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FCW Insider: Oct. 29

Are the midterm elections at risk of being hacked? Has voting security improved since 2016? And what, exactly, have the Department of Homeland Security and the states been doing? Separate the signal from the noise with Derek B. Johnson's one-stop overview of election-security concerns.

Are feds happy? It depends on what question you ask. According to newly released Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results, feds are engaged with their work but are worried their best efforts won't be recognized by their bosses with raises and promotions. Chase Gunter has the story.

As expected, Microsoft put in a bid on the Pentagon's $10 billion single source cloud procurement. Company president Brad Smith announced his intention to compete for the business in a blog post that touted Microsoft's four-decade commitment to the Department of Defense, but also said that the company would proactively engage in conversations about ethical AI – a concern of many of the company's engineers. Adam Mazmanian explains.

Senior agency managers might benefit from knowing just how bad their legacy IT systems are – and from understanding just how creative technology staffers have to be to keep systems up and running years after their sell-by dates have passed. That's just one takeaway from a group of federal CIOs and technology managers convened by FCW to discuss myths and realities of modernization.

To effectively modernize with cloud and managed services, agencies need to understand and unify their fragmented data environment. In this FCW commentary, Rubrik Federal director Chris Prophett explains that to be "cloud smart" leaders must also be smart about their data.

Quick Hits

*** The General Services Administration has renamed a planned recompete of the system used to support the Federal Acquisition Service. GSA renamed the CAMEO modernization and digital transformation vehicle as GSA COMET, short for CIO Modernization and Enterprise Transformation. The agency posted an update to FedBizOpps on Oct. 26 "to reassure industry that COMET is still very much active and a priority for GSA IT."

There's no ceiling value attached to the recompete. Task orders to Leidos and Alliant Solutions Partners under CAMEO had a combined ceiling value of more than $168 million, according to GovWin data. GSA hosted an industry day for the recompete in August. Officials stressed that the new contract would focus on "true digital transformation" as opposed to the "replatforming of siloed applications" and help FAS customers realign their development and legacy spending.

*** The Office of Personnel Management under acting Director Margaret Weichert is preparing to change rules to make it easier for agencies to hire for IT positions. The proposed revision would allow heads of agencies to determine whether a “severe shortage of candidates” -- or a “severe shortage of highly qualified candidates” for the Department of Veterans Affairs -- or a critical need in IT exists to use direct hiring authority. The rule change “is necessary to implement” the administration's executive order boosting agency CIO authorities, per OPM’s Federal Register notice set to publish Oct. 29. Shortly after taking over at OPM, Weichert previewed to reporters the plans to give agencies expanded hiring authority to bring in IT and cybersecurity positions.

*** GSA could do a better job tracking its program to streamline contract award times, according to an agency watchdog. An Oct. 24 inspector general report found that GSA's FASt Lane program "appears to be meeting its goals" but that GSA isn’t specifically identifying or tracking requests for contract modifications. The program, run by FAS, is supposed to allow contractors to make contract modifications within a 24- to 48-hour time frame, significantly shortening the 10-15 day average for such changes. FAS blamed its eMod web-based application that lets contractors prepare and submit schedule offers and modification requests electronically. Contractors can't specifically identify their FASt Lane contract modifications in the eMod. To make FASt Lane modifications, it said, contractors must email the agency’s FASt Lane mailbox or notify the agency’s contracting officer of record, who may, or may not, be a FASt Lane official.

The IG recommended the agency get a process in place to evaluate and track FASt Lane modifications. FAS agreed with the recommendation, and the service’s Commissioner Alan Thomas told the IG in an Oct. 18 letter that his team would meet with the Common Acquisition Platform team to begin working on that tracking process.

*** Facebook announced it has removed 82 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that it claims are tied to an Iranian influence operation. Like previous campaigns exposed by social media platforms and the media, these accounts and pages were focused on exacerbating and inflaming pre-existing political tensions within the United States. In this case, much of the content appears to focus on casting President Donald Trump, along with Israel and Saudi Arabia, in a negative light. According Facebook, the accounts had more than a million combined followers and hosted at least seven public events. Facebook found evidence of online advertisements purchased by the group, but said that it amounted to less than $100 and the most recent ad ran in January 2018. 

Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, which has a partnership with Facebook to study, examine and expose disinformation operations online, wrote on Twitter that the lab's analysis of the accounts showed that the operations "were aiming at the midterms, and election activity more broadly."

Posted on Oct 29, 2018 at 3:38 AM


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