Technocrat | April 1, 2019: AI to the Rescue

What’s New This Week:

AI to the Rescue

In the age of advanced technologies, it’s hard to believe some things haven’t changed in decades — such as NASA’s spacesuits. The agency canceled the first ever all-female spacewalk because it didn’t have enough spacesuits that would fit a woman. No, that’s not an April Fools’ joke.

If NASA can put astronauts on the moon again by 2024, perhaps it’s time to develop next-generation suits for all its astronauts?

In other news, the federal government is directing much of its attention to artificial intelligence. In fact, it’s planning to invest $4.9 billion in unclassified AI and machine learning-related research and development in fiscal 2020. Budget documents released in March show civilian agencies are requesting more than $850 million in AI-related R&D.

But a big chunk of the funding — $4 billion to be exact — would go toward the Defense Department’s R&D activities, including its Joint AI Center. In this week’s exclusive story, BGOV’s Chris Cornillie explains why the Pentagon is rapidly investing in AI — and how the boom in proposed AI-related projects should be viewed with a critical eye.

The Pentagon’s efforts to pursue AI-enabled weapons have been met with criticism and concern over the ethics of using such technologies on the battlefield. Now DOD officials are defending their decision to use AI weapons, saying they are taking every precaution to ensure the weapons adhere to strict ethical standards.

The use of AI by defense agencies is also expanding to human resources. The military just launched a new pilot project that uses AI to sense “micro changes” in the behavior of people that have top-secret clearances. The goal is to predict which employees are likely to disclose confidential information and betray the military’s trust.

For those with top-secret clearances, employee monitoring typically comes with the job. Still, this type of AI application raises a host of questions about employee privacy and how the collected data is being used.

Are you hungry for more news? Keep reading!

Become a Government for the Digital Age

Relationship building across your agency starts with the experience. That means there must be a renewed focus on putting people at the center of every interaction and providing the personalized, relevant touch points that are not only desired, but expected. Learn more.

Get Smart

“While the American AI Initiative arrived without specific funding figures attached, it’s clear agencies recognize the urgency of making AI-related investments.”

—Chris Cornillie, federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government

Read more in this week’s exclusive from Bloomberg Government.

In the Cloud

DOD Building Clouds to Help Small Contractors

The Defense Department has created “pathfinder projects” to develop clouds for contractors and subcontractors who can’t meet the department’s cybersecurity requirements. The DOD wants to become more accessible to smaller companies, said acquisition chief Ellen Lord. Read more.

VA Says Migration to Cloud Is a Top Priority

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to put the past behind it and show that IT modernization is a priority. The VA plans to retire its legacy systems and fully embrace the cloud, Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers during a Senate Veterans Affairs hearing. Read more.

Big Contracts

Army Awards $800M Battlefield Software Contract

The Army has awarded an $800 million contract to Silicon Valley data analytics company Palantir, which was chosen over traditional defense contractor Raytheon. Palantir will provide a suite of combat intelligence hardware and software to replace the Army’s legacy system. Read more.

GSA Reconsiders $15B Small Business IT Procurement

The General Services Administration cannot proceed with dozens of awardees under its $15 billion Alliant 2 IT services procurement, following an order from the Court of Federal Claims. According to one tech company that protested the bid, the GSA improperly credited competitors’ bids. Read more.

Get an Insider’s View of Government Cloud.

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Strategy & Leadership

State Department Names Permanent CIO

Stuart McGuigan has been named as the State Department’s chief information officer. He will be the first permanent CIO since Frontis Wiggins left back in December 2017. Michael Mestrovich moves over from the CIA to become the agency’s principal deputy CIO. Read more.

Report: Pentagon Must Rethink Digital Talent

According to a draft report released by the Defense Innovation Board, the Pentagon must attract, recruit, and promote talented software personnel in order to compete globally. Among other suggestions, the report recommends creating highly visible career paths. Read more.

Eye on Security

Air Force Accelerates Cybersecurity Authorizations

The Air Force is fast-tracking how it grants cybersecurity authorizations — a process that is typically laborious and can take several months. Air Force’s undersecretary recently signed a memo authorizing officials to grant IT systems an expedited authority to operate. Read more.

Predictions for CDM in 2019 and Beyond

Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program Manager Kevin Cox outlined the Department of Homeland Security’s goals over the next two years, which include developing a new risk scoring algorithm and transitioning smaller agencies to a shared services platform. Read more.

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