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FCW Insider: Sept. 26

What backlog? The White House quietly reported via a Performance.gov update that the organizations processing security clearances have reduced their backlog of background investigations by nine percent since an organizational change was made in June of this year. Officials expect an "overall inventory reduction" of 20 percent for calendar year 2018. Derek. B. Johnson has more.

The robots are coming, and the federal workforce isn't ready, according to a report from Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), the chairman and ranking member of the IT Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. The lawmakers are worried that agencies aren't tapping into artificial intelligence for automation and that U.S. researchers are being outpaced by their Chinese counterparts. "It's a race," Hurd said. "We all know this and one of the things we need is a national strategy." Matt Leonard explains.

AI also figured into a report on the state of the federal workforce from the National Academy of Public Administration. At a Sept. 25 press event, federal human resources experts said administrative reforms could be put in place to make it easier to recruit, hire and train technical talent needed for the U.S. to field a 21th century digital government. Chase Gunter has the story .

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the second agency client of the new IT modernization Centers of Excellence service. The General Services Administration is tapping its innovation experts to help HUD, which largely relies on waterfall development methods, to assess the state of its IT assets and infrastructure and pivot to more modern technology and ways of doing business. Read more from Chase.

Quick Hits

*** A group of vendors advanced through the first phase of a Department of Education plan to overhaul the high-volume system that manages $1.4 trillion in student loans for over 43 million users. Officials are looking to make a unified, secure and mobile-friendly site to manage loan applications, disbursements, repayments and defaulter collections.

The Federal Student Aid Next Generation Financial Services Environment procurement is now divided into three separate solicitations. The first is a transitional service that enhances the current offering while paving the way for the future. The NextGen Future State Core Platform eliminates the siloed and fragmented sites and services the current and prospective borrowers use. The end goal is an "omni-channel, enterprise-wide customer engagement led by a mobile-first, mobile-complete, and mobile-continuous solution." A Business Process Operations solicitation, meanwhile, looks to develop new customer service methods to meet growing demands.

According to a Sept. 25 notice posted on FedBizOpps, a number of contractors have advanced through the first phase of the contracting process and are eligible to bid on one or more of the three components of the FSA solicitation. These include General Dynamics IT, Accenture, IBM, Infosys Public Services Inc., Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and Nelnet Diversified Solutions.

*** The National Telecommunications and Information Agency put out a request for comment on a new data privacy policy that "reduces fragmentation nationally and increases harmonization and interoperability nationally and globally." In a Sept. 26 Federal Register notice, the NTIA laid out a series of federal policy goals, including harmonizing regulation nationwide, policy interoperability with non-U.S. legal systems and providing incentives for privacy research.

*** The Senate Commerce Committee hosts big tech companies on the subject of consumer privacy at a Sept. 26 hearing designed to see how both European Union data privacy standards and those being legislated at the state level are impacting policy. "Consumers deserve clear answers and standards on data privacy protection," said committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Currently, a patchwork of laws shape how companies that store data on consumers can ingest, use and share information. Lawmakers have tried for years to pass a federal law to preempt the various state standards, but so far privacy hawks and backers of more light-touch rules have yet to agree on the details. A spokesperson for AT&T told FCW: "We have long supported federal legislation to protect consumer privacy through a clear and consistent set of safeguards that apply equally to all platforms."

*** It's 41 days until Election Day, and the security of election systems continues to draw attention. On Capitol Hill this afternoon, Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) are hosting a briefing that will include the real-time hacking of a voting machine to highlight the vulnerabilities. That demonstration comes one day after a blue-ribbon commission in Pennsylvania released its recommendations for reducing such risks in the Keystone State.

*** Customs and Border Protection has kicked off a test of biometric entry/exit technology at one of its land ports of entry in Arizona. A camera at the entry facility's processing booth automatically takes a photo of an entrant. The facial images are then compared by border agents against photos in travel documents as they cross from Mexico into the U.S.

If the technical demonstration improves pedestrian traffic flow at the port, CBP officials said, it could be further developed for land ports of entry.

The system is a variation of the entry/exit system CBP has successfully deployed with airlines and airports around the country. The agency said U.S. citizens don’t have to have their photo taken and can request alternative screening procedures if they ask CBP officers as they near the primary screening location.

*** Separately, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found that CBP did not conduct privacy assessments on aerial surveillance systems deployed at the border to capture data on border crossing and smuggling. The IG report , released publicly on Sept. 25, said that various CBP officials were unaware of legal requirements to conduct privacy assessments before deploying the systems.

Posted on Sep 26, 2018 at 1:41 AM


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