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Nextgov Event: Tech Refresh Thursday

By Frank Konkel // June 28, 2017

Flickr user Science Democrats

IT modernization is kind of a big deal in the federal government right now.

It’s one of the main priorities of the newly created White House Office of American Innovation, and one of the few truly bipartisan efforts in Congress.

Legislation authored by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform IT subcommittee—the Modernizing Government Technology Act—unanimously cleared the House and currently awaits action in the Senate. Hurd’s legislation received input from the White House and from top Democrats, including “FITARA father” Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and ranking member of the IT subcommittee Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill.

On Thursday, Nextgov will sit down with Kelly to kick off a morning event on IT modernization. We’ll discuss Kelly’s unlikely rise from counseling to U.S. representative, and how a nontechie made improving government technology one of her key issues. For Kelly, improved government technology—including legislation she’s authored to improve the quality of government websites—means more opportunities for constituents back in her district.

We’ll also host two panel sessions with chief information officers across government on “doing more with less” and security implications inherent to outdated and legacy technologies...

Nextgov Event: The White House Office of American Innovation's Priorities

By Frank Konkel // June 23, 2017

Jim Larkin/

It’s no secret the Trump administration is focused on driving the government to do more with less.

The White House Office of American Innovation is likely to be the conduit through which new technology policy enters the federal bureaucracy, and while this “SWAT team” of consultants is new, it’s already significantly impacting government. White House officials worked behind the scenes advising Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s decision to sole-source a large contract tech contract, and similarly played a role in crafting IT reform legislation that passed the House and now awaits a Senate vote.

On June 27, Nextgov will host Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation, who will clarify the Office of American Innovation’s role in government and its priorities. Lira will also discuss what the White House learned over its tech week, which included a series of meetings with high-profile tech titans on subjects like cybersecurity.

Following Lira’s remarks, Nextgov will host a series of TED-style talks from federal officials who’ve made use of analytics, big data and tech-fueled teams to save taxpayer dollars and improve government operations.

Avi Bender, director of the National Technical Information Service, Kelly Tshibaka, chief...

Nextgov Event: The Government of Things

By Frank Konkel // June 19, 2017


Mix equal parts internet of things and federal government and you’ll get a Government of Things; the tagline for this Thursday’s Tech + Tequila.

Conceptually, the internet of things defines the era of increased connectivity among smart devices, sensors, systems and people. Practically, however, that era has already arrived, and by 2020, as many as 50 billion “things” will be connected to the internet.

How is the government responding?

That’ll be one of the core ideas we explore Thursday with our panelists.

Government Accountability Office Chief Technology Officer Naba Barkakati will discuss his agency’s work advising Congress on IoT-related issues, including a wide-ranging report released in May that listed the pros and cons inherent to IoT.

Michael Mestrovich, who directs the CIA’s Technical Services Office, will elaborate on challenges and opportunities IoT presents for the intelligence community, with an emphasis on security implications. IoT has significant consequences for the IC, both as a positive (a growing amount of data that could be harnessed and used) and negative (increased security risks).

Finally, Melika Carroll, a policy adviser for Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, will highlight how Congress views IoT. Carroll, also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, supports...

Nextgov Event: Join Us Thursday to Talk About the Tech Workforce

By Frank Konkel // June 12, 2017


Attracting, recruiting and retaining top tech talent is a tough sell for federal agencies.

In emerging fields like cybersecurity, even stalwart public-sector organizations like the National Security Agency have a hard time hiring good people.

So, how are federal agencies shoring up the talent gap, and what are they doing to empower and embolden their existing workforce?

On Thursday, we’ll address technology and the future workforce in our Innovation After Hours series, convening a panel of experts who are actually infusing innovation within their agencies.

Elizabeth Hoag heads the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s eNGAge program, which is a sort of a talent exchange that places NGA professionals in temporary positions outside the agency, such as industry and academia. Conversely, the program allows those in industry, academia and nonprofits to temporarily work within NGA. All in all, the 1-year-old program’s goal is to bolster knowledge sharing, bring new ideas to the organization and increase opportunities for existing personnel to improve their experience and meet NGA’s mission.

Hoag will discuss NGA’s challenges and how the program is working to help to address them.

Blake Henderson, who serves as the innovation coordinator for the Veterans Health Administration’s Connected...

Trump Said Government Has One 40-Year-Old IT System. It Actually Has At Least 10.

By Frank Konkel // April 12, 2017

Fer Gregory/

In a meeting with prominent business executives Tuesday, President Donald Trump lamented the poor state of federal IT, telling CEOs, “We have a computer system in this country that’s 40 years old.”

Actually, Mr. President, we have at least 10 such systems—and they’re critical to U.S. civilian and military operations.

The U.S. nuclear arsenal is coordinated by the 54-year-old Strategic Automated Command and Control System, run on 1970s-era IBM mainframes that still use 8-inch floppy disks. President John F. Kennedy held your position when these systems were designed.

If that’s a scary thought, here’s something even more sobering: Two of the Treasury Department’s tax systems are even older. Collectively, the 57-year-old Individual Master File and Individual Business File house tax data for more than 100 million Americans, and they’re running on “low-level computer code” that predate the NASA moon landing by a decade.

Your promise to improve veteran care is an important one, but it won’t be easy. The Veterans Affairs Department's back-end system for tracking benefit claims is 52 years old, and its time-and-attendance tracking software will turn 54 this year.

Here’s a list of the 10...