What’s New This Week:
AI and Blockchain to the Rescue
Artificial intelligence is the future, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which made a big announcement last week that it was restructuring its academic program around AI. MIT plans to dedicate $1 billion to a new college that combines AI, machine learning, and data science with other disciplines.
Stephen Schwarzman, an investor who is giving $350 million to the new college of computing, said the U.S. government should follow MIT’s example and be more ambitious when it comes to AI. Investing in the technology is “necessary to ensure that America has a leading voice in shaping the future,” Schwarzman said.
The government has already taken note. IT modernization is a hot topic for agencies right now, especially with the debut of the President’s Management Agenda to address the biggest challenges in government. AI, machine learning, and blockchain are now part of the federal technology agenda.
The Department of Health and Human Services is one agency that’s betting on emerging technologies to streamline its buying power. HHS has been running a pilot program that uses machine learning and blockchain in acquisitions, and so far, the results are positive. As part of the pilot, the agency is using a blockchain tool called Accelerate—which could be deployed as early as Thanksgiving—to automate the process of comparing prices of everyday items listed on tens of thousands of HHS contracts.
Accelerate could become the first-ever fully operational blockchain project managed by a federal agency, if it gets the green light from the HHS risk management team. BGOV’s Chris Cornillie has more in this week’s exclusive story.
Speaking of efficiencies, the General Services Administration has consolidated its acquisition schedules program to move away from simply providing goods and services to helping agencies “find solutions through a new federal marketplace,” GSA administrator Emily Murphy said during a recent conference, where she shared the agency’s progress. Murphy said the ultimate goal is to use technology to achieve maximum productivity.
In other news…A group dubbed “Employees of Microsoft” is urging the tech giant not to bid on the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud contract. The group cited ethical concerns, saying Microsoft employees don’t know the potentially negative effects of the code they write. Earlier this month, Google raised similar issues about the cloud contract and dropped out of the competition.
And so, the JEDI saga continues. We’ll be following this story as it develops. In the meantime, keep reading!
“Conservatively, we’re estimating a [return on investment] of over 800 percent over four years based on direct savings at the point of purchase. We’re also expecting to see indirect savings through simplifying the acquisition process and modernizing using cloud capabilities.”
—Jose Arrieta, associate deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, on using a blockchain tool for price comparisons
Read more in this week’s exclusive from Bloomberg Government.
USDA Aims to Be ‘Most Effective’ Agency
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is determined when it comes to its IT modernization efforts. The agency recently launched phase two of a program focused on IT improvements and has put in place a “very aggressive plan,” according to USDA deputy secretary Steve Censky. Read more.
TSA Unveils Biometrics Roadmap
The Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection are working together on facial recognition technology, which will be implemented at airports across the country. A new biometrics roadmap outlines exactly how identity verification is expected to evolve. Read more.
Eye on Security
Several Agencies Aren’t Using Basic Email Security
Federal agencies had until Oct. 16 to adopt DMARC, an email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol. But new data shows that the CIA, NSA and the Defense Department are among agencies that have yet to roll out the email security feature across their web domains. Read more.
IoT Security Standards Lacking in Government
Sen. Mark Warner is worried about cybersecurity risks surrounding the internet of things and says Congress needs to act on an IoT security bill he introduced more than a year ago. At the moment, all-encompassing standards or guidelines for IoT security don’t exist in the U.S. Read more.
DISA Invests $6.5B in Telecom Services
The Defense Department’s information and communication technology systems will be making its IT and telecommunication services purchases under a new contract. The Defense Information Systems Agency increased the contract’s value and just released a final request for proposal.
FBI Has New Plan for $5B IT Recompete
The FBI has come up with a different strategy for awards on its upcoming centralized IT supplies and support services contract, which has been getting smaller throughout the year. The agency said it will no longer hold a full and open competition as originally planned. Read more.
Strategy & Leadership
Why Agencies Can’t Keep Their IT Leaders
According to Mark Kneidinger, deputy director of Homeland Security’s new National Risk Management Center, the average tenure of agency IT modernization leaders keeps shrinking and the government’s “revolving door” is to blame. Read more.
NSF Wants to Give Federal Workforce ‘Maximum Mobility’
The National Science Foundation is planning to build an app that allows federal employees to continuously learn new technologies and find future jobs. The agency’s goal is to reskill the federal workforce for new roles, especially in the cybersecurity and IT fields. Read more.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Bloomberg Government’s Technocrat!