Technocrat | March 15, 2019: In the Clear

More than half of all federal jobs — approximately 3 million federal civilian and military positions — require security clearances ranging from confidential to top secret.

A year ago, the National Background Investigations Bureau was facing a backlog of 725,000 pending security clearances and other investigations. Today, that number stands at 542,000, while about 103,000 federal employees and contractors are working under an interim security clearance, according to NBIB director Charlie Phalen.

The current clearance process is spread across multiple federal agencies and has an average 13-month case turnaround. But the Defense Digital Service, the Pentagon’s team of in-house software developers, wants to change that by automating government background checks.

In a March 12 request for information, the team announced plans to build a prototype system for clearances. The System for Automated Background Evaluation and Review, or SABER, will resemble a case-management tool that collects a person’s information, enables the processing of background investigations, and then records the government’s decision to issue clearance.

Federal market analyst Chris Cornillie explains why the Defense Department is turning to automation to help bring down its clearance backlog in BGOV’s exclusive story.

The other big news last week was President Donald Trump’s $4.7 trillion budget proposal. The 2020 budget request calls for domestic spending cuts. But it could also boost various tech efforts across the federal government, including the Technology Modernization Fund. More on that below, so keep reading!

According to the Pentagon, space funding could increase by 17 percent. The proposed budget includes $72 million that would go toward the Space Force — the first new military branch created since 1947 — if Congress approves the president’s plan (which is unlikely). Another $150 million would fund the Space Development Agency, which would procure and foster new technology.

Hungry for more? Here’s other news you can use.


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

“The Defense Digital Service has a reputation as the Pentagon’s ‘geek squad,’ often called in to fix complex IT projects that are past deadline and over budget.”

—Chris Cornillie, federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government

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

Beyond Legacy

2020 Budget Prioritizes IT Modernization

Federal IT projects could get a financial boost under President Trump’s proposed 2020 budget, while the White House looks to cut spending elsewhere. The Technology Modernization Fund would receive an additional $150 million, which is a major increase from 2019. Read more.

Next Gen Centers of Excellence Coming Soon

The General Services Administration’s Centers of Excellence will make some big changes in the coming year. The updated program will add two new functional areas, as well as a procurement strategy. It will also open up to more agencies and work to attract small businesses. Read more.

Eye on Security

New Bill Tackles ‘Internet of Things’ Security

Right now, the federal government has no national security standard for connected devices. Lawmakers want to change that with a newly introduced bill. The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act would ensure the government isn’t buying easily hackable IoT devices. Read more.

White House Bolsters 2020 Cyber Spending

In addition to IT, the Trump administration has requested an increase in the Defense Department’s cybersecurity budget. A proposed $9.6 billion would support several DOD cybersecurity objectives, while also expanding Cyber Command, the DOD’s cyberwarfare division. Read more.


Explore How the Government is Leveraging Innovation.

Join BGOV for a free webinar taking an in-depth look at emerging digital strategies in the federal government’s modernization journey. Hear the challenges and opportunities agencies are facing, discover the latest data and spending trends, and learn how you can benchmark your success in the government technology space.

Click here to view our speaker lineup, agenda- and to register.

This free 60-minute webinar will cover:

  • Agencies’ progress in achieving their digital services goals
  • Analysis on the opportunities available in this space
  • How the administration is pivoting its approach to digital services
  • Government reforms that could possibly affect opportunities
  • Congress’s role in promoting digital transformation

Next Tech

Senate Forms Artificial Intelligence Caucus

A bipartisan group is launching the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus to help members of Congress engage with AI experts from academia, private companies, and other parts of the government — with the goal of better understanding the emerging tech. Read more.

AI Tools Aid HHS in Battling Diseases

Having recently completed a technology sprint, the Department of Health and Human Services gained valuable experience in using public data and artificial intelligence to battle diseases. The agency worked with private companies like Oracle and Microsoft on the project. Read more.

Strategy & Leadership

Alaska’s Former CIO Joins Interior Dept.

The Department of Interior has hired a new chief information officer. Bill Vajda, who joined the agency earlier this month, previously served as Alaska’s first statewide CIO. Vajda fills the position that has been vacant since September, when Sylvia Burns stepped down. Read more.

GAO: Most Agencies Miscategorized IT Roles

A new Government Accountability Office report found that most agencies assigned a non-IT code to more than 15,000 tech positions. By incorrectly categorizing their tech-related vacancies, agencies risk greater challenges as they fill gaps in IT roles, according to the report. Read more.

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