FCW Insider: Dec. 6

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

The Department of Health and Human Services is making a big push to have the first blockchain-based program in the federal government with authority to operate certification. Sara Friedman explains why it's actually kind of a big deal.

As the Department of Defense closes in on 100 percent Windows 10 migration, it's sending the message to customers that it doesn't want to pay for expensive out-of-support operating system solutions. Lauren C. Williams has the story.

An organization can't put a blockchain vision in motion unless employees understand and buy into the impact it will have on them, the entire organization and its business processes. Aleks Zelenovic, strategy and consulting practice lead at Publicis.Sapient, explains how to get users to blockchain from takeoff to landing in this FCW commentary.

Quick Hits

*** Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is set to give a speech this Friday at the Center for a New American Security in Washington D.C. where he will call for a new "whole of society" U.S. cyber doctrine. 

A spokesperson for Warner told FCW that the senator will argue in his speech that the administration's plan is insufficient to meet the threats posed by nation state-directed hacks and disinformation campaigns. 

"Russia's interference in the 2016 election, relying on a hybrid strategy of conventional cyber-theft, weaponized leaks, and wide-scale social media disinformation, marked a turning point in how we understand the threat landscape," said Warner's office in a press advisory. "And these active measures have continued well past the 2016 election, illustrating the pressing need for the United States to develop a clear and explicit plan for responding to any future attacks."

Following a steady stream of bipartisan criticism over the past year and a half, the Trump administration released a comprehensive cyber strategy in September that called for boosting defensive measures, unshackling U.S. Cyber Command and the military to undertake offensive operations against hostile nation states and engaging with the private sector and other entities to better cooperate on cybersecurity. 

*** The Air Force now has cloud-based email, via Microsoft Office 365, across its bases. Bill Marion, Air Force deputy CIO and deputy chief of information dominance, announced the milestone at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Northern Virginia chapter's Air Force IT Day Dec. 4, and said the rest of the software suite's capabilities will follow in the next three to four months. 

The service's common computing environment, which contains basic cloud capabilities from networking to identity monitoring and access control in an Amazon and Microsoft native environment, now has 14 live applications. Marion said the service plans to have 100 applications by the end of this year. 

 Additionally, the Air Force is looking to move to a more fluid mobile environment in 2019.

"That's a key initiative for 2019, to drive new ways of delivering mobility solutions at the end device level...to reduce the attack surface on the desktop," Marion said. "That airman that's got the personal device, how do I provide the super-secure, encrypted container that sits on his phone and is a true DUID delivery method but still allows us to protect our information like we know we need to."

*** The Office of Personnel Management wants to improve program management practices by better tracking program management and boosting management training opportunities. 

 OPM — working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Program Management Policy Council comprising OMB and agency officials — conducted a survey to help it identify program and project managers across government and across occupational series. That research effort concluded at the end of November.

In a memo to CXO Councils, acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert said this survey of program and project managers is a precursor to a future survey that "will be administered for competency modeling development."

*** Will automation and artificial intelligence displace federal workers, or free them from drudgery to tackle more important tasks. The answer is probably a bit of both, according to Deloitte Center for Government Insights Executive Director Bill Eggers. His talk on the future of work can be viewed in GCN’s new AI & Automation portal.

*** A quantum computer that can crack current state-of-the-art encryption algorithms is more than a decade off, according to a new report from The National Academies.

But despite a number of technical hurdles, the report states there is "no fundamental reason why" a large quantum computer won't be built based on current progress in the field.

Some of these barriers include the fact that there is currently no way to convert traditional data formats to a quantum state; that quantum computers will requires new algorithms to take advantage of the results offered by quantum computers; and that quantum-specific software will need to be developed.

The big milestone in quantum computing is the day when one of these machines is able to run Shor's algorithm, which would be able to break many of the classic encryption techniques used in today's computing environment. This would require a machine that is "five orders of magnitude larger and has error rates that are about two orders of magnitude better than current machines," the report says.

The report does not estimate when this might happen, saying there are too many achievements needed to have a clear idea and making it "impossible to project the time frame." It also points out there is still a chance these breakthroughs never come.

These high performance computers, while they will mark a significant improvement in computing power, are not likely to replace our desktops, laptops and smartphones.

"In fact, they require a number of classical computers to control their operations and implement computations needed to carry out quantum error correction," the report states.

Making quantum computers a reality will require investment and the report cautions that given the lack of near-term profit in quantum, "government funding may be essential to prevent a significant decline in quantum computing research and development."

NEXT STORY: Quick Hits: Dec. 5

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