been a top priority for DOD acquisition chief Ellen Lord, who told reporters Dec. 10 the changes “the most transformational change to acquisition policy in decades.”

The Pentagon has said it expects to publish the adaptive acquisition framework in January, which will include acquisition pathways specific to “the unique characteristics of the capability being acquired,” Lord said.

The mid-tier acquisition instructions address rapid prototyping and fielding and are meant to serve as a path to “accelerate capability maturation before transitioning to another acquisition pathway or may be used to minimally develop a capability before rapidly fielding.”

Lord said the new mid-tier instructions under an 18-month pilot facilitated a dramatic increase in the number of programs.

“Since our pilot started 18 months ago, we have gone from zero middle-tier programs in November 2018 to over 50 middle-tier programs today delivering military utility to warfighters years faster than the traditional acquisition system,” Lord said in the media briefing.

The urgent instructions focus on capabilities needed during conflict that can be fielded in less than two years but cost less than $525 million in research and development funds or $3 billion for fiscal 2020 procurements.

Lord said the department’s changes to the acquisition would make it easier for professionals to match programs with acquisition pathways as well as reduce lead time for pathfinder projects.

The rewrites for major capability, software, defense business systems and services acquisition are pending release.”




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How The Pentagon Can Save Over $1.2 Trillion

Image: “The Fiscal Times


To reach the $1.2 trillion-plus reduction, spending cuts would come from three general areas:

  • Force structure and weapons procurement reductions.
  • Overhead and efficiencies.
  • Nuclear weapons, missile defense and space.


“The Pentagon could save more than $1.2 trillion with a number of tweaks to its spending plan for the next decade, including canceling the creation of a Space Force and nuclear weapons projects, according to a report by the Center for International Policy.

The report, “Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending,” offers new strategies that challenge the National Defense Strategy by encouraging more diplomacy (specifically in regard to the Iran nuclear deal) and less military confrontation to cut costs. It also says the NDS “exaggerate[s] the challenges posed by major powers” like China and Russia.

The report offers Congress several solutions to reduce Defense Department spending in the short term, including restricting overseas contingency operations funds, cutting the Pentagon’s private contractor workforce by 15 percent, blocking plans for the Space Force, avoiding placing weapons in space and rolling back the nuclear modernization plan. Capitol Hill is in the middle of a funding debate over fiscal 2020 military spending.

The Defense Department’s top-line budget hit $691 billion in FY10 and generally decreased until FY16, when the budget saw an increase and continued since, reaching $686 billion in FY19. The White House has proposed a $750 billion budget for FY20.

Recommendations from the report call for a reduction in end strength for the Army and Marine Corps. If this approach is adopted, the Army’s active-duty force would see about a 13 percent reduction in planned end strength, from 488,000 to 426,000. The Marine Corps would see a reduction in its active infantry battalions and combat and support units, and an approximately 15 percent reduction in end strength, from 186,000 to 157,000.

The Navy would also face cuts to the current size of its fleet from about 297 ships to 264 under the report’s recommendations. This would interrupt the Navy’s goal of building a 325-ship fleet by 2028, the report adds.

The report suggests eliminating efforts to produce a new nuclear, air-launched cruise missile, known as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, which it calls “redundant.” This would save $13.3 billion over a 10-year period, the report claims. The Pentagon could also save $30 billion over 10 years by canceling plans for a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

On the U.S. nuclear strategy overall, the report recommends the country move toward “a posture of sufficiency — a large enough arsenal to deter attacks on the United States and its allies. No additional capability is needed.”

Canceling plans for a Space Force would save the department $10 billion over the same period, the report says. Plans for the Space Force were adopted by the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday during its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act. The language of the bill renames the organization Space Corps and places it under the purview of the Department of the Air Force.

The report states that the U.S. is much safer today than it once was, adding that while international terrorist organizations remain a threat, their existence does not warrant an expansion of military force.

“[T]the wars of the last 18 years — including large-scale counterinsurgency efforts, nation building, and global terrorist-chasing, as occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond — have done more harm than good, in some cases disastrously so,” the report asserts. It suggests abandoning policies that led to war and reducing the size and geographic reach of the military to “stop unnecessarily risking the lives of U.S. troops.”

The report also claims Russia and China pose no threat to the U.S. in terms of conventional military power. Rather, the competition with those countries lies in “economic dominance (particularly with China) and diplomatic influence.”

The report says the most urgent national security risks lie in climate change, cyberattacks, global disease epidemics, and income and wealth gaps. “


Military Victory is Dead




“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.

We’ve reached the end of victory’s road, and at this juncture it’s time to embrace other terms, a less-loaded lexicon, like “strategic advantage,” “relative gain,” and “sustainable marginalization.”

A few weeks back, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker triumphantly announced the peace deal between the government of Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). While positive, this declaration rings hollow as the exception that proves the rule – a tentative treaty, however, at the end, roughly 7,000 guerrillas held a country of 50 million hostage over 50 years at a cost of some 220,000 lives. Churchill would be aghast: Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

One reason this occasion merited a more somber statement: military victory is dead. And it was killed by a bunch of cheap stuff.

The term “victory” is loaded, so let’s stipulate it means unambiguous, unchallenged, and unquestioned strategic success – something more than a “win,” because, while one might “eke out a win,” no one “ekes out a victory.” Wins are represented by a mere letter (“w”); victory is a tickertape with tanks.

Which is something I’ll never see in my military career; I should explain. When a government has a political goal that cannot be obtained other than by force, the military gets involved and selects some objective designed to obtain said goal. Those military objectives can be classified broadly, as Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz did, into either a limited aim (i.e. “occupy some…frontier-districts” to use “for bargaining”), or a larger aim to completely disarm the enemy, “render[ing] him politically helpless or military impotent.” Lo, we’ve arrived at the problem: War has become so inexpensive that anyone can afford the traditional military means of strategic significance – so we can never fully disarm the enemy. And a perpetually armed enemy means no more parades (particularly in Nice).

Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

It’s a buyer’s market in war, and the baseline capabilities (shoot, move, and communicate) are at snake-belly prices. Tactical weaponry, like AK-47s are plentiful, rented, and shipped from battlefield to battlefield, and the most lethal weapon U.S. forces encountered at the height of the Iraq War, the improvised explosive device, could be had for as little as $265. Moving is cost-effective too in the “pickup truck era of warfare,” and reports on foreign fighters in Syria remind us that cheap, global travel makes it possible for nearly anyone on the planet to rapidly arrive in an active war zone with money to spare. Also, while the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba shut down the megacity Mumbai in 2008 for less than what many traveling youth soccer teams spend in a season, using unprotected social media networks, communication has gotten even easier for the emerging warrior with today’s widely available unhackable phones and apps. These low and no-cost commo systems are the glue that binds single wolves into coordinated wolf-packs with guns, exponentially greater than the sum of their parts. The good news: Ukraine can crowdfund aerial surveillance against Russian incursions. The less-good news: strikes, like 9/11, cost less than three seconds of a single Super Bowl ad. With prices so low, why would anyone ever give up their fire, maneuver, and control platforms?

All of which explains why military victory has gone away. Consider the Middle East, and the recent comment by a Hezbollah leader, “This can go on for a hundred years,” and his comrade’s complementary analysis, that “as long as we are there, nobody will win.” With such a modestly priced war stock on offer, it’s no wonder Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees with the insurgents, recently concluding, of the four wars currently burning across the region, the U.S. has “no prospect” of strategic victory in any. Or that Modern War Institute scholar Andrew Bacevich assesses bluntly, “If winning implies achieving stated political objectives, U.S. forces don’t win.” This is what happens when David’s slingshot is always full.

The guerrillas know what many don’t: It’s the era, stupid. This is the nature of the age, as Joshua Cooper Ramos describes, “a nightmare reality in which we must fight adaptive microthreats and ideas, both of which appear to be impossible to destroy even with the most expensive weapons.” Largely correct, one point merits minor amendment – it’s meaningless to destroy when it’s so cheap to get back in the game, a hallmark of a time in which Wolverine-like regeneration is regular.

This theme even extends to more civilized conflicts. Take the Gawker case: begrudged hedge fund giant Peter Thiel funded former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the journalistic insurrectionists at Gawker Media, which forced the website’s writers to lay down their keyboards. However, as author Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out – Gawker’s leader, Nick Denton, can literally walk across the street, with a few dollars, and start right over. Another journalist opined, “Mr. Thiel’s victory was a hollow one – you might even say he lost. While he may have killed Gawker, its sensibility and influence on the rest of the news business survive.” Perhaps Thiel should have waited 50 more years, as Columbia had to, to write his “victory” op-ed? He may come to regret the essay as his own “Mission Accomplished” moment.

True with websites, so it goes with warfare. We live in the cheap war era, where the attacker has the advantage and the violent veto is always possible. Political leaders can speak and say tough stuff, promise ruthless revenge – it doesn’t matter, ultimately, because if you can’t disarm the enemy, you can’t parade the tanks.”

Military Victory is Dead


Congress to Pentagon: “You Can’t Tell Us Where You’re Spending Your Money Or How Much Inventory You Have.”



Image: “Rose Covered Glasses” https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/the-unaffordable-pentagon-audit/


“With the Defense Department’s first audit in hand, lawmakers are scrutinizing the Pentagon’s request for $750 billion in 2020 with a new vigor and questioning what “future risk” really means for the nation.

Congress asked the Pentagon to deliver a budget in 2020 that creates an “acceptable level of risk” for the military in 2025. However, after DoD showed it could not account for most of the money it’s been spending over the years in it’s 2018 audit, Congress is questioning if the military truly needs such enormous budgets.”


“What critics of larger defense budgets are floating as a topline isn’t far off from the Pentagon’s request, — $733 billion — but those critics have new ammunition in the form of the audit to counter the military’s claim that it needs a higher $750 billion topline.

That ammunition was on full display during the April 2 House Armed Services Committee budget hearing with leaders.

“The issue is not knowing where this $750 billion is going to go,” said Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.). “It’s impossible to overstate this point. We literally don’t know where a chunk of that $750 billion is going to go. We can identify some of it here and there, but by any normal accounting measure, you can’t tell us where you’re spending your money, or how much inventory you have.”

Only five of DoD’s 21 auditable agencies came back clean from the 2018 audit, and those clean agencies were smaller entities.

The Pentagon currently has 2,410 notices of findings and recommendations it needs to work on after its first audit. Another thing to keep in mind is that it took $1 billion alone just to complete the first audit.

While military leaders could only tell lawmakers that they were working to be more accountable on funds, they did have answers for what might happen if the military wasn’t fully funded to the $750 billion topline given the way DoD currently spends money.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the Air Force would suffer in its training ranges.

“What would be at risk is out ability to replicate the threat with the proper environment, both virtually and physically on our ranges going forward,” Goldfein said. “What’s also at risk is this significant movement that we started last year, and Congress supported this. It was a significant move for the Air Force to shift from a platform solution on command and control and battle management to a network solution going forward. That is our future in the business of joint warfighting, to ensure that we are taking every sensor and every shooter and connecting them together.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the Army would have to trim back some of its manning and “not fill holes” it has been filling. The Army would also lighten some of its major training exercises.

“Right now, for example, we’re doing our first emergency deployment readiness exercise, deploying an armored brigade combat team out to Fort Bliss, Texas, all the way to Europe,” Milley said. “That’s the first time that’s been done in 25, 30, maybe even 40 years. Exercises like that would come down.”

He added that the Army would slow down the delivery and procurement of spare parts.

What is risk?

Smith challenged the military’s definition of risk, however, questioning if an “acceptable level of risk” is ever attainable no matter how much money Congress appropriates DoD.

“My point is, this has no end,” Smith said. “You cannot eliminate risk… We could spend $1 trillion and I’m halfway convinced that you’d all be sitting there telling us, ‘OK, that’s great, but here’s all the things we can’t do.”

Smith said he wants a long-term understanding of what risk entails.

“We could throw money at you all day long and you’re going to come back at us and say there’s still an unacceptable level of risk,” he said. “I don’t find that helpful.”

In the meantime, it seems like Congress will be battling over about $17 billion — the difference between a $733 billion and a $750 billion topline.

“The House Budget Committee, the number that they’ve talked about for defense is $733 billion,” Smith said earlier this month. “It’s a not insubstantial number. If you take out the roughly $10 billion in emergency spending that’s folded in, you’re not that far apart on the budget numbers. I don’t see that being a problem, but we will have to find savings in some places, obviously.”

The $9.2 billion DoD requested for emergency spending would be used mostly to build the wall along the southern border and refill military construction accounts it plans to use for wall construction in 2019 under the president’s emergency declaration.

Part of that money would also go into rebuilding Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Bases after they were impacted by extreme weather.

Another issue Congress needs to hammer out is exactly how DoD’s budget is allocated. Currently, the budget funds right up to the $545 billion budget caps and then makes up the rest of the budget with emergency war accounts that are not subject to the Budget Control Act.

Critics say putting base budget funding in emergency accounts shrouds accountability and makes it harder for DoD to plan for the future.”


Like Post Vietnam – US Army Is Trying to Bury the Lessons of the Iraq War



“Similar to how the Pentagon abandoned its doctrine of fighting counterinsurgencies and irregular conflicts in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, today’s military has shifted away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By scuttling plans to help its leaders understand what went wrong, the service is turning a blind eye to insights of enduring relevance.”


“U.S. troops are still in Iraq — not to mention Syria, Afghanistan, and various African countries — to ward off or put down insurgencies. Within the national security apparatus, however, the Iraq War is old news.  

As has been explained to me by senior officers who are still on active duty, the conventional wisdom today is that our military has moved on — and in an odd redux, they note that we have returned to the philosophy of 1973.

Instead of preparing to fight insurgents and guerrillas, our security establishment has refocused almost exclusively on the realm of great power conflict — in their parlance, peer or near-peer competitors such as Russia or China. 

This trend away from “small wars” has been so intense that it contributed to Army’s resistance to publishing its own Iraq War Study, a project that I helped lead to its conclusion in 2016. During one of the periods that the Army was withholding publication of the completed manuscripts, a colonel in the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army’s office told me that the opposition was occurring because a study on the Iraq War did not fit the official narrative of the Army “returning to decisive action,” the jargon for “fighting other great powers like Russia with tanks, artillery, and airstrikes.” In January, the study’s two volumes were at last published online. But as a result of this ideological realignment, funds that had been allocated to spread the war’s lessons — to publish hard copies of the Iraq War Study, distribute them across the Army, and hold professional development sessions to foster discussion in the officer corps — were reallocated and never replaced. 

Instead of preparing to fight insurgents and guerrillas, our security establishment has refocused almost exclusively on the realm of great power conflict — in their parlance, peer or near-peer competitors such as Russia or China. 

This trend away from “small wars” has been so intense that it contributed to Army’s resistance to publishing its own Iraq War Study, a project that I helped lead to its conclusion in 2016. During one of the periods that the Army was withholding publication of the completed manuscripts, a colonel in the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army’s office told me that the opposition was occurring because a study on the Iraq War did not fit the official narrative of the Army “returning to decisive action,” the jargon for “fighting other great powers like Russia with tanks, artillery, and airstrikes.” In January, the study’s two volumes were at last published online. But as a result of this ideological realignment, funds that had been allocated to spread the war’s lessons — to publish hard copies of the Iraq War Study, distribute them across the Army, and hold professional development sessions to foster discussion in the officer corps — were reallocated and never replaced. 

Such resistance is deeply unsettling. The Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group was originally commissioned because some of the Army’s senior leaders believed that a failure to learn the lessons of the Vietnam War had led us to repeat the errors of that conflict in Iraq. Army efforts to investigate what went wrong in Vietnam were haphazard and the limited studies that it commissioned were incomplete and uncritical. Lives were lost and funds were wasted re-learning the lessons of guerrilla and irregular warfare as a result of that omission, providing a difficult lesson on the importance of introspection. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

While we do not know whether our next war will be of the same category that we fought in Iraq, it would be folly to expunge all of its lessons. As the world continues to migrate to cities and pressures from failed or failing states push populations toward armed insurrection, it is quite possible that our next conflict could be another irregular war fought against guerrillas and insurgents. Even if we do end up facing a peer or near-peer competitor as the defense establishment is predicting, many of the lessons of the Iraq War still ring true. If we find ourselves facing such a foe, it would be highly likely that our opponents would fight us with a blend of conventional warfare—using ships, tanks, and warplanes—as well as with irregular tactics such as we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blending both types of warfare, which has been called “hybrid warfare” or “conflict in the grey zone” enables our enemies to counter some of our conventional advantages asymmetrically, and challenge us symmetrically with forces that are on par with our capabilities. The use of paramilitaries or militias rather than uniformed soldiers, ambushing logistics convoys with improvised explosive devices, and hiding soldiers and resources amongst the civilian population- all staples of the Iraq conflict- are tactics that have also been used by Russia and other states because they make attribution and retaliation more difficult. It would be a dangerous proposition to hope that nation-state competitors we face in the future have not studied the war in Iraq and adapted their tactics. 

We should not ignore our failures in Iraq out of embarrassment or shame. Rather than repeat the error of not learning from our mistakes after the Vietnam War, we should learn from the conflict in Iraq and capture those lessons so that our armed forces are capable of responding to a variety of threats and conflicts. Restoring the original distribution and dissemination plan for the Iraq War study would go far in communicating the importance of assimilating, discussing, and debating the lessons of a conflict whose consequences we will have to endure for a long time. Learning hard lessons and internalizing them is what our leaders owe to the members of our military as well as the citizens of our country.”


Frank Sobchak is a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel who co-authored “The U.S. Army in the Iraq War,” the U.S. government’s longest and most detailed study of the Iraq conflict


Defense Digital Service Leads Acquisition Of Modern Security Clearance Prototype

Image: DDS


“DDS wants a security clearance system that accounts for subject information collection, background investigation with some automated processes, and adjudication, the team announced in a request for white papers Tuesday.

The team will use an “other transaction agreement,” or OTA, to acquire the prototype.”


“As the Pentagon assumes responsibility for the federal government’s security clearance functions, it has tasked its Defense Digital Service team with leading the acquisition of a modern and partially automated prototype system for clearances. ‘

The decades-old congressional authority [Other Transaction Agreement (OTA] allows federal agencies to craft prototype-development deals with nontraditional vendors at a much quicker pace, often less than 60 days. This specific contract will last nine months and be worth no more than $5 million.

“This prototype will require integration with a wide variety of U.S. Government and commercial databases to verify the Subject’s identity and background information,” the solicitation says. “Development of the prototype will be rapid and agile in nature, fielding new functionality to users for feedback every two weeks.”

The software prototype must be hosted in commercial cloud approved for DOD Impact Level 4, which accounts for the most sensitive unclassified information. The final product must be “capable of collecting Subject’s information for a specified population, executing a background investigation of a specified type (including automated record checks, deconfliction/entity resolution, and manual investigation notes entry), and recording an adjudication decision.”

Additionally, DDS wants the software to meet a few specific needs:

  • Place the subject is at the center of the process
  • Enhance transparency of clearances, adding to the subject’s visibility into the process
  • Improve “user experience, workflow and information management, and productivity for additional non-Subject user communities”
  • Reduce the timeline of investigation and adjudication
  • Facilitate enrollment in continuous evaluation

Congress calls for such advancements in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act: “Current practices are mired in outdated methods and non-digital, non-automated technology. Expensive human investigative resources are consumed with fact checking and data collection functions (ripe candidates for automation) as opposed to investigating substantive issues about the actions and circumstances of prospective and current employees. A better model has been clear to policymakers for at least a decade: a ‘continuous evaluation’ concept based on automated access to a wide array of digital sources and records.”

Interested companies have until March 19 to submit questions and until March 26 to submit completed white papers.

This OTA comes as the Pentagon consolidates the security clearance and background check functions from across government into the Defense Security Service. As the solicitation explains, the current process, led by the Office of Personnel Management, “is spread across multiple federal agencies and has led to a series of overburdened queues, opaque and disjointed processing, and an on average 13- month turnaround for cases.”


Security Clearance Delays Are Hurting the Pentagon’s Tech Workforce

Image: “Rosecoveredglasses” https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/u-s-must-revamp-broken-security-clearance-process/


“Delays [are due] to a lack of staff responsible for implementing the Cyber Excepted Service program. Currently, the department only has five people dedicated to hiring the thousands of IT specialists needed across the enterprise.”


“The government’s lengthy security clearance process is making it harder for the Defense Department to hire top tech and cyber talent, Pentagon officials told Congress on Tuesday.

They also said the department has yet to take full advantage of the Cyber Excepted Service program, a special authority meant to make it easier to bring IT specialists into the workforce.

As the Pentagon ramps up investment in artificial intelligencecloud services and other emerging tech, its appetite for digital expertise is growing. But scant resources and surplus bureaucracy are hampering recruitment efforts, officials said, and the talent gap isn’t spread evenly across the enterprise.

Chief among the obstacles facing the department is the government’s lengthy hiring process, according to Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Pentagon’s deputy principal cyber adviser.

“The onboarding process can be very frustrating,” Crall told the House Armed Services Emerging Threats subpanel. “If we can’t bring [IT specialists] on quickly because they’re held up in the security clearance process, it’s [possible] that they lose some interest and we don’t garner the result we’re looking for.”

The clearance process, which can take nearly a year to complete in some cases, has long plagued the government defense and intelligence communities. The Pentagon is expected to take over all federal background checks later this year.

But beyond security clearances, the Pentagon also faces organizational barriers to building a robust tech workforce, according to Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy. While components like U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency are “well on their way” to amassing the talent they need, the individual branches haven’t had as much success, he said.

“The department’s cyber workforce is critical to our mission success,” Deasy said, but “the [personnel and readiness] organizations in the respective [military] services need to train up at a faster rate the people they need to bring onboard.”

Crall attributed the delays to a lack of staff responsible for implementing the Cyber Excepted Service program. Currently, the department only has five people dedicated to hiring the thousands of IT specialists needed across the enterprise, and it needs to double the size of the team to meet existing demands, he said. Crall added that he recently submitted a request for more manpower to Deasy’s office.

He also said the department could better utilize its relationship with academia to build a pipeline for tech talent.

While the Pentagon works to streamline the hiring process and expand its tech workforce, the talent gap at civilian agencies is growing at an even faster rate. At some agencies, more than half the tech workforce is within 10 years of retirement, and officials are struggling to recruit the next generation of feds to replace them.”


Google Not Bidding $10 Billion Pentagon Cloud Contract – “Artificial Intelligence Ethics Concerns”


Ethics_-Google-Imagegoogle-good-evil-featuredGoogle Core Values


“Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, without elaborating.”

“Google said in a statement “we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

The principles bar use of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) software in weapons as well as services that violate international norms for surveillance and human rights.

Google was provisionally certified in March to handle U.S. government data with “moderate” security, but Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp have higher clearances.

Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI.

Google had been angling for the deal, hoping that the $10 billion annual contract could provide a giant boost to its nascent cloud business and catch up with Amazon and fellow JEDI competitor Microsoft.

That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies.

But thousands of Google employees this year protested use of Google’s technology in warfare or in ways that could lead to human rights violations. The company responded by releasing principles for use of its artificial intelligence tools.

In its statement, Google said it would have been able to support “portions” of the JEDI deal had joint bids been allowed.

The news outlet Federal News Network first reported Google’s decision.”