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FCW Insider: Sept. 28

A long-awaited government report expected in the coming months will offer recommendations on whether responsibility for cybersecurity in gas pipeline systems should continue to reside with the Transportation Security Agency or shift somewhere else. Mark Rockwell explains.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is experimenting with chatbots as a productivity tool to automate routine office tasks. Matt Leonard reports.

Congress, industry and the executive branch appear poised to at least discuss a nationwide data privacy standard, but it's unclear whether there's legislation in the offing. Chase Gunter has the story.

Also on Capitol Hill, lawmakers in both Houses spent some time looking at trends in advanced technologies, and the ability of the U.S. workforce to keep pace. There was quantum computing in the Senate and AI in the House, and everywhere the question of whether China was winning the pole position. Derek B. Johnson reports.

Quick Hits

*** The General Service Administration made four awards in its $2.5 billion software-as-a-service payroll blanket purchase agreement called NewPay. Four teams of vendors will provide cloud-based software and solutions to modernize the federal payroll system as part of a broad government effort to consolidate back office services across agencies. GSA named Team Carahsoft (CarahsoftTechnology Corporation, Immix Technology, and Deloitte Consulting); Kronos and SAP; Team Grant Thornton (Grant Thornton, The Arcanum Group, Inc., and CGI Federal ) and Infor for the 10-year effort.

*** The Social Security Administration, which had a $1.6 billion IT budget in fiscal year 2018, has taken a number of steps to improve its IT management, but still hasn't fully addressed the role of its CIO, according to Government Accountability Office testimony at a Sept. 27 hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee.

SSA CIO Rajive Mathur told Congress the agency plans to invest $691 million over five years to dramatically modernize IT infrastructure. Carol Harris, GAO's director of IT management issues acknowledged that the agency has tightened up its policies, particularly when it comes to incremental development, software licensing and IT leadership accountability. However, she pointed out SSA still lacks policies addressing the role of the CIO when it comes to IT budgeting, information security, investment management and strategic planning. GAO also determined SSA has "not at all" addressed the role of the CIO in IT workforce policy.

*** The Trump administration is appealing a federal court ruling that invalidated parts of three workforce executive orders aimed at revising collective bargaining agreements and curtailing union activity. While the Office of Personnel Management said the agency would comply with the ruling, apparently some agencies are not implementing negotiation rules in ongoing labor talks. Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the notice of appeal did not come as a surprise.

*** Traci Walker, the U.S. Digital Service's director of digital service procurement, thinks the recent boost in the micropurchase threshold is a bigger deal than most agencies appreciate. “The amount of tech that can now be purchased for $10,000 has expanded a lot,” Walker said at a Sept. 27 FCW event. But tapping industry knowledge may be just as vital.

"The reason that this is cool is ... that industry would love to give us a lot of this information or help us with our problems, but we always say, 'We're government, we can't take things for free,'" Walker said. With a micropurchase, she suggested, agencies can instead say, "OK, we want to pay for good advice, but we also don’t want to go through this huge acquisition process."

Posted on Sep 28, 2018 at 1:53 AM


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