Technocrat | November 19, 2018: Power to the People

What’s New This Week:

Power to the People

It was a difficult week for California, as it continued to deal with devastating wildfires that resulted in many casualties and forced at least 52,000 people to evacuate. NASA created maps using satellite data to show areas damaged most by the fires. It’s the latest example of technology assisting first responders in deciding where urgent help is needed.

Meanwhile, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a prototype cybersecurity tech to ensure the safety of the nation’s power grid. The Department of Energy-sponsored lab has patented a tool called Heartbeat, which was designed to identify cyber threats in unconventional ways—by looking at a device’s power consumption. A device that is infected with malware, whether it’s a phone, a laptop, or a server, gives off trace electrical signals as the malicious code digs deep to avoid detection. Heartbeat homes in on these signals.

The technology could have a major impact in areas like threat intelligence, endpoint security, and unified threat management. BGOV’s Chris Cornillie explains more in this week’s exclusive story.

Since we’re on the topic of cybersecurity, the Pentagon and Homeland Security just completed a memorandum of understanding that outlines how they will work together on responding to cyber threats. The civilian-military agreement comes at a time when the government is trying to boost civilian and military cooperation in cyberspace. The big focus right now is on protecting critical infrastructure, such as election systems, banks, hospitals, and airports.

And let’s not forget last week’s other big news: Amazon choosing New York City and Northern Virginia as its second and third headquarters. Placing one of the new headquarters in Northern Virginia could greatly broaden Amazon’s clout in government affairs, allowing the company to grow beyond the dozen federal lobbying firms already on its payroll.

By becoming the Pentagon’s newest neighbor, Amazon will also be in a strong position to expand its business in the public sector. While Amazon already offers services to federal entities like the Central Intelligence Agency, the government is likely to become an even bigger focus for the company.

There’s more news where that came from, so keep reading!

Get Smart

 “We’re really focused on the power grid because there’s tremendous risk to the public if bad actors get control of parts of the control system of the power grid.”

 —Stacy Prowell, head of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate

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

 Beyond Legacy

New IRS Commissioner Talks Modernization

IRS commissioner Charles Rettig wants to modernize the agency’s outdated technology, he said in his first public speech since taking the position last month. Rettig said taxpayers deserve the same quality of service from the IRS that they would get at private companies. Read more.

 VA’s EHR Modernization Raises Questions

It’s been nearly 180 days since the Department of Veterans Affairs signed a deal with Cerner Corp. to adopt a new electronic health records system. Members of Congress recently questioned the agency’s EHR modernization plans. Read more.

Strategy & Leadership

 GAO Examines CIO Authority Over IT Budgets

Agency CIOs are getting more control over IT budgets, but compliance with specific policies is lacking across government, a new Government Accountability Office report found. GAO’s report examined the authorities of IT leaders at four federal agencies. Read more.

 DOD’s Chief Data Officer Shares Biggest Challenges

The Defense Department hired its first chief data officer earlier this year. Michael Conlin stepped into his new role with a long to-do list. Conlin said one major obstacle is attracting talented coders and designers to the public sector. Here’s how he wants to do it. Read more. 

Big Contracts

 Oracle’s JEDI Contract Protest Denied

In another installment of the JEDI saga, the Government Accountability Office has denied Oracle’s pre-award protest of the Defense Department’s $10 billion commercial cloud contract. GAO said the agency is within its rights in choosing a single-award approach. Read more.

 Navy Awards $486M NGEN Contract Extension

The Navy has issued an additional contract extension for continued IT services as part of its Next Generation Enterprise Network program, or NGEN. Government services provider Perspecta won the contract, which has a maximum value of nearly $486 million. Read more.

Next Tech

Inside the Pentagon’s AI Shopping List

The protests in Silicon Valley over companies selling artificial intelligence products to the U.S. military aren’t stopping the Defense Department from spending money on AI. Tech companies are eager to sell to the DOD, according to federal contracting data. Read more.

 DISA Has Big Plans for IT Next Year

The Defense Information Systems Agency is planning to award $27.5 billion worth of IT contracts next year, according to analysis of contract opportunities the agency shared at a recent conference. Here’s a rundown of its biggest upcoming tech investments. Read more.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Bloomberg Government’s Technocrat!