What’s New This Week:
All Eyes on E-Commerce
Tensions were high last week, as lawmakers pleaded with President Donald Trump to sign a stop-gap spending bill, which the Senate passed on Dec. 19, to avoid a partial government shutdown. Yet President Trump held his ground, saying a shutdown would last “for a very long time” if Congress didn’t meet his request. Things certainly didn’t feel merry right before the holidays. Speaking of which, Merry Christmas to those federal employees who celebrate! It must have been refreshing to get some good news from the White House when it issued an executive order to close government offices on Christmas Eve.
Last time, we briefly mentioned that the General Services Administration is moving fast on a plan to launch a proof-of-concept e-commerce platform similar to Amazon’s. While some details are still up in the air, GSA is considering multiple commercially operated online portals that will be available for government use—in pilot mode—by late 2019. The agency is likely to start small by limiting the portals to commercial products and services worth less than $10,000.
GSA officials will be busy over the next few weeks processing industry comments and going through months of market research. Their findings will then be published in a report to Congress. There’s already some pushback from critics, who say that allowing agencies to bypass federal acquisition regulations could harm competition.
The government procurement process is complex, especially when it comes to purchasing IT. The Senate just passed legislation to establish a governmentwide supply chain council. The Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Council will guide the development of National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines on supply chain risk management. That means, going forward, agencies could be prohibited from buying certain products or might even have to remove software from their IT systems if there are supply chain risks.
There’s another Facebook-related scandal brewing. Lawmakers are once again unhappy with the social media giant after a new report surfaced that Facebook allowed companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and Spotify to access users’ personal data—including private messages and contact info—in addition to other intrusions. The lawmakers are now pushing for stronger oversight by the Federal Trade Commission and proposing legislation to address the growing privacy problem.
So that’s a wrap for 2018. See you next year! (We’ll be back on Jan. 7.)
“We are not looking for a proof-of-concept with one provider. There need to be multiple e-commerce marketplaces for this to be successful, for this to accomplish its purpose.”
—Jeff Koses, senior procurement executive with GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy
GAO: Federal Systems Remain at Risk
A Government Accountability Office report found that federal agencies aren’t properly managing cyber risk. The watchdog said most agencies haven’t employed core functions in the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework. Read more.
NASA Reveals It Was Hacked
NASA has admitted that it discovered a breach earlier this year, when hackers downloaded Social Security numbers and other personal information belonging to its employees. The agency said it appears that mission-critical systems weren’t affected by the breach. Read more.
DHS Turns to Small Businesses for Help
The Homeland Security Department is looking for companies that can develop national security technologies as part of the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program. DHS released a solicitation outlining topics of interest for next year’s program. Read more.
Army Wants Intelligent Automation
The Army Research Lab is seeking a more efficient way of running large-scale simulation-based training events without all the necessary manpower. Specifically, it’s interested in better systems integration, intelligent automation, and improved user interfaces. Read more.
Military Lacks Software Rationalization Strategy
Several branches of the military don’t have a consistent process in place to rationalize their software applications, according to the Defense Department’s inspector general. A new report blamed DOD’s CIO for not implementing a solution and offered recommendations. Read more.
Pentagon Ready to Launch Background Check App
The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to release the next iteration of its eApp by the end of the year. It will replace the e-QIP app in an effort to create a more secure IT system capable of processing background investigations for the entire government. Read more.
Strategy & Leadership
Navy Creates New Research, Education Hubs
With a focus on maintaining maritime superiority, the Navy is changing the way it approaches educational institutions. The Navy is in the process of setting up two major hubs—or centers of excellence—that will result in a “more agile learning environment.” Read more.
New Innovation Fellows Are More Tech-Focused
The incoming Presidential Innovation Fellows are noticeably different from past program participants—they hold more technical roles. In addition to data scientists, the new group includes those with expertise in emerging technologies like machine learning. Read more.