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FCW Insider: Feb. 11

The odds of a Friday government shutdown went up over the weekend as lawmakers broke off talks over a plan to fund about one quarter of the government for the rest of fiscal year 2019. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, said "you cannot take a shutdown off the table" on Meet the Press on Feb. 10. While Democrats and Republicans appear to be edging toward a deal, a lot can still go wrong. Adam Mazmanian has more.

The Census Bureau is trying to leverage technology to save money on the 2020 population count. But a recent oversight report found that some methods used to conduct pre-enumeration planning are yielding spotty results and risk higher costs and a less accurate survey. What's more, mobile devices intended to be used in the 2020 decennial census weren't part of a key end-to-end test. Get more from Chase Gunter.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), the new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, announced plans to investigate the role of three individuals connected to President Donald Trump through his Mar-a-Lago club to contracting and policy actions taken by the VA. The trio are said to have had an outsized influence on the development of the $10 billion sole-source contract to Cerner to provide electronic health record software to the VA. Adam has the story.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to consider banning federal employees from using apps created by foreign companies, which they claim could contain spyware. Derek B. Johnson reports.

In the race for tech talent, the Defense Digital Service is seeking a contractor to help lure workers from industry, state, local and federal agencies. Lauren C. Williams explains.

Quick Hits

*** The secretaries of the Army and the Navy are looking to leverage their recently expanded authorities to improve acquisition practices.

Speaking on a service secretaries panel Feb. 9 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Army Secretary Mark Esper said, "I think we have sufficient authority right now," adding that he expected to get the same question from congressional committees during budget rollout week. "I'll poll my staff and see if we need more."

Richard Spencer who heads the Navy said he agreed. "It's one of those times where I think we'd say we have everything we need that we think we need right now. Let us digest and actually affect those authorities that you've given us, which some of them are...terrific, they really are. It allows us to really speed up and be quick and agile on our acquisition and…time to front line."

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said she was pushing internally to reform bureaucracy.

"We've got a rapidly innovating adversary, and we have to pick up the pace of the innovation. That means that we have to set up an acquisition system that we govern and oversee but where we have empowered program managers who spend more time managing their programs than they spend managing the Pentagon, where lines of accountability and authority are very clear and they get the support that they need from headquarters to do the job we're asking them to do," Wilson said.

*** The Energy Department announced a new effort to help U.S. manufacturers secure automated control systems and their commercial supply chains.

The DOE plans funding of $70 million over five years to launch the Clean Energy Manufacturing Institute to develop technology to mitigate the cybersecurity risks to automated systems, to support vulnerability disclosure and to improve supply chain security. The operator of the institute is expected to kick in 20 percent of project costs and to become independent of government funding in five years.

"The manufacturing sector can further improve its energy efficiency with new sensor and control technologies, but these technologies present cyber vulnerabilities that must be addressed," Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said in a statement announcing the effort.

Future energy efficient systems will rely heavily on automated processes. Energy infrastructure control systems have been dogged by outdated control systems that have been proven vulnerable to outside electronic infiltration.

Cybersecurity risks, said the funding notice, "limit increased adoption and implementation of automation, advanced sensors and controls necessary to improve energy efficiency." Improving cybersecurity in those areas, it said risks are reduced and in turn, catalyzes adoption of more efficient technologies.

*** Three of the largest vendors on the General Services Administration's $50 billion next generation telecommunications contract are still on track to get the agency's approvals that will allow them to bid on agency proposals.

AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon top GSA's February report on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vendors' progress in testing the back office systems that will eventually support the contract's billing and other operations.

All three companies are also incumbents on GSA's current Networx telecommunications contract.

CenturyLink has made the most progress among the nine contractors providing EIS services. GSA's report shows the company is 93.2 percent completed with Business Support Systems FISMA security assessment & authorization testing. It is also the only contractor that has submitted a third party security assessment to GSA. The assessment is one of the final steps contractors take to obtain Authorities to Operate certification, which allows them to respond to federal agency EIS task orders.

AT&T and Verizon are also in the final stages of getting their ATOs. Both have completed 90.3 percent of the BSS FISMA testing, according to GSA's report. Both companies are developing their third party assessments.

The other six EIS vendors; BT Federal, CoreTech, Granite, Harris, MetTel and Microtech, are more than halfway through testing, with results between just over 54 percent and 51 percent.

David Young, CenturyLink senior vice president of strategic government, told FCW last week that his company had submitted the BSS report in late January, but hadn't heard back about additions or changes needed by GSA. Despite the month long shutdown, he and GSA said they expect ATOs by the second quarter of 2019.

Posted on Feb 11, 2019 at 1:04 AM


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