FCW Insider: Dec. 14

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

The White House is planning a change to the 15-year-old policy that governs how agencies go online. Federal CIO Suzette Kent said a draft of a new Trusted Internet Connection policy is coming next week – one of the last items to be crossed off an ambitious IT modernization to-do list. Mark Rockwell has more.

The Department of Defense is on track to take on background check duties ahead of an anticipated executive order. Officials told Congress that the move of the National Background Investigations Bureau from OPM to DOD is being planned with a minimum of disruption. Lauren C. Williams reports.

The General Services Administration hired a new telecom services director to help agencies transition to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract. Mark has the scoop.

Time is running out to submit Federal 100 nominations. The due date is Dec. 24. Submit yours today!

Quick Hits

*** After knocking out 52 tasks on the to-do list generated by a 2017 White House executive order on cybersecurity, federal CIO Suzette Kent said, "we have a whole new list" for 2019. 

At a Dec. 13 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kent said she'll be focusing on making contractors accountable under the same cybersecurity laws and regulations that apply to federal agencies, protecting high value assets, creating more structure around supply chain security practices and reskilling federal workers for cybersecurity roles.

The Office of Management and Budget rolled out a new plan last month to reskill federal employees for cybersecurity roles. Kent said her experience in the private sector showed that such programs can be successful in identifying non-IT candidates with certain aptitudes that make them good candidates for future cybersecurity roles. There's also a practical component: current feds often have fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through. 

"We want to make those investments in our existing federal workforce and people who already know the mission space," said Kent. "And quite frankly, they've already passed the background and security checks, so when we look at that from a timeline perspective, we can get talented people into roles much more quickly."

*** Amazon Web Services was granted its request to join the Department of Defense as a defendant in Oracle's lawsuit against the Pentagon's $10 billion cloud procurement. Senior Judge Eric G. Bruggink, who is hearing the case in the Court of Federal Claims, approved the AWS request in an order filed Dec. 13. 

Oracle is suing to block the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud procurement, alleging that DOD is violating acquisition law in its preference for a single-award contract and that certain defense officials who worked on the requirements had ties to AWS. In the motion to intervene in the lawsuit, AWS stated that it could not rely on DOD to defend its equities in the case.

*** TOP Health -- a government-industry collaboration that is leveraging artificial intelligence to get more value out of federal data -- is hosting a demo day to show off its early results. GCN has more details on the Feb. 7 event and the “AI ecosystem” that’s being developed.

*** USASpending.gov tracks the roughly $4 trillion in annual federal government spending. A new version of the site was released in March. To maximize its usefulness, though, the Government Accountability Office wants to see some changes. 

 In a new report, GAO noted, for instance, the site may not meet federal security requirements. Specifically, the oversight agency called out Treasury for lacking a process to make sure pages added to the site are hosted on an encrypted HTTPS protocol with a .gov domain. It also noted the site would be more useful if Treasury provided structured metadata and more descriptive information about the data on the site. GAO also wants to see Treasury expand its a search function, create an intuitive interface for navigating the site, and provide more visualizations and summaries. Treasury agreed with the recommendations.

On the positive side, GAO praised the department for providing free, unrestricted data access to all site visitors, as opposed to making users create an account to access the data. It also lauded Treasury's efforts to conduct user surveys and incorporate feedback into its site design.

*** Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif) will serve as the co-chair of the House Artificial Intelligence Caucus in the 116th Congress. He replaces Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) who retired his seat in Congress for an improbable bid for the presidency in 2020. Delaney helped found the AI caucus. Co-chair and co-founder Pete Olson (R-Texas) is sticking around. Olson told the audience at an AI event hosted by politics and policy website Axios that he planned on reintroducing the Future of Artificial Intelligence Act in the next Congress.