News in Brief

Minding the skills gap, plus AWS results, smart robots and DOE event planning

Shutterstock image: vector of managerial skills utilized throughout a project.

GAO: Skills gaps are more serious then suggested

A new Government Accountability Office report is urging the Office of Personnel Management to work with agencies to strengthen efforts to identify and close mission-critical skills gaps in the federal workforce.

GAO identified skills gaps in nearly two dozen occupations, many of which have serious programmatic impact, according to the report. When the Chief Human Capital Officer Council Working Group looked to identify gaps, they found them in only six government-wide occupations. GAO found that low number was due to insufficient analysis of workforce data early on, among other "methodological shortcomings."

The working group is going to make another effort to identify the gaps in 2015, this time in partnership with OPM.

There are also other efforts in the works to identify and predict emerging skills gaps. A re-named interagency group, known as the Federal Agency Skills Team, plans to help strengthen the process to identify these weak areas, and OPM is in discussions about plans to modify OPM's workforce database to capture government-wise staffing data.

GAO said agencies could improve their efforts to reduce the skills gaps by strengthening their use of quarterly data-driven reviews, known as HRstat meetings. OPM should work with the CHCO Council to establish a core set of HRstat metrics for all agencies to use, the report said.

A million users for AWS

Amazon gave its first glimpse Jan. 30 of how many customers are using Amazon Web Services, which has become a go-to cloud source for federal IT managers.

As part of the release of its fourth quarter results, Amazon said "over one million active customers" worldwide were using AWS cloud computing and data services, noting that AWS "continues to grow strongly, with usage close to 90 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter."

The company has previously held AWS results closely and declined to break out results separately. In a teleconference call with analysts about the fourth quarter earnings, however, Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak said the company would separate AWS figures out in the report on the first quarter of 2015.

Robot see, robot do

A research team at the University of Maryland, funded by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program, has developed a system that goes enables a robot to interpret visual cues and then perform the task it just witnessed, Defense Systems reports.

The university's research, led by computer scientist Yiannis Aloimonos, is being conducted under DARPA's Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution program, which aims to develop autonomous systems that use a minimalist grammar in order to respond to visuals.

Energy IT office sets deadlines for info management conference

The Department of Energy's IT office is in the middle of planning its 34th Information Management Conference for Nashville, Tenn., in June.

In a blog post, the agency's Office of the Chief Information Officer said the conference will be held June 15-18 at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center. The conference theme, according to the DOE post, is "Mission Excellence Through Innovation."

Federal conferences are becoming rarer in these days of tighter budgets and more cautious federal spending on events in the wake of the General Services Administration's western regions conference scandal in 2010.

DOE didn't respond to FCW's request for additional specifics about agenda and speakers, except to say those are still in the planning stages. The submission period for presentation abstracts is Feb. 2 to March 20; attendee registration deadline is May 22.

Note: This article was updated on Feb. 3 to correct the item on DOE's June Information Management Conference. 

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