FCW Insider: Nov. 1

Top stories, quick hits and more from FCW's reporters and editors.

This year's agency-by-agency Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey scores show many agencies' pattern of improvement since 2014 has stalled, or even reversed. Chase Gunter found that agencies where scores dropped are those that have seen proposed budget cuts or other notable work-life policy changes.

U.S. Cyber Command is one step closer to building its massive cyber weapons system , Unified Platform thanks to a $54.6 million contract to Northrop Grumman. The Air Force is handling the deal because Cyber Command's acquisition organization doesn't have the funding authority. Lauren C. Williams explains .

Emerging technologies can help contain the explosion of government data and the challenges of data management. In an FCW commentary HP Federal CTO Tommy Gardner looks at 5 technologies that can help agencies optimize for the big data future.

Quick Hits

*** The Trump administration is looking to signal that it has election security under control. On a press call with reporters Oct. 31, a senior Department of Homeland Security official speaking on background declared "immense" progress since 2016 in working with state and local election officials.

Officials with the DHS, National Security Council and Department of Justice all highlighted the fact that these elections are run at a local level and the federal government is simply there to help with information sharing, interagency coordination and, if needed, prosecution of criminal activities.

The DHS official also drew a line between influence and interference. Influence is the act of trying to chance a voter’s mind, while interference is the act of changing votes or more directly interrupting the voting process. The official said that influence (as opposed to outright hacking) could be less likely to result in sanctions, as outlined in a September executive order

The message largely fell in line with comments made earlier in the week by Robert Kolasky, the director of the DHS National Risk Management Center. "I am confident that we will be able to suss out anything that happens," Kolasky said.

Despite administration assurances, a Pew Research survey released this week found a majority of Americans think the process is vulnerable hacking and outside influence.

***The aftermath of the Office of Personnel Management breach is still rippling through the court system three years after the event. The National Treasury Employees Union is seeking to reinstate its lawsuit against OPM "for recklessly disregarding its obligation' to protect union members' personal information. " Arguments are set for Nov. 2. The lawsuit was initially combined with a similar action from the American Federation of Government Employees, and was dismissed last year.

*** It's a battle of the bot brains. The National Institute of Health is looking for a system that uses the latest in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to pit against the Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization system, NIH’s current tool for sorting medical research funding into more than 280 categories. NIH wants to test a new system to see how it handles the classification of project descriptions for just 15 categories and compare these results to RCDC. After the testing, however, the agency asks that any organization that provides a competitive system to provide a cost breakdown for installing it "for NIH categorization in its entirety." Responses to the NIH RFI are due Nov. 19.

***A 22-year-old former Air Force airman faces federal computer fraud charges after federal investigators say he rigged his boss's government-issued cell phone with a malicious bot. The complaint alleges Michael Weber inserted a "spam bot" on his then-master sergeant supervisor's government-issued cellular phone last January. The bot was supposed to cripple the device, rendering it useless with an overload of never-ending nonsense text. Weber was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, N.M., at the time, according to the complaint. Weber allegedly bragged about the exploit to his Facebook friends.

Because the phone is the property of the Air Force, it is protected by federal law. The supervisor told investigators it is used for interstate and foreign telecommunications, as well as web access and official military email. According to the statement, the computer fraud charges carry a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.