FCW Insider: Oct. 9

Top stories, quick hits and more from FCW's reporters and editors.

Feds were buzzing about the abrupt resignation of Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Tien Han Pon last Friday. Chase Gunter reports that some observers think his replacement, Margaret Weichert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, will accelerate the proposed merger of OPM's back-office functions into the General Services Administration.

The Department of Homeland Security is getting into the weeds on cybersecurity threats to the burgeoning field of precision agriculture. Threats to connected devices like tractors, drones and control systems could lead to sabotage, hacking or garden-variety data theft, DHS officials warn. Mark Rockwell has the story.

The Defense Digital Service wants to build on successes in bug bounty programs. The push comes in the wake of a Marine Corps bug bounty challenge that paid out more than $150,000 and surfaced more than 150 flaws. Lauren C. Williams explains.

DHS CIO John Zangardi told an audience at a technology event that his agency it looking two distinct paths to transitioning to the new $50 billion governmentwide telecommunications contract. Mark has more.

Are the Government Innovation Awards on your calendar yet? This year's Rising Stars will be honored on Nov. 8, along with a slew of public-sector innovations and the organizations that make those innovations possible. Learn more here.

Quick Hits

*** Army Secretary Mark Esper said a new doctrine encompassing cyber and electronic warfare is coming soon. Simply coordinating between military domains is proving insufficient, Esper said in his Oct. 8 speech at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.

"The importance of the space and cyber domains has rendered the air-land battle doctrine inadequate if not obsolete," Esper said. "Even coordinated action is insufficient. Soon, we will release the next evolution of multidomain operations doctrine, which describes how the Army fights in all domains as part of the Joint Force." For multi-domain operations to be successful, they must be "institutionalized across the Army in the same way beginning with the school houses and training centers."

*** Three of the 10 telecommunications service providers for the General Services Administration's $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract have turned into the home stretch to get their official authorities to operate. The GSA accepted Safety and Security Plans from AT&T, Level Three/CenturyLink and Verizon in late September, according to an agency report posted on its EIS Interact site on Oct. 5. The GSA's acceptance of a carrier security plan is one of the five steps toward official demonstration that a network is secure enough to handle federal government data.

*** The Defense Innovation Unit is looking for solutions to scale up communications and data transfer from orbital satellites and space vehicles to ground control systems. In an Oct. 5 solicitation for "reduced latency space data," the innovation shop said it is seeking multiband, multimission solutions that expand existing telemetric capacity. The Defense Department is almost at full capacity when it comes to supporting data on DOD space-communications assets, according to the solicitation, but traffic is expected to grow "by a factor of [five to ten] over the next decade." DIU said it expects to see commercial solutions within six months to a year of an award. Like other DIU efforts, the initial award will be for a prototype under other transaction authority, with the possibility of the follow-on of a production contract on a sole-source or limited source basis.

*** One of the key drawbacks of artificial intelligence is a lack of common sense, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Pentagon's advanced tech skunkworks is planning $2 billion in funding on the future of AI, and "commonsense reasoning" is a big area of investment. "The absence of common sense prevents an intelligent system from understanding its world, communicating naturally with people, behaving reasonably in unforeseen situations, and learning from new experiences," the agency noted in announcing an Oct. 18 proposer's day event to outline goals for its Machine Common Sense program.

*** An oversight report released last week revealed that the IRS has quietly phased out references to its Future State Vision, a strategic plan developed in 2014 that focused on transforming the tax collecting agency's operations through technology modernization. According to the Government Accountability Office, the IRS merged recommendations and themes from Future State with its newest strategic plan for clarity, and in August 2018 told employees to discontinue use of the term.

The report also cited internal cost estimates for programs contained under Future State  designed to "transform the tax experience" at $75 million annually between 2019 and 2023. Another set of projects to "modernize IRS operations" was estimated to cost an additional $445 million a year through the same timeframe. The IRS spends close to $3 billion a year on IT, the vast majority of which goes to maintaining legacy systems.

NEXT STORY: Quick Hits for Oct. 9

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