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FCW Insider: Nov. 28

The General Services Administration maintains a slate of dozens of contract schedules to allow federal agencies and state and local governments to buy products ranging from office furniture to cleaning supplies to pharmaceuticals to computer equipment, as well as a variety of professional services. Now GSA is looking to consolidate this array of Multiple Award Schedules into a single, one-stop shop. Mark Rockwell has the story.

Lawmakers punted on a slate of appropriations bills before the November elections, but the continuing resolution currently funding a host of cabinet departments expires Dec. 7. The big issue at stake is the proposed border wall, but a federal pay raise and funding for the MGT Act hang in the balance. Adam Mazmanian reports.

Steve Kelman wants to know why bureaucrats insist on terms developed just for government to describe concepts already in general usage outside government. "They are alienating, separating people from our government," he writes in his latest blog.

As momentum for national data privacy standards builds, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are looking to the Federal Trade Commission as the enforcement entity for data protection. Chase Gunter has more.

Quick Hits

*** Practical applications of quantum computing are still a ways off, but the Army wants to make sure American warfighters aren't behind the curve if and when such technology is operationalized. The chief worry among policymakers and military planners is that the accelerated computational speed of quantum will render today's encryption protocols obsolete and subject to easy cracking. In an August 2018 request for solutions, the Army sought a better understanding of the state of play in quantum technology with regard to communications, sensors, navigation, precision weapons, drones, radar systems and cybersecurity.

The Army announced an award on Nov. 26 for the first phase of the Quantum Technologies for Threat Military Applications prototype project, which was made using other transaction authority. The award of just below $500,000 went to EWA Warrior Services and involves global market research on current and future capabilities with a final report that will recommend domains for the second phase of the effort -- hardware and software prototyping. The report that results from the first phase is expected to be classified at the top-secret level.

Quantum computing remains at a "low Technology Readiness Level," according to the assessment presented in contracting documents, but the Army is operating under the assumption that even medium TRL applications pose "potentially serious threats" to U.S. forces and coalition partners.

*** The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is taking up a bill at a legislative hearing on Nov. 29 that would task the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with developing standards and resources for expanding the electrical grid to accommodate small-scale solar power generation and battery storage at the individual level as well as microgrids for charging electrical vehicles. The Flexible Grid Infrastructure Act of 2017, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), includes several cybersecurity provisions, including tasking the Energy Department with developing risk management guidelines for "high-impact events" including cyberattacks. The bill also requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology to consider whether new performance and cybersecurity standards for electrical equipment are needed because of risks posed by new energy technologies.

*** The National Academy of Public Administration announced the launch of its year-long "Grand Challenges in Public Administration" project to identify problems and develop solutions facing government officials over the next 10 years. NAPA is seeking feedback on two questions: "First, what problems must federal, state and local government address over the next decade for American society to reach its full potential?  Second, how must management at all levels of government improve to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public programs?" Answers to these questions can be shared via NAPA's Grand Challenges website through April 30 of next year. NAPA will evaluate submissions and announce a slate of Grand Challenges at the group's annual meeting in November 2019.

*** Customs and Border Protection and Cisco have partnered to authenticate the company's products as they are shipped into the U.S. from overseas. According to a Nov. 26 CBP statement, under a formal Donations Acceptance Program partnership, Cisco donated barcode scanners and secure access tools to the agency for use by its officers and import specialists at international shipping facilities in the U.S. 

The tools, said CBP, allow quicker, more secure product authentication for Cisco products coming into the country from overseas production points. CBP said it has deployed the Cisco tools at "a number of international mail and express consignment facilities" to ensure the authentication system works before deploying it on a wider scale. The system was used this past August, CBP said, at one shipping facility to seize 147 counterfeit Cisco-branded products valued at almost $1 million. 

Posted on Nov 28, 2018 at 1:00 AM


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