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FCW Insider: April 22

Are we ready to trust autonomous systems on the battlefield?  Lauren Williams sat down with Lt. Col. Philip Root, the acting deputy director for DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, to discuss the challenges -- ethical, legal and technical -- to using sensors, artificial intelligence and drones to distinguish between threats and noncombatants.

AI is certainly a hot topic in government, but actual implementation remains scattered at best. Troy Schneider recaps a recent FCW roundtable discussion about what's needed to bring AI into the federal IT mainstream.

The General Services Administration has leaned into robotic process automation, and now it has created a center where other federal agencies can collaborate on their own RPA plans. Mark Rockwell has the details.

And the Professional Services Council's Alan Chvotkin argues in an FCW commentary that the tension between IT innovation and program risk can be minimized with smarter acquisition strategies. 

Quick Hits

*** Last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray refused to answer questions from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about which experts the FBI was relying on to make the argument that tech companies are technically capable of implementing “responsible encryption” that allows law enforcement to access encrypted devices and apps.

Now, in a letter to Wyden obtained by Gizmodo, Charles Thorley, acting section chief for the FBI’s Office of Congressional Relations, told Wyden the FBI is declining to name any encryption experts it has consulted on the topic.

"It is not appropriate for the FBI to identify specific individuals or entities with whom it may have consulted on this issue, as doing so might place those individuals or entities at greater risk, or undermine other security-focused efforts," Thorley wrote.

The claim drew eye rolls from Matthew Green, a cryptography expert who has been critical of the FBI’s position. Green told Gizmodo the only harm that could conceivably come to those supporting the FBI’s position was mockery on the Internet.

*** Is defense acquisition at an "inflection point?" A new Center for Strategic International Studies report suggests that current DOD reform efforts and organizational changes could "transform the ... system and the supporting defense industrial base for the next 10 to 20 years." Lauren has more on DefenseSystems.com

*** The  cybersecurity firm SafeGuard Cyber said it saw a big spike in Russian bot and troll activity on Twitter the day the Mueller report was released. According to the firm -- which said it uses proprietary algorithms, a database of more than 600,000 identified bots and trolls and its Threat Chain analytics engine to assess the social media activity -- there was a 286 percent increase in activity and a 48 percent increase in the total number of unique bots and trolls tracked. Hashtags like #Mueller, #Muellerreport, #Trump, #Barr and others all saw increases from the day before the report came out, with the usage of #Mueller increasing by more than 5,000 percent.

*** Bringing a new meaning to "think fast," Sandia National Labs has partnered with nine research universities to meld the technologies that steer self-driving cars into control systems for evolving hypersonic aircraft that move at five times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic aircraft are the cutting edge of weapons technology for a growing list of countries, as the fast-moving vehicles, which travel at outer edge of the earth's atmosphere are extremely difficult to detect and destroy. Since they move so quickly, the controls that drive them must also be fast. Control systems equipped with artificial intelligence, Sandia officials said, could generate a hypersonic flight plan in minutes for human review. An autonomous vehicle could also self-correct its flight in milliseconds and allow humans to take control.

The new group, announced April 18, will work to have the foundations for autonomous hypersonic aircraft control by 2024.

*** Don't forget about Washington Technology's new Power Training professional development courses. The first session of Mastering Stakeholder Engagement is May 3; June and July sessions are also available. click here to learn more.

Posted on Apr 22, 2019 at 12:50 AM


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