Technocrat | October 1, 2018: A Prime Way to Procure

What’s New This Week:

A Prime Way to Procure

The government can learn a lot from the private sector when it comes to using technology in innovative ways. Just look at Tinder’s new “Swipe the Vote” campaign, designed to educate young voters and get them to the polls this November. The social dating app may not be an obvious choice for increasing voter turnout, but it’s an ingenious way of driving civic engagement among 18-to-24-year-olds.

Speaking of matchmaking, federal agencies have warmed to the idea of collaborating with (and learning from) top private sector companies to improve their own practices. The Air Force launched a pilot program with Amazon allowing six bases around the country to buy small quantities of everyday products from the Amazon Business e-commerce portal. While there are some concerns about the pilot’s lack of transparency, the Air Force is impressed with the results so far.

The pilot is taking place while the General Services Administration is implementing its own governmentwide e-commerce program specified under a provision in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Critics, as we’ve frequently reported at Technocrat, claim the Seattle-based e-commerce giant is getting preferential treatment and an unfair advantage in federal procurement–dubbing the provision an “Amazon amendment.”

BGOV’s Chris Cornillie and Sam Skolnik explain more in this week’s exclusive story.

Moving on to other news…Quantum research in the U.S. just got a boost thanks to a $250 million investment from two government agencies. The Department of Energy will put $218 million toward 85 research projects at universities and national labs, while the National Science Foundation plans to spend $31 million on quantum sensing, computing and communications. The projects will have a “science first” approach that focuses on basic research instead of actual commercial uses for quantum tech, since it’s still too early to tell what those uses will be.

The announcement goes hand-in-hand with the White House’s newly released strategy for strengthening U.S. leadership in quantum information science, a field of research that centers on next-gen supercomputing technology. Meanwhile, Congress is working on draft legislation that would give U.S. tech companies $1.3 billion in additional funding to build powerful “quantum computers”—an effort based partly on concern over growing competition from China.

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

Save The Date For A First Look At Tech And Government Post-Election: What Changed?

Join Bloomberg Government this November 13-15 for critical conversations about the intersection of innovation, technology, and policy one week after the midterm elections.

This year Next.2018 is expanding to the InterContinental at The Wharf in D.C., and will bring together business leaders, tech pioneers, and Capitol Hill policy makers to discuss emerging technologies that change the way we live, the complex relationship between Capitol Hill and Big Tech, the impact of the digital revolution on rural and underserved communities, and the disruption that machine learning and AI can bring to employment.

Join the conversation this November. To register, click here.

Get Smart

“E-commerce marketplaces generally operate according to economies of scale. The more products one offers, the more interest and demand it receives from consumers…That’s why you see one predominant supplier in each major market, whether it’s Alibaba in China, Flipkart in India, or Amazon in the U.S.”

— Cooper Smith, Amazon expert at Gartner Inc.

Beyond Legacy

White House Refreshes Cloud Strategy

The White House is shifting from “cloud first” to “cloud smart” to close some gaps in policies that allow for faster adoption, according to federal CIO Suzette Kent. Agencies will have to take various actions to implement the strategy over the next 18 months. Read more.

New Agency Gets Centers of Excellence Support

Housing and Urban Development will become the second agency to work with the General Services Administration’s high-profile initiative called the Centers of Excellence. The agency will embark on a “discovery sprint” to assess its modernization needs and challenges. Read more.

Strategy & Leadership

Bill Seeks to Reauthorize Federal CIO Role

Rep. Will Hurd introduced a bill that would elevate the authority of the U.S. federal CIO. The goal, according to Hurd, is more than just renaming an office. He said there needs to be a clear statement that the federal CIO is in charge of coordinating IT policy across the government. Read more.

Defense Innovation Unit Hires Former Symantec CEO

Symantec’s former CEO Michael Brown spent two decades running companies in Silicon Valley. Now Brown has a new job with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, where he wants to create “the ideal exchange” and get access to all the leading technologies. Read more.

Eye on Security

Frequent IRS Data Breaches Raise Red Flags

Congress has probed the IRS over its online taxpayer authentication efforts and recurrent data breaches in recent years. The agency was also criticized for having numerous public-facing web applications, which open up many avenues for fraud. Read more.

Marine Corps Searches for Cyber Talent

All Marine applicants will be given a cyber test starting in October. Those who do well on the test—which will include questions on networking, software programming, and compliance—could move into the newly established cyberspace operations occupational field. Read more.

Next Tech

Lawmakers Urge U.S. to Keep AI Edge

The federal government needs to step up its artificial intelligence game or risk facing heightened national security threats. A new congressional report calls for more funding for AI research, especially as global powers increase their investment in the technology. Read more.

DOD Picks Team to Lead AI Research

The Department of Defense wants researchers to build frameworks where humans and machines can collaborate as teammates. The agency just selected a team of such researchers from the U.S. and UK to lead a multimillion-dollar initiative focused on artificial intelligence. Read more.

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