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FCW Insider: Oct. 2

Marcy Jacobs, the Department of Veterans Affairs' executive director for digital services, won a Sammie for her work leading the team that put multiple streams of agency content and services under a single hub at Vets.gov. But in keeping with agile practice, that site itself is going to disappear when the department's VA.gov homepage is relaunched on Veteran's Day as a customer-focused hub for veterans to manage their benefits and healthcare. Adam Mazmanian has more.

Despite a handful of tech-savvy members, most of Congress is not well-informed on technology issues -- and it shows whenever a complex topic like AI or algorithms comes up at a critical hearing. A recent bid to revive the shuttered congressional Office of Technology Assessment failed, although a study on the need for a nonpartisan source of tech information is underway. In the meantime, two think tankers have launched Future Congress as a way for experts to support lawmakers, staffers and incoming members. Chase Gunter reports.

The Federal Aviation Administration has put drone pilots on notice – operators who steer their unmanned aerial vehicles over disaster sites won't get a simple warning anymore. Mark Rockwell explains.

The Marine Corps are "looking for people who want to do damage to the enemy in cyberspace," new CIO Lorna Mahlock told an audience at AFCEA's Naval IT Day. Lauren C. Williams has the story.

Quick Hits

*** The Department of Agriculture is moving to the second phase of its IT Modernization Centers of Excellence plan. The effort, led by the General Services Administration, places contractors inside agencies to help transform services, customer experience, acquisition and IT engineering. USDA was selected as a "lighthouse" agency for the administration to begin implementing its vision of IT modernization.

The awards include blanket purchase agreements for infrastructure optimization cloud adoption. Accenture, Ace Info Solutions, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting, OM Group, SAIC, Smartronix, TechFlow, TechTrend and T-Rex Solutions were named to the BPAs.

Additionally, five individual awards were announced: Accenture won the OneUSDA Contact Center contract; SAIC won Data Analytics Capacity Building and Data Visualization and Analytics; Booz Allen won Customer Experience Digital Support Services; Summit Consulting won Business Modernization Office Support Services; and NIC Federal won Voice of the Customer Tool.

The Phase II solicitation went out in late July, with contractors having about two weeks to submit bids. Read more from Washington Technology's Ross Wilkers.

*** A request for proposals for the Navy's Next Generation Enterprise Networks Re-compete (NGEN-R) for service management integration and transport is coming soon, a senior contracting official announced at AFCEA's Naval IT Day on Oct. 1.

Capt. Donald Harder, program executive officer for enterprise information systems, said the solicitation is expected to be finalized in the next two weeks. The proposal for NGEN-R for end user hardware was released in September.

*** Also at Naval IT Day, DOD CIO Dana Deasy tried to clarify the future of the Defense Information Systems Agency, which some in Congress had sought to eliminate through legislation.

"There's not a plan to decentralize DISA," Deasy said. "There's always an ongoing conversation around, is DISA set up for the most efficient use, and with the changing way that we're using technology across the department, are there better ways to organize DISA?"

Deasy stressed that those conversations have not focused on splitting up functions of the agency, as had been previously proposed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) earlier this year.

"So yes, there [are] ongoing conversations about organizational construct, but there is not a conversation going on about decentralizing the DISA activity," he said.

*** Department of Justice officials hosted a roundtable last week to foster better public-private collaboration on data breaches that included the release of new guidance for private companies and attorneys on how to report adverse cyber events to law enforcement.

The new version incorporates statutory guidance from the 2015 Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act and adds updated advice around ransomware, public-private information sharing, the cloud and working with cyber incident response firms.

One of the biggest additions is a section advising organizations to get buy-in across the enterprise for cybersecurity initiatives, up to and including senior-level managers. Regular briefings about existing and emerging threats are needed to ensure top leaders are "aware of how cyber threats can disrupt an organization, compromise its products, impair customer confidence and relations and otherwise cause costly damage."

The document offers guidance on authorities to monitor internal networks for threat indicators, but warns organizations that such tools are explicitly for cybersecurity, and can't be used to justify snooping on employees or other administrative purposes not explicitly covered under CISA.

*** John Lainart -- a retired Navy Captain, longtime inspector general, and cybersecurity leader for IBM and then Grant Thornton -- passed away last week. Lainart also wrote for FCW on several occasions, and co-authored two books on information systems auditing.

*** Don't know much about blockchain? You're not alone. A bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced a bill that among other things calls on the Commerce Department to establish a working group to come to a definition of distributed ledger technology to guide government policy, to examine potential uses for blockchain in spectrum management, and to study how federal agencies might use blockchain technologies themselves.

The Blockchain Promotion Act of 2018, sponsored by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is just one of a raft of bills offered by lawmakers last week on blockchain tech.

The Software & Information Industry Association welcomed the bill. Mac MacCarthy, the group's vice president for public policy, said, "A technical definition for blockchain will help set up a common framework for businesses, researchers, and policymakers and guide research and applications development. This is what happened when NIST set a definition for cloud computing."

*** The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is looking to modernize customer experience for Medicare beneficiaries. The multi-year plan will entail data integration, modernized medicare.gov website and improved access to personal health care data. Ahead of Medicare’s open enrollment, which opens Oct. 15, CMS plans to launch a new coverage comparison tool, a mobile cost calculator for coverage and prescription drugs, a simpler Medicare plan finder log-in, a webchat option, as well as new surveys for customer feedback. CMS also plans to enhance its existing digital offerings.

"Our intent is not to replace traditional channels that beneficiaries trust and depend on, but to improve and enhance them with the emerging digital options to create a user-centered, seamless consumer experience," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Posted on Oct 02, 2018 at 2:15 AM


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