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FCW Insider: Nov. 30

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a reset on a troubled software project needed to deliver education benefits to veterans, but can it get things on track in a year? Adam Mazmanian reports.

Feds who receive credit monitoring because their data was breached in the Office of Personnel Management hacks will continue to be covered while OPM wraps up a re-compete of the contract. Chase Gunter has the story.

The House just passed Smart IoT Act with a few weeks to go in the legislative session. As Matt Leonard explains , the measure is designed to establish some definitions and rules of the road to make sure agencies don't trip over each other in a rush to regulate the growing internet-of-things ecosystem.

DOD Deputy CIO Thomas Michelli said that moving the authorization process for IT systems to a risk management framework is potentially faster and more effective, but the culture of compliance embedded at DOD is making the transition tough. Lauren C. Williams explains.

Quick Hits

*** Former Office of Management and Budget Controller Dave Mader thinks his successors at OMB deserve credit for getting agencies to buy into the President's Management Agenda.

"It's only been eight months since the PMA was issued," Mader, who is now Deloitte's civilian sector chief strategy officer, said at a Nov. 28 FCW event on that subject. "It's significant that agencies are saying that 'I'm willing to use my resources … I'm willing to make an investment.'"

Mader pointed to one data point in particular, drawn from research that Deloitte commissioned in partnership with FCW's parent organization, 1105 Public Sector Media Group. In that survey of mid- and senior-level agency leaders, 53 percent said their agency had allocated funding to focus on improving outcomes that are called for in the PMA.

"People are recognizing there are actions that they need to take — whether it's in re-skilling the workforce, or hiring people with new skillsets, or changing my processes, or changing my overall technology," Mader said. "And they're actually willing to vote with their appropriation."

*** Mader also shared a bit of backstory on the central Technology Modernization Fund, and why the original proposed funding levels were so eye-popping.

In the final year of the Obama administration, Mader and then-federal CIO Tony Scott "were talking about the desperate need to make an investment in [government's] underlying technology," he recalled. "So we actually put forward, in President Obama's last budget, this idea of an investment fund."

"That wasn't a budget we had to actually execute," he noted, "because it was the FY17 budget that the incoming administration would inherit. So we said, 'What the heck? Why don't we make it, like, a billion dollars [per year] -- because we don't have to pay for it."

The actual funding , which finally came midway through fiscal year 2018, was just $100 million. "But what was really fascinating," Mader said, "was that members of the House … said this is a really good idea, and actually got it passed. And funds are already flowing out, as part of the long-term investment."

*** The Technology Acquisition Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs alerted procurement staffers to be on the lookout for a purchase order scam perpetrated by an individual giving the name Billy Fong or Billy Feng. The scam, which has been known to the FBI for more than four years, involves a highly convincing social engineering effort under which the perpetrator convinces the victim to fulfill business orders for what seem like established customers. Then the equipment is resold or shipped abroad. VA alerted staffers via a post on FedBizOpps.

*** The total number of bid protests ticked up slightly from fiscal year 2017 to 2018, according to data released Nov. 27 by the Government Accountability Office, from 2596 to 2607. Of those 2607 protests, 2642 were closed and 622 went on to be adjudicated based on indications of merit to the protestor's argument. Of those, 92 were sustained. But the real data point to watch, according to Nick Wakeman at Washington Technology , is the "effectiveness rate" – meaning the rate at which a protesting company gets some relief at the agency level. For FY2018, 44 percent of bid protests resulted in some relief for the protestor, where the agency pulls back an award or reevaluates proposals. "This doesn't mean that they ultimately won the contract. But they at least got the agency to take the complaint seriously," Nick writes.

*** The guardian of the Energy Department’s nuclear sites has begun rolling out anti-drone technology that will eventually protect all four of the national facilities that house strategic nuclear materials.

The National Nuclear Security Administration said on Nov. 19 that its Office of Defense Nuclear Security has operationalized its first counter-drone system at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, after completing testing of the commercially-sourced system.

Los Alamos, along with the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. and the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas, Nev., are all NNSA Category 1 locations that house highly-enriched weapons-grade nuclear materials.

Last June, NNSA's security office began testing the Los Alamos system which can detect, track, identify, and intercept unauthorized drone aircraft near the facility. The additional systems set for next year, said NNSA, will have the same capabilities.

The Department of Homeland Security was recently granted authority to track and intercept unauthorized, possibly malicious small drone aircraft after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the capability was at the top of her critical priorities list. DHS was granted the authorities in the Federal Aviation Authority Reauthorization bill signed into law in October.

Posted on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:32 AM


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