Tag Archives: technology

The Next $10 Billion Chapter In The Veterans Administration Health Care Systems Development Saga

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VA New System

Editors’ Note:  The story herein on “FEDSCOOP” announces the latest trip on a decades- long road of efforts by the Veteran’s Administration to connect the  health care systems of the military with those of the VA and establish state of the art records keeping for veterans.  

This sole source, non-competitive, contract award to CERNER,  a commercial firm in lieu of in-house systems development  is a major change in approach from past efforts that have cost billions and led to shut downs and start overs. 

Having seen these types of government systems management challenges from the inside for over 4 decades I find myself sincerely doubting that both the scope and the price tag are final.   For historical perspective, please see: 

A VETERAN CONNECTS THE DOTS IN THE MILITARY AND VETERANS HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS MAZE   

Ken Larson

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“FEDSCOOP”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Thursday that it has officially signed a contract with Cerner for a new electronic health record (EHR) system.

The inked contract is worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.

“With a contract of that size, you can understand why former Secretary [David] Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what the President wanted,” acting Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does.”

The new EHR will be “similar” to that used by the Department of Defense, which will allow patient data will be “seamlessly” shared between the two. This has been a major pain point with the Department’s current EHR, the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA.

Wilkie reiterated Shulkin’s comments, from March, that the VA will learn from some of the DOD’s challenges in deploying its new EHR, known as MHS Genesis, and will not fall prey to the same pitfalls, which have plagued early pilots of the system and led to a report calling it “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.”

“VA and DoD are collaborating closely to ensure lessons learned at DoD sites will be implemented in future deployments at DoD as well as VA,” Wilkie said. “We appreciate the DoD’s willingness to share its experiences implementing its electronic health record.”

“Signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans,” Wilkie said. “It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

However big an announcement this may be, actual rollout of the new EHR will take time. At an event in January, former VA CIO Scott Blackburn told the crowd to expect another 10 years of VistA.”

https://www.fedscoop.com/va-ehr-cerner-10-billion-robert-wilkie/

 

 

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6 Predictions On How A New Strategy Could Change What The Pentagon Buys

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National Defense Strategy 2

“C4ISRNET”

“During a speech at Johns Hopkins University in January 2018, Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, unveiled an updated version of a Pentagon document called the National Defense Strategy.

C4ISRNET asked industry leaders to explain how this shift could play out. Individually, their answers are compelling, but together they create a rich portrait of modern warfare.”

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“After nearly 17 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new document fundamentally changed the direction of the Department of Defense. Now, the Pentagon is turning its attention to what it describes as a near-peer competition — in other words: China and Russia — and away from the counterterrorism mission.

But with the new focus comes a shift in battlefield technology. The strategy calls for updated nuclear command and control, investments in space, and greater integration of cyber.

CYBER

WHAT WILL CHANGE: More sophisticated cyberattacks

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More automation with cyber and more visibility of who’s on the network

NAME: David Mihelcic, federal chief technology and strategy officer, Juniper Networks

Near-peer adversaries are willing to expend significant resources — both in terms of people and money — to penetrate or disrupt federal networks critical to the security and economic health of the United States. Likewise, near-peer adversaries’ tools and techniques are far superior to those used by more typical criminal hackers. As such, we’re going to see threats against federal networks increase exponentially. In response, federal agencies must defend all their network assets and those of the nation, whether they exist in legacy or cloud environments.

Agencies must proactively hunt near-peer adversaries that are attempting to or have already established a foothold within federal networks. These same techniques must also be adopted by operators of enterprise and service provider networks. U.S. Cyber Command and the Department of Homeland Security will need to be prepared to respond in kind if adversaries act against our defense and civilian networks, as well as our national critical infrastructure. Remember that DHS is tasked with protecting the entire country, not just the federal government. To do that, the department must be prepared to respond to cyberthreats to commercial networks.

Security automation will be critical. Automation can also greatly reduce the risk of human error, such as the accidental exposure of highly sensitive data to potential bad actors.

Agencies will also need increased visibility into all aspects of their network environments. Near-peer adversaries’ attack methods are growing increasingly sophisticated. They may target applications, devices or other means, and are motivated to find vulnerabilities that CIOs may not even realize exist. Federal IT professionals must have tools in place that allow them to identify and remediate those vulnerabilities and quickly react to potential threats.

UNMANNED

WHAT WILL CHANGE: More resilient multidomain weapons systems

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More underwater drones to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

NAME: Bill Toti, president, L3 Maritime Sensor Systems

Imagine the USS TEXAS approaches the coast of a foreign harbor. The ship slows to near-hover, and from one of its torpedo tubes emerges a swarm of 30 Iver-PW unmanned underwater vehicles. They swim out, then spread into a pattern equidistant in lateral distance and depth, autonomously station-keeping. They scan the ocean volume for bottom, moored and floating sea mines, reporting mine detection in real-time. After completing the deep survey, they continue on to perform hydrographic survey of the beach to prepare for an upcoming Marine amphibious landing. The entire operation is done within six short hours. Before this technology was available, the process would have taken 100 divers over three weeks to perform comparable surveys.

Not far away, an extra-large underwater drone plants an active sonar projector on the sea floor, which immediately goes active. A series of six medium-diameter Iver-5 unmanned underwater vehicles orbit up to 30 miles away carrying passive receivers, bi-statically tracking four adversary submarines in the area.

Further out to sea, one of 50 deployed Bloodhound unmanned surface vehicles is guided to a target datum by shore-based antisubmarine warfare command-and-control forces. A HELRAS dipping sonar is automatically lowered through a moon bay on the Bloodhound, immediately detecting the target, a cruise-missile firing submarine. The USV then reels in the dipping sonar, autonomously repositioning, then dips its sonar again and starts pinging, regaining track. This Bloodhound USV is able to track the submarine for weeks, until hostilities begin and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft outfitted with an MX-20HD electro-optical sensor system is dispatched to launch a torpedo and destroy the submarine from standoff range.

More resilient multidomain drone systems could benefit ISR needs.
More resilient multidomain drone systems could benefit ISR needs.
SPACE

WHAT WILL CHANGE: Adversaries may have counterspace technologies

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: Greater space capabilities and resilient satellite communications

NAME: Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president of government strategy and policy, Inmarsat Government

The DoD’s new national defense strategy places even greater emphasis on the urgency for enhanced threat awareness in space, along with the protection of critical assets, both military and commercial on orbit. In contrast to insurgents in the Middle East, a near-peer adversary is more organized, strategic and state funded, and thus positioned to engage aggressively across multiple domains.

Indeed, a future conflict of this nature would likely involve troops and unmanned assets on the ground, in the air and at sea; satellite jamming incidents; on-orbit threats; and state-sponsored cyber intrusions targeting electric power grids, nuclear plants and other critical infrastructure across the globe.

The National Defense Strategy asserts that an attack on critical components of the U.S. space architecture “will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner and domain of our choosing.” In support, the space industry’s focus must be on the broadest areas of support for C4ISR, for both military and commercially supplied satellite communications platforms. This means continued investment into wideband and additional, protected communications, network diversification, backhaul performance, Overhead Persistent Infrared technologies and enhanced augmentation for GPS. This new strategy shifts focus of some mission sets to support advancements in maritime and aeronautical ISR and other highly mobile tech demanding of resilient SATCOM.

The adversaries here are not “new,” but their tactics and capabilities have and will continue to evolve and expand. To respond, commercial, defense and intelligence assets must prepare to deter, detect and defend against these threats — whether on land, in the air, at sea, space and cyberspace.

ELECTRONIC WARFARE

WHAT WILL CHANGE: Near-peers will have significant jamming capabilities

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More software-defined hardware

NAME: Christopher Rappa, product line director for RF, electronic warfare and advanced electronics, BAE Systems FAST Labs

Past counterterrorism operations revealed the difficulties of fighting an asymmetric battle with a determined, cunning and agile adversary. Insurgents leveraged commercial technology, including cellphones and social media, for battlefield coordination and off-the-shelf components in improvised explosive devices. This use of easily accessible technology stressed the defense acquisition pipeline. Solutions required disproportionate investment and continued to be countered at great cost.

In concert with explosive demand in consumer products, radio frequency microelectronics and processing components are continuing to evolve and grow with no sign of slowing down. Additionally, the hardware is becoming more and more defined by software, enabling flexibility with minimal cost impact. The defense technology acquisition pipeline wasn’t designed to keep up and that is not necessarily the case for near-peer competitors. The DoD and industry needs to and can move faster.

Due to long acquisition cycles and a lower historical priority, the technology disparity is extremely evident in electronic warfare. Advancements in off-the-shelf software-defined systems enable waveform flexibility and agility where parameters can be changed between transmissions. Agility means uncertainty, driving us toward the development of cognitive, adaptive and coordinated EW systems that can adjust to counter new and emerging threats. Key innovations in those systems are required to not just keep pace with the commercial capabilities, but also to provide an edge over the near-peers who will be leveraging that technology and have been investing heavily to disrupt our command of the electromagnetic spectrum while the U.S. focused on the counterterrorism mission.

With a renewed focus on near-peer adversaries, the Department of Defense has reprioritized EW technology development. The next generation of electronic warfare technology will not be dulled by a peer’s ability to leverage commercial technology, a lesson learned from IEDs many years ago.

Satellite imagery could play a critical role in understanding China and Russia.
Satellite imagery could play a critical role in understanding China and Russia.
GEOINT

WHAT WILL CHANGE: The U.S. will have interest in an enormous geographic area

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: Machine learning to process giant imagery libraries.

NAME: Walter Scott, executive vice president & chief technology officer, Maxar Technologies

One area that’s become increasingly important is the ability to derive intelligence and insight from volumes of data that are far larger than what human analysts can process naturally. Machine learning in the last few years has reached the point where it’s become an effective massive force multiplier, allowing talented and highly trained analysts to focus their efforts on the places and things that are most likely to have mission significance.

This is important because the relevant geographies are now larger than ever, and the adversaries are more capable. In the 1990s, you had to know where to look. In today’s world, it’s not the stuff you know about that’s going to hurt you — it’s the stuff you don’t know. So, you basically must look everywhere. We’ve greatly expanded our ability to collect imagery to the point where DigitalGlobe is now producing on the order of 80 terabytes of imagery product every day. It would take a single human analyst 85 years to extract just one single feature from that volume of imagery.

Fortunately, the tools to exploit this deluge of data have also been advancing very rapidly, enabling analytic results that might otherwise have gone undiscovered because there just aren’t enough eyeballs in the world to look at every pixel that’s being collected.

IT & Networks

WHAT WILL CHANGE: DoD will rely more heavily on the cloud

WHAT THE PENTAGON WILL WANT: More cloud services

NAMES: Lawrence Hollister, executive director, Cubic Mission Solutions

Unconventional warfare is becoming the new normal. As technology evolves and data to decision speeds are increased, the need for a distributed edge cloud architecture or tactical cloud is a must. The tactical cloud is an operating environment where information, data management, connectivity and command and control are core mission priorities.

To best meet the challenges of future peer and near-peer actors, we must exploit all aspects of fused ISR from multiple assets and leverage technology in secure communications.

Quickly capitalizing on the capabilities of the ever-changing information age will allow our forces to seamlessly share situational understanding across C4ISR systems in every domain.

Near-peer actors have highly effective communication denying capabilities, putting our reach back at risk, thus dislocating the edge teams. This is why a hybrid cloud concept with local tactical cloud applications that can run disconnected from reach back cloud infrastructures is so vital. Even though the multidomain tactical/edge cloud has external connections, the cyber threat is reduced or mitigated through the connections to the edge and theater-level secure gateways.

The tactical/edge cloud model is where every platform is leveraged as a sensor. This vision will enable more rapid, effective decisions and will provide a significant operating advantage. A distributed, self-healing, multidomain tactical/edge cloud that is difficult to penetrate significantly complicates an enemy’s pursuits and will force the enemy to focus more resources toward its own defense and offense. In its desired deployment, the tactical/edge cloud will strategically sever the enemy and will lead to and enable multidomain superiority.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/industry/2018/05/09/6-predictions-on-how-a-new-strategy-could-change-what-the-pentagon-buys/

 

Is Federal Government System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) Contracting for You?

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“SMALL TO FEDS”  By Ken Larson 

System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contracting may provide an avenue for the small business in gaining the momentum necessary for building a government contracting past performance record.   It does not require an off-the-shelf product or capital intensive facilities.”
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“The commercial, start up or growing entrepreneur may have specialized skills, products and services that could be marketable to the government but a window of opportunity or an entrance niche is sometimes difficult to locate in the very large and competitive federal contracting venue.

SETA contracting is often utilized by the government to enhance agency statistics requiring firms that hold small business designations and who can offer quality services in support of the internal agency facilities or operations.

Set Aside Designations

DEFINITIONS

FAR Sub-part 37.2 defines advisory and assistance services and provides that the use of such services is a legitimate way to improve the prospects for program or systems success:

Advisory and Assistance Services

FAR 16.505(c) provides that the ordering period of an advisory and assistance services task order contract, including all options or modifications, may not exceed five years unless a longer period is specifically authorized in a law that is applicable to such a contract:

DFARS Part 237.2 provides very important information applicable to advisory and assistance contracts:

The contracting officer and requiring activity must also be aware of FAR Subpart 9.5 when considering the potential for organizational and consultant conflicts of interest:

THE NATURE OF THE WORK 
 
Typical SETA efforts may involve long term contracts to perform acquisition assistance, project management, price or program analysis, independent estimates, administrative support, computer and data base operations, technical and security services, facilities maintenance functions or similar tasks. The typical SETA contractor rarely interacts with other government contractors and if interaction occurs it is only with other SETA contractors and subcontractors performing in similar roles at the same agency or in the presence of a government contracting officer/authorized representative. They are generally behind the scenes and cannot directly represent the US Government.
SETA contracting requires skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.
  

INCUMBENT WORK FORCES

SETA contractors often target incumbent work forces where an agency plans to offer a small business the opportunity to assume an existing services program formerly run by a larger firm or a small business that has grown beyond the size limit designated for the procurement.

In these instances the winner will have solid plans for recruiting and retaining the existing work force executing a transition plan and insuring that the government does not encounter an interruption in services.Contingent hire agreements and sophisticated human resources processes are necessary to position the company during the proposal effort and as the contract proceeds. Contingent personnel are well aware of their market value among the SETA contractors competing for the work.

MARKETING APPROACH

As budgets become tighter, the government agencies will be looking for solid performance at the lowest possible price, stability in performance and contractors adept at learning government processes and systems as well as working with the agency to improve them.
Find opportunities well in advance of their being formally solicited on FEDBIZOPPS. Look for existing services and support contracts in their last year or self-market a services contract to an agency whose mission requires your expertise. 
 
Propose and price to win using the following guidance:

Proposal Preparation
UNDERSTAND ORGANIZATION CONFLICT OF INTEREST (OCI) RESTRICTION
 If you are considering becoming a SETA contractor, determine what portion of the market in your industry will be unavailable to you in that role with the agency to whom you contract. As a SETA contractor you will not be allowed to compete for the programs being procured by the agency other than the SETA support contacts. You knowledge of the inside workings of the government agency would be a conflict of interest in bidding other projects. 
You should target for SETA exploration only those agencies to which you do not intend to market other services. 
  
SUMMARY

 
Consider SETA contracting if your marketing plan contains elements of support and assistance that an agency may be willing to outsource. If you hold small business designations, seek marketing opportunities to foster government set aside procurements for the designations you hold and understand that SETA contract will be the only programs you will hold with that agency due to OCI restrictions. “

Risks In Police Use of Body Camera Real Time Facial Recognition

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Real Time Facial Recognition

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Real-time facial recognition is especially concerning because it means that body cameras will continuously scan the face of everyone passing police officers on the street, and immediately log and relay data.

The Wall Street Journal reported that body camera vendors are preparing body cameras with real-time facial recognition capabilities, and law enforcement agencies could potentially deploy them as soon as this fall.”

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“In recent years, we at The Constitution Project have warned that adding facial recognition scanning to police body cameras poses serious risks that could undermine basic privacy and due process rights. Unfortunately, the time to prepare for these risks is running out.

 Before adding real-time facial recognition to body cameras, it’s critical that departments and lawmakers implement necessary measures to avert the unprecedented mass collection of the identity and location of individuals in public:

Set Standards for Police Action that do not Depend upon Facial Recognition

A major issue law enforcement must confront before deploying facial recognition is its inaccuracy. It is well documented that despite its immense power, facial recognition technology is often wrong, especially when identifying racial minorities. Specifically, these systems are prone to generating false positives, in which the technology identifies a match (e.g., says a person on the street matches the face of a wanted criminal) when in reality the faces are of two entirely different people.

It’s not hard to see how this situation could spin out of control with real-time facial recognition on police body cameras. What if an officer’s camera misidentifies an innocent person as a dangerous fugitive at large, leading to a violent incident? Even a commonly accepted police use for facial recognition—searching for a missing child—could turn horribly wrong if a false positive leads an officer to confront a parent as an abductor. Body camera use has grown exponentially because many saw it as a means to improve community-police relations and reduce use-of-force incidents, but adding facial recognition could inflame these problems. Even if misidentifications do not result in use of force, a mere arrest has serious consequences for individuals. They can be detained, fingerprinted, and subject to strip searches—all merely because a computer program was wrong.

It’s critical that before police add real-time facial recognition to body cameras, they set proper limits on the degree to which officers can rely on the identifications provided by an imperfect system. At a minimum, facial recognition should not be allowed to serve as the sole basis for an arrest or any use of force. Officers should seek means of corroborating an identification, and in the event of conflict, base their decision on what action to take on the totality of circumstances rather than completely trusting the determinations of a facial recognition program. This principle is consistent with current practices; departments such as the NYPD already require human review to confirm results when facial recognition is applied to crime scene footage. These measures are necessary not just to prevent improper conflicts and arrests, but also to avoid a perverse incentive to build systems that generate more false positives, which would give police more pretexts to stop or arrest people, while limiting their liability for those actions because the identifications were based on the technology.

Limit Facial Recognition Scans and Identifications to Serious Crimes

Another serious risk that facial recognition poses is giving police “arrest-at-will authority,” and this potential is greatest when real-time facial recognition is incorporated into body cameras. Arrests may be a common police function, but they usually occur in response to specific assignments or situations, rather than in a random or opportunistic manner.

In some municipalities, a huge portion of the population has active bench warrants for minor violations, such as unpaid parking tickets (which people often don’t know can lead to an arrest warrant). For example a 2015 Department of Justice investigation revealed that 16,000 out of the 21,000 residents of Ferguson, Missouri, had outstanding warrants.

A patrol officer may be able to keep an eye out for the faces on a most-wanted listed, but they can’t memorize tens of thousands of people with outstanding warrants for petty offenses. Facial recognition changes that: This technology can take a face and scan it against millions of photos in a second. With this tool, every officer could be notified whenever they encounter an individual with any outstanding warrant, no matter how trivial the offense, and have free rein to arrest them.

This creates serious risk of abuse, as The Constitution Project’s comprehensive reporton police body cameras—whose signatories include both civil liberties advocates and former law enforcement officers—warned. This “arrest-at-will authority” could also be wielded to disrupt First Amendment-protected activities. Police could use real-time facial recognition to scan crowds at protests or political rallies, and then arrest anyone flagged for any potential offense–no matter how trivial. Fear of such abuse isn’t paranoid— we’ve already seen it attempted. In 2016, police scanned for and identified any individuals with outstanding warrants among those protesting police brutality in Baltimore, using a social media scraping software tool called Geofeedia. The platforms Geofeedia scraped its data from (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) quickly cut off Geofeedia’s access to end the program, but with police using body cameras equipped with facial recognition, there is no such middleman to block misconduct. This will allow law enforcement to directly disrupt and chill participation in First Amendment protected activities.

The solution to these issues is simple: Facial recognition incorporated into body cameras should only be used in relation to an enumerated set of serious crimes. This would set an effective balance, preventing potential abuses stemming from overbroad use while still allowing a system to flag serious threats for officers. Limiting use of powerful technological tools to serious offenses has precedent. The Wiretap Act, which sets the foundation for law enforcement surveillance of phone calls and electronic communications, is only allowed to apply to a list of serious crimes. The government cannot wiretap everyone suspected of parking violations, and it shouldn’t be able to deploy mass surveillance across American cities for such minor offenses either.

Provide Oversight to Prevent Unfettered Location Tracking

A final risk is that real-time facial recognition in body cameras creates a new avenue for location tracking that is devoid of accountability or oversight. Currently, law enforcement location tracking is mostly conducted by tracking cellphones; the United States Supreme Court is currently reviewing whether this should require a warrant.  However, even if the Supreme Court does not impose a warrant standard, cellphone location tracking still requires some court approval. Facial recognition and body cameras, which currently do not require court approval to use, could cut out this independent oversight entirely, circumventing a basic due process protection.

Given the sheer scale of use of police body cameras in populated areas, facial recognition could allow law enforcement to rapidly scan and locate anyone they desire, and track their movements.  This would circumvent privacy rights and independent oversight. It could also chill sensitive activities: If someone sees an officer near a protest, house of worship, political rally, or medical facility, they might (and should) worry that their presence at that location (along with every other attendee) is being logged.

In order to prevent abuse and preserve due process, its vital that a court approve any use of body cameras with facial recognition for location tracking, just as court approval is currently a key component of oversight of other forms of electronic location tracking. The best specific rules and standards for this activity may become more clear in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on cellphone tracking later this spring, but at a minimum police departments should begin preparing to incorporate independent oversight into any type of location tracking for body cameras with facial recognition. The technology is too powerful—and location information is too sensitive—for law enforcement to be unchecked in its use.


There are a variety of avenues towards setting effective policies for body cameras. Some police departments have directly stepped up and adopted effective internal guidelines. In other locations, cities have established rules to ensure body cameras provide accountability rather than overbroad surveillance. State legislatures have also set limits to stop body cameras from becoming too pervasive as a surveillance tool. Individuals should consider engaging at all of these different levels of government, but now is the time to act. If we do not, could soon be in a world where the government has an eye on every street corner, with little oversight or accountability about how it uses this immense power.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/04/three-key-reforms-for-facial-recognition-and-body-cameras.html

 

 

 

 

How Does A Combat Vet Feel When Hearing A Civilian Say, “We Shouldn’t Be Over There, We Should Worry About Ourselves”?

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Rose Covered Glasses”  

“The civilian must accept his or her role in the issue. Elected representatives appropriate money and approve U.S. activities in other countries.

Solders go where they are ordered by their commander. If the civilian wishes change, then change can be at hand if the elected official is contacted and a strong input from the citizenry makes the demand heard.”

Quora Veterans Opinions on Today’s Warfare

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“FOREIGN POLICY”

“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military. Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.

Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: As we face novel security threats from novel quarters — emanating from nonstate terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks.

But viewing more and more threats as “war” brings more and more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights.”

U.S. Air Force To Outsource All Traditional IT And Concentrate on Mission/Security

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Air Force Outsource IT

Image:  EVERYTHING POSSIBLE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

“NEXT GOV’

“Many agencies and departments manage IT services like email, calendars and the like across their enterprises.

According to one of its top tech officials, the U.S. Air Force is trying to get out of that business, preferring instead to contract those services to commercial vendors.”


“We want to get totally out [of that business],” said Frank Konieczny, chief technology officer for the Air Force. Konieczny spoke Wednesday at the ATARC Federal Cloud Computing Summit.

Faced with an IT workforce shortage, Konieczny said it makes more sense to outsource the work to industry entities than to continue training a revolving door of airmen.

“We don’t want to manage anything that’s IT, so we are pushing everything out to other vendors, commercial vendors, even for our own bases,” Konieczny said. “We’re going to outsource all that capacity and data centers at the base level as well. We do not have enough airmen to actually do the jobs, so we’d rather buy the expertise from several contractors as opposed to training people. That’s not their mission in life.”

Increasingly, the Pentagon, intelligence community and military branches have looked at commercial vendors to develop IT solutions in areas like emailelectronic health records, and infrastructure. Those moves typically have a large impact on existing workforce, freeing up federal IT personnel to perform other duties. ”

http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2016/01/air-force-cto-we-dont-want-manage-it-anymore/125153/

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Army Prioritizes Research And Development (R&D) Funding And Intellectual Property Policies

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Army Reaearch and Development

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The idea is to put the money not on various projects that may have been growing with a life of their own, but instead bring that money back against the top six priorities.

More commercial model that may involve purchasing licenses from industry.  Industry can also license intellectual property from the government.”


“The Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology is looking to aid the service’s modernization efforts by implementing new policies regarding research and development and intellectual property.

Bruce Jette said the Army has already realigned R&D funds to meet its top modernization priorities, which include long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary communication network, air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.

“The idea is to put the money not on various projects that may have been growing with a life of their own, but instead bring that money back against the top six priorities,” he said March 28 at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Additionally, Jette’s office wants to give more freedom to researchers and lab directors by providing some funds that are specifically geared towards innovating technologies that the military may not have anticipated, he noted.

“We can’t … incrementally engineer breakthroughs, and that’s what we’re trying to do is give them the freedom to do that,” he said.

Jette said the service is also working to establish a fund aimed at crossing the “Valley of Death,” referring to the process for transitioning new technologies into existing programs of record.

For example, a senior commander “would sit there and say ‘OK, one of the guys has this project, he’s got it done, it’s ready, and do we want to actually put it into that program?’” Jette said.

Following consultation with the program manager, senior leaders would then make a decision on the way forward, he explained. “We decide it’s worth it. We do it with our eyes open and … then we fund the transition.”

Jette also wants to improve how industry and the government handle intellectual property. Both sides have been “sloppy,” he said.

“The government starts using your IP, you start using the government’s IP, you can’t get extricated and we begin having unpleasant complications,” he said. There needs to be movement towards a more commercial model that may involve purchasing licenses from industry, he added.

“I’ve done this on the outside. Show me the box — that’s your IP. Put that in the bid. Show me what the limits of that [are],” he said. “Tell me what you want to do for licensing … [and] we can have conversations.”

Industry can also license intellectual property from the government, he noted.

If “we built something and … you want to apply it commercially, you want to apply it to another effort, I’m willing to talk about licensing fees,” he said. “Most people don’t realize that, but the government can get paid for their intellectual property.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2018/3/28/senior-army-acquisition-official-highlights-potential-policies

 

 

 

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

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Must-Watch Federal Market Trends

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Trends ThinkstockPhotos

Image:  Think Stock

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“With an approved federal budget and a full stack of legislative actions being discussed, government and industry leaders are digging in for some fascinating developments leading up to the mid-term elections.

From recompetes to reorganization, here are four federal market trends to watch from now through the end of the year.”


” Recompetes on center stage

Several major contract vehicles and task orders are coming up for rebid this year. Vendors will face tough competition, whether as an incumbent or new entrant into the market. Procurement leaders, along with agency leaders, will be busy preparing RFPs, rewriting performance metrics, and evaluating proposals to ensure they get the best the market has to offer.

They’ll likely be looking to see what innovative new approaches and technology can help them, but they also won’t simply embrace the latest technology. Instead, they’ll be looking for real-world examples of where a new (or existing) tool has delivered on the value that it promised.

Agency leaders will look for innovative tools and concepts, but they won’t be instituting them based on their “wow-factor” – instead they’ll be scoring them on their ability to support the agency’s mission.

Backlogs at a critical mass

The challenges that some agencies have with backlogs are well documented. Citizen claims and appeals simply can’t be processed fast enough and they’re overwhelming the resources of the agencies that handle them.

Often times this means that citizens are waiting months (or even years) for a decision or resolution on their claims and appeals, while the long road to modernizing the underlying legacy systems that support the decision-making process further contributes to the delays. The old answer of continuing to add more staff or doing a “forklift” transition to new technology has shown to be hit-or-miss (at best) in its ability to reduce backlogs.

Going forward, we expect agency leaders to address them with a more practical approach – one that will focus on re-engineering the business processes to remove bottlenecks, streamlining repeatable tasks, and accelerating decision-making by leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence and robotic process automation.

Uncertainty gives way to direction

Last year the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo seeking internal and external input on how to find new efficiencies in government. The feedback from has now been received and reviewed, and the plans of action have likely been devised and should begin to roll out soon.

The results of these plans could have major impacts on government — from budget cuts to resource reallocation to elimination or integration of some agencies. Whether the actions taken are large or small, this process has created a level of uncertainty over the past year, which has led to slower-moving actions toward procurements to support new and existing initiatives within government.

As new mandates and guidance begin to emerge, while they could create some challenges and disappointments, we expect they will also begin to provide a clear path forward for government leaders. With this movement, we expect to see the development of new initiatives and the opportunities that come with them.

More public-private partnerships

Long the domain of physical infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships may find new applications as we explore their potential in non-traditional areas like technology infrastructure and utilities.

The administration’s stated infrastructure policy goals, which call for $200 billion in taxpayer money to generate $1 trillion in private investment, will likely spur interest from investors, bringing innovative ideas to for partnerships on roads, bridges, buildings and more.

However, there could be even broader potential in projects like federal contact centers, where private-sector partners often have more flexibility around their staffing models to manage surge support during peak times.

This year has already started with a flurry of new actions that present both challenges and opportunities for government and industry. With these and other trends shaping our federal landscape, we hope to see both government and its partners working together to deliver even better and more efficient outcomes to citizens.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/03/26/insights-romeo-market-trends.aspx

 

 

 

Your Pentagon Tax Dollars At Work -Connecting Human Brains With Machines

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Human Machines and Brains

Image: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency 

“C4ISRNET”

“The goal of the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N³) program is to “pursue a path to a safe, portable neural interface system capable of reading from and writing to multiple points in the brain at once.

The most significant challenge, according to a DARPA press release, will be overcoming the physics of scattering and weakening of signals as they pass through skin, skull and brain tissue. “


“As unmanned platforms, cyber systems and human-machine partnering become more prevalent in 21st century war fighting, the effectiveness of combat units will be determined by how quickly information can be processed and transmitted between air-breathers and machines. To achieve the high levels of brain-system communication that will be required on future battlefields, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a new program to develop a noninvasive neural interface that will connect soldiers with technology.

According to Dr. Al Emondi, a program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, “We’re asking multidisciplinary teams of researchers to construct approaches that enable precise interaction with very small areas of the brain, without sacrificing signal resolution or introducing unacceptable latency into the N3 system.”

Although technologies that allow for high-quality brain system communications exist today, these invasive techniques are not a practical solution for ubiquitous man-machine communication.

Before soldiers can communicate with their R2-D2 units, DARPA scientists must overcome several significant scientific and engineering challenges.

The most significant challenge, according to a DARPA press release, will be overcoming the physics of scattering and weakening of signals as they pass through skin, skull and brain tissue. If this initial challenge is surmounted, the focus of the program will shift to developing algorithms for encoding and decoding neural signals, evaluating system safety through animal testing and ultimately asking human volunteers to test the technology.

While communication neurotechnology has a stronger foothold in science fiction than reality, Emondi believes devoting resources to the enterprise will spur breakthroughs. “Smart systems will significantly impact how our troops operate in the future, and now is the time to be thinking about what human-machine teaming will actually look like and how it might be accomplished,” he said.

“If we put the best scientists on this problem, we will disrupt current neural interface approaches and open the door to practical, high-performance interfaces.”

DARPA wants the four-year project to conclude with a demonstration of a bidirectional system being used to interface human-machine interactions with unmanned platforms, active cyber defense systems or other Department of Defense equipment.

Recognizing the potentially wide ethical, legal and social implications of such neurotechnology, DARPA is also asking independent legal and ethical experts to advise the program as N³ technologies mature.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/it-networks/2018/03/19/darpa-wants-to-connect-human-brains-and-machines/