FCW Insider: March 4

The latest news, analysis and other updates from FCW's reporters and editors.

The threat of drone swarms attacking military bases prompted the Defense Innovation Unit to seek out existing tech that can identify and disable threatening unmanned aerial vehicles with a minimum of collateral damage. Adam Mazmanian has more.

Open data is fueling federal, private and nongovernmental tech projects aimed at addressing challenges ranging from geospatial mapping and disaster recovery to health care to the workforce. Chase Gunter reports on new open data and AI tools showcased at a Census Bureau event.

Blockchain and AI are the future of customs processing, and will help intercept counterfeits and detect money laundering schemes, stakeholders say. Customs and Border Protection -- which is looking to upgrade its tech -- is listening. Mark Rockwell has more.

Quick Hits

*** Beginning in late 2019, the Department of Defense will begin to track consolidated other transaction authority award data in a public-facing system, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. The CRS report notes that DOD "lacks authoritative data that can be used to assess OT effectiveness and better understand broader trends associated with these agreements." Currently OTA data is split between two databases. A January email from DOD to CRS referenced a footnote to the report notes the impending change to record all OTA data on the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation. According to the best available data, DOD obligated $2.1 billion on prototype OTA agreements in FY 2017 -- amounting to less than one percent of DOD's total contract obligations.

*** Employee morale at the Department of Homeland Security is among the lowest in the federal government, according to years of survey data. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wants to turn the tide with a bill designed to establish career paths and leadership development and to elevate responsibility for employee engagement to the level of agency secretary. The bill – dubbed the DHS MORALE Act -- would also establish a steering committee that includes union reps to come up with plans to improve employee engagement.

*** As the General Services Administration inches closer to releasing the final solicitation for its upgrade of the IT environment at the Federal Acquisition Service, it wants to hear from industry on how to make the procurement run more smoothly. The CIO Modernization and Enterprise Transformation (COMET) acquisition is focused on cloud and agility, with the goal of transforming the FAS environment by replacing "monolithic" applications with microservices that promise shorter delivery times and reusable code. GSA wants vendors to share ideas on best practices for service level agreements, incentives and disincentives, deliverable and evaluation criteria including metrics on integrating commercial, off-the-shelf software and software-as-a-service products. A second version of the COMET BPA Solicitation Instructions and Evaluation Criteria is due for release in mid-March.