FedScoop http://fedscoop.com Federal technology news and events Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:52:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NTIS expands free access to federal science and tech studies http://fedscoop.com/ntis-ntrl-upgrades/ http://fedscoop.com/ntis-ntrl-upgrades/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:52:39 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64976 The National Technical Information Service has upgraded its research database, giving the public free access to a trove of 800,000 documents related to federal science and technology research.

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NTIS will now offer free access to 800,000 documents, but it will charge to digitize documents published before 1995. (Credit: iStockphoto.com)

The National Technical Information Service has upgraded its research database, giving the public free access to a trove of documents related to federal science and technology research.

Earlier this month, the NTIS rolled out a soft launch of its updated National Technical Reports Library, allowing the public to download more than 800,000 documents free of charge. With the upgrade, the NTRL also created a number of different subscription models that allow individuals and institutions deeper access and better features to the entire NTIS library.

Run under the Commerce Department, NTIS holds more than 3 million documents across 350 technical and business topics and does not receive funding from Congress. Since its inception during the Truman administration, NTIS has developed fee-based services involving the cataloguing, collecting and repackaging of documents for other federal agencies.

NTIS said when an individual or institution wants digital access to the remaining 2.2 million documents, it will charge a fee. The fees will cover digitization costs, since the remaining documents were published before 1995 and stored on microfiche. However, once a document has been digitized, it will become free for public access.

While the plan to upgrade the NTRL had been in the works for the past year, NTIS Director Bruce Borzino told FedScoop a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held in July that challenged the agency’s purpose “incentivized” his team to push the upgrade.

NTIS Associate Director Don Hagen said during the agency’s advisory board meeting Friday, the early feedback on the upgrade has been positive, with vendors reaching to express their support.

“It’s interesting that the vendors are supportive of this,” Hagen said. “They are not saying, ‘Oh, wait a minute, you are competing on my turf. Stop doing this, please.’ That’s not what we are hearing.”

The free service provides access to a basic search and five downloads a week. A premium individual subscription runs $200 per year and features an advanced search, 20 downloads per session and a range of personalization features. An institutional subscription, which has a price range determined by IP licenses, includes on-demand digitization of five reports per week and an option to receive research data for free via a CD/DVD file.

NTRL also gives individuals a chance to access those raw data sets, but they must be purchased. Hagen said the service would be working toward eliminating the need for CD-ROMs in the future, allowing people to gather the data straight from the site.

“[Prior to 1995], a lot of data that was pulled together, the only approach was to do it on CD,” Hagen said. “The direction forward is clearly not that.”

FedRAMP Ready?

The system upgrade was only one of a number of tech projects NTIS has been focused in the past few months. NTIS Chief Information Officer Keith Sinner said the agency is very close to being granted a FedRAMP agency authorization, which would allow NTIS to offer cloud services — primarily Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) — to other agencies. Sinner expects the authorization to take effect by mid-November.

On top of the FedRAMP process, Skinner said NTIS has also revamped a number of in-house services, including a warehouse management system, the majority of a new bibliographic system and a website redesign. This was on top of joint venture products the agency contributed to, including an e-recruitment service for the Agriculture Department and a customer engagement center for Citizenship and Immigration Services.

All three systems went live at the beginning of October, with only a few glitches in the warehouse system that have since been ironed out. Borzino commended Sinner for the transition during the advisory board meeting.

“I’ve spent 30 years in this business,” Borzino said. “This was probably one of the best, if not the best, system implementation I could be a part of.”

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Patent office’s #creepyIP celebrates weird, wondrous inventions for Halloween http://fedscoop.com/patent-offices-creepyip-celebrates-weird-wondrous-inventions/ http://fedscoop.com/patent-offices-creepyip-celebrates-weird-wondrous-inventions/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:10:08 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64946 The Patent and Trademark Office features spooky intellectual property art using the hashtag #creepyIP.

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The Roaring 20s saw some weird inventions: check out the "Isolator"http://t.co/Hq3ZZo6u1Z @USPTO #CreepyIP

— Sparkup Inc (@SparkupInc) October 6, 2014

Pill-shaped isolation masks. Corpse lifters. Life-preserving coffins.

It’s the stuff of 1940s B-movie thrillers — and exactly the sort of creep-inducing creations the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office likes to feature on its social media accounts using the hashtag #creepyIP. For three years, the office has culled its extensive intellectual property image library for spooky art to post on Facebook and Twitter. Other agencies and private companies since have joined in the fun, using the hashtag to post their own spooky illustrations.

Such a kooky campaign might seem out of character for a stodgy-sounding government agency. But Paul Fucito, the USPTO communications officer who conceived of the idea, said the agency has engaged in a similar campaign during the Olympics.

“I kind of saw it as an extension of our Today in Trademark History, Today in Patent History posts that we were doing,” he said. He added, “We use our social media to educate the public about the importance of intellectual property and how they use it in their everyday lives.”

The office will add the tag to relevant posts throughout the year, but it focuses on featuring the unsettling and strange during October. One of Fucito’s favorites from the #creepyIP library is a picture of a diver in an animatronic octopus.

“It’s one of those things that I actually hope somebody actually did produce it, because it looks so fascinating,” he said.

The hashtag has generated a wide appeal, Fucito said, and it’s been among one of the office’s more successful social media campaigns.

“I think we’ve definitely seen a lot of interaction with this,” he said.

Indeed, North Carolina-based trademark lawyer Ed Timberlake was thrilled when USPTO started posting #creepyIP pictures. An avid Tweeter, Timberlake said he had been hoping that USPTO would use its social media accounts to highlight more of the treasures of its image library.

“As soon as they started doing that, I was just so happy,” Timberlake said. “I just sort of jumped on board.”

One of Timberlake’s recent #creepyIP favorites is a picture of Halloween-cat-shaped dog treats.

Timberlake has long loved trademark art: When he worked at USPTO as a trademark examiner right after law school, Timberlake would keep a running list of interesting trademarks he came across. Now, Timberlake posts images he likes on Twitter and Instagram.

“There’s so much great visual stuff in the record,” he said.

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USAID’s Ebola Grand Challenge gives the world a voice in innovation http://fedscoop.com/usaids-ebola-grand-challenge-gives-world-hand-innovation/ http://fedscoop.com/usaids-ebola-grand-challenge-gives-world-hand-innovation/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:02:40 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64821 The U.S. Agency for International Development is turning to crowdsourcing to improve the tools, equipment and diagnostics needed to halt the spread of Ebola.

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Caregivers in personal protective equipment carry a body in West Africa. (Credit: Morgana Wingard for USAID)

Caregivers in personal protective equipment carry a body in West Africa. (Credit: Morgana Wingard for USAID)

The fight against Ebola is one with global context — no nation or population is exempt from the disease or the responsibility to stop its spread. That’s why the U.S. Agency for International Development, instead of proposing its own set of solutions, has issued a grand challenge, crowdsourcing the innovation of people around the world to improve the tools, equipment, diagnostics and other measures to halt the contagion.

USAID’s Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development, in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is a two-pronged approach to answer the question: How might we better equip and empower the health care community to fight Ebola? While the main awards-based challenge is open to small companies, nonprofits and other entities with expertise in relevant areas, USAID realized it was critical to give everyone a voice to combat this epidemic. So, it’s also using OpenIDEO, a digital crowdsourcing platform on which anyone from around the world can pose thoughts on how to improve care and stop Ebola’s spread.

“Anyone can go post an idea on this big open platform, and they can then seek feedback from a wide variety of creative thinkers and experts,” Wendy Taylor, director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at USAID, told FedScoop. “It’s really an incredibly powerful way to bring many people into the conversation and seek a wide variety of solutions.”

Innovation around the Ebola epidemic is a broad battle. Therefore, USAID has narrowed its efforts to providing solutions to improve infection treatment. Specifically, the agency is looking to improve the personal protective equipment of caregivers, the promotion of awareness of the disease and how to care for it, and data collection and analysis efforts to trace the spread.

“The gear that health care workers wear now can get extremely hot, and they can only stay in them for less than an hour,” Taylor said. “Then they have to go through the careful and laborious process of taking those suits off, which is the point where they have some risk of exposure to the virus.” On diagnosing the spread of the virus in the field, she said, “Right now we have diagnostics, but they are lab-based diagnostics, and they take time. Having rapid point-of-care diagnostics could really be a game changer.”

Taylor and her team lead the health-related grand challenges within USAID, bringing in innovations with the hope to get them rapidly scaled in the field. As of publication, there have already been more than 800 contributions to the OpenIDEO platform in posed research and ideas to guide USAID.

“We’re seeing a very rapid, resounding response from the global community,” the director said. “Ideas are literally pouring in from all over the world.”

The awards-based part of the challenge, which is a more formal process of proposal submissions and comes with prizes of up to $1 million, requires that the ideas posed by organizations be rapidly scalable, novel and have a strong likelihood of substantial impact, according to its broad agency announcement.

The crowdsourced element isn’t completely independent of the awards challenge, though.

“We’re looking to take the best ideas coming from any of these places and making sure they’re partnered up with the right players that can actually turn them into solutions that can be tested and deployed very quickly,” Taylor said. That means an idea from Joe Plummer in the Middle of Nowhere, America, can be partnered with an organization that has the expertise and resources to actually develop it.

“We want to make sure we’re allowing for the most creative thinking and approaches to come at this problem in ways that we might not even have imagined and that could lead to some rapid and significant impact in the field,” she said.

Those interested in submitting a proposal for the awards grand challenge can do so until Nov. 7, when the first round of review ends. A second round of review will continue until Dec. 1. Anyone can take part in the OpenIDEO platform, which closes with the grand challenge’s first round of review.

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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates offers sober critique of U.S. cybersecurity posture http://fedscoop.com/former-defense-secretary-robert-gates-offers-sober-critique-u-s-cybersecurity-posture/ http://fedscoop.com/former-defense-secretary-robert-gates-offers-sober-critique-u-s-cybersecurity-posture/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 03:05:13 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64898 Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unleashed a scathing assessment Thursday of the U.S. government's handling of national cybersecurity policy, blaming bureaucratic turf battles and a dysfunctional Congress for the lack of progress on information sharing and critical infrastructure protection.

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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at the SAP NS2 Solutions Summit Thursday. (Credit: FedScoop)

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unleashed a scathing assessment Thursday of the U.S. government’s handling of national cybersecurity policy, blaming bureaucratic turf battles and a dysfunctional Congress for the lack of progress on information sharing and critical infrastructure protection.

Speaking at the third annual SAP NS2 Solutions Summit in Falls Church, Virginia, Gates said the nation faces a real dilemma reconciling competing values and priorities when it comes to cybersecurity. But responsibility for the lack of meaningful progress on cybersecurity falls squarely on a hyperpartisan Congress that in the aftermath of 9/11 created a federal bureaucracy that sometimes operates beyond the control of the president and the cabinet.

“The country faces a situation where the Defense Department, with Cyber Command, NSA and other related organizations, has nearly all of the assets and capability in the cyber arena but limited legal authority to deploy them at home,” Gates said. “Correspondingly, the Department of Homeland Security has few assets, capabilities and experience in this area, but the statutory responsibility for protecting the U.S. domestically against cyberattacks. To fashion a brand new ACLU-approved NSA for domestic surveillance and cybersecurity is simply not plausible. There isn’t enough time, there isn’t enough money and there isn’t enough human capital.”

Gates described dealing with Congress as one of the worst experiences of his time in government. And he made it clear he is no fan of the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence and homeland security structure put in place in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “When Congress takes it upon itself to remedy past deficiencies by cobbling together new executive branch organizations, well that’s how we ended up with the DNI and DHS in the first place,” Gates said.

One of the major cybersecurity initiatives proposed by Gates and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and approved by the president in 2010, could have helped better align U.S. cybersecurity capabilities and protect critical civilian and military networks, Gates said. But today, that effort is essentially a failure, he said.

During the summer of 2010, Gates and Napolitano agreed it would be faster and cheaper to make sure that DHS could effectively leverage NSA cybersecurity and threat-detection systems rather than expect DHS to replicate those capabilities. The relationship Gates forged with Napolitano led to the signing of a cybersecurity memorandum of understanding between DOD and DHS. Gates considers the agreement a major achievement.

“With the interagency apparatus mired in bureaucratic squabbles and stalemate, in the summer of 2010 Janet and I worked out a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Defense and DHS. Under the new rules, the Secretary of Homeland Security would appoint a separate deputy director of NSA, who would have the ability to task the agency in real time on behalf of homeland security to protect domestic targets against cyberthreats or cyberattacks,” Gates said. “The goal was to ensure real time, rapid response to a cyberthreat while balancing concerns that civil liberties might be at risk,” he said.

“The privacy purists weren’t satisfied,” said Gates, “but it’s hard to imagine a workable scenario in which they would be.” The DHS-appointed deputy NSA director would have their own general counsel and legal staff “to ensure that firewalls were in place” between actions taken to protect the domestic cybernetworks and NSA’s foreign intelligence capabilities, Gates said.

Gates and Napolitano took the memorandum directly to President Obama, who approved it in October of that year, “despite the inevitable gnashing of teeth by bypassed cabinet departments and White House staff,” said Gates. “I wish I could stand here and proclaim that we had a great success. And as crazy as it may sound to someone who’s not been in government, just because the president of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security want something done does not mean that it will actually get done…especially when the first instinct of folks in the middle and upper levels of agencies may be inclined to renew old turf battles or climb on old hobby horses,” the former Defense secretary said.

“Napolitano and I briefly in the summer of 2010 parted the bureaucratic Red Sea. But the waters have long since crashed back together, drowning our initiative, leaving us essentially at square one.”

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Microsoft helping government embrace open source programming http://fedscoop.com/microsoft-helping-government-embrace-open-source-programming/ http://fedscoop.com/microsoft-helping-government-embrace-open-source-programming/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:04:14 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64865 Although they have been operating in stealth mode, Microsoft is emerging as a leader in the open source government movement. FedScoop's John Breeden II talks to Microsoft's Kent Cunningham and Michael Donlan about how the company is working with agencies on open source efforts.

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If we had to name one place where an open and trusted computing platform was most needed, it would be inside government. As part of that, the Obama administration last year signed an executive order requiring government information be open and machine readable. However, it also needs to be secure, because some information needs to be kept secret regardless of platform. That’s where efforts like the IRS 1075 regulatory standards come into play, requiring security for tax documents.

On the front lines of both of these efforts is a company that probably doesn’t come to mind in the open source movement, especially in government. Although it has not until very recently begun taking credit for its efforts, Microsoft is quickly emerging as a major leader for open source.

I tracked down two people at Microsoft to help expose and explain their open source efforts. I talked with Kent Cunningham, chief technology officer for federal, civilian and health care, and Michael Donlan, vice president of U.S. state and local government. Both explained how important open source is to Microsoft and how they are helping government agencies to create a robust, yet secure, open source environment. Some of their answers to my questions were pretty surprising.

John Breeden II: Can you tell us when open source became a priority for Microsoft and some of the milestones you have had in this area? 

Kent Cunningham

Kent Cunningham

Kent Cunningham: Over the past decade, Microsoft has truly become a company that embraces open source and has been involved in multiple open source efforts. More and more, customers, partners and the industry understand that the work we are doing with open source is about helping customers and enabling a rich and robust ecosystem of developers and partners. We enable open source on our platforms and encourage open source developers to continue to think of Windows and Windows Phone as platforms for them to develop on.

For example, Microsoft manages codeplex, which hosts tens of thousands of open source projects, many of which were created by Microsoft employees. Microsoft Open Technologies, a fully owned subsidiary, contributes to and partners with open source communities and promotes interoperability. The .Net Foundation, announced at [Microsoft's] 2014 Build Conference, fosters open development and has several high-impact projects like ASP.NET vNext, [which is the] .NET compiler platform. Microsoft’s support for open source software (OSS) is all the more evident in the cloud: Microsoft Azure is an open and flexible platform, and supports a large and growing number of open source applications, frameworks and languages.

JBII: But what are the advantages of open source software for those who use it? And does making software open source make it more challenging for Microsoft as opposed to creating a proprietary platform, or is it just different? 

KC: The real advantage to leveraging open source comes from the ability to reuse code and knowledge that has been created and tested previously, versus recreating the wheel for every application. While we have to acknowledge that the total cost of deploying and operating an application involves choosing the right platform models for availability, security, scale, interoperability, excreta, it certainly makes sense to work to reduce unnecessary overhead and lower time-to-value when OSS allows this opportunity. We do this ourselves at Microsoft and our customers are taking this on as a best practice, along with agile development principles with adaptive planning for continuous improvement.

As for delivering code via the open source communities versus using a commercialized intellectual property method, these are simply complementary business models, and not necessarily competing solutions. I think many people haven’t quite recognized this, and the legacy mentality of mutual exclusion therefore persists. At Microsoft, we are in the software business across devices, platforms, clouds, operating systems, and a wide variety of business models. This includes embracing and empowering the OSS communities to thrive and grow while leveraging the developer tools, platforms and operating systems that best fit their needs.

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Survey: IT departments are losing cloud security battle http://fedscoop.com/cloud-survey-ponemon-institute/ http://fedscoop.com/cloud-survey-ponemon-institute/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:52:35 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64897 Government IT professionals aren't the only ones having trouble keeping up with the security demands that come with the adoption of cloud computing.

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(Credit: iStockphoto.com)

Government IT professionals aren’t the only ones having trouble keeping up with the security demands that come with the adoption of cloud computing.

A study released earlier this week by the Ponemon Institute finds that IT professionals are having trouble managing data stored on the cloud, are often kept in the dark on or can’t identify who is responsible for data security and do not have worthwhile security measures in place for data at rest.

The study, which surveyed more than 1,800 IT professionals around the world, found that while a majority (78 percent) expect their organization’s use of cloud to increase over the next two years, most (71 percent) believe that protecting sensitive data on the cloud is harder and more complex than protection measures on conventional data centers.

Survey respondents pointed to a number of different reasons for why data management on the cloud has been so hard, including IT systems or solutions that have been put in place without going through the proper channels, better known as “shadow IT.”

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A chart that shows what IT professionals believe to be the hardest part of dealing with security in the cloud. (Courtesy of the Ponemon Institute)

According the survey, half of all cloud services are deployed and 44 percent of data stored in the cloud is managed by departments outside of IT. As a result, only 19 percent of respondents say they have a complete picture of their organization’s cloud applications, platforms or infrastructure services.

Regardless of whether IT professionals have a good outlook on their cloud profiles, there seems to be growing concerns about who is responsible for security and what measures need to be taken to protect data.

Survey respondents were divided on which entity is responsible for cloud security: Thirty-two percent claimed it’s the cloud provider’s responsibility, 33 percent said the cloud user, and 35 percent said it was a shared responsibility.

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A chart that shows IT professionals have mixed feelings on which entity should be responsible for cloud security. (Courtesy of the Ponemon Institute)

While the majority of respondents said security measures will become more important over the next two years, only 36 percent of respondents said their organization uses encryption or tokenization for data at rest, with only 28 percent saying they encrypt data directly within cloud applications.

“While the cloud has revolutionized the way IT is delivered, many IT organizations are finding it difficult to keep up with demand for these services and the security implications that are created when critical data is stored in the cloud,” said Tsion Gonen, chief strategy officer for SafeNet, which sponsored the study. “As we’ve seen in 2014 with a raft of record-breaking data breaches, organizations are attacked frequently from different angles. In order to mitigate risk, there needs to be focused coordination and new approaches to securing data in the cloud, and IT needs to be at the center of this migration.”

The study makes a number of recommendations for streaming the security process, including increased transparency and clearly defined roles on who is accountable for data protection, better visibility of cloud usage within organizations and “bring your own encryption” tools that will allow organizations to store keys across multiple cloud environments.

Todd Moore, SafeNet’s vice president of encryption, said companies — especially those that work with the government — should take the lead on data security when it comes to working on the cloud. He said one of the best ways to do this is through customer ownership of encryption keys.

“Even though a cloud provider may provide data encryption, it’s important to maintain control of your encryption keys, so that data is unreadable without the company permission or knowledge,” Moore told FedScoop. “If a cloud provider doesn’t offer encryption, then the company should be encrypting before sending to the cloud. Taking control of your critical data protection reduces risk.”

Read more about the study’s findings in the infographic below.

Ponemon_Cloud_Security_Infographic (1)

(Courtesy of the Ponemon Institute)

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18F spreads the gospel of agile with new interagency consulting unit; dashboard on the way http://fedscoop.com/18f-spread-gospel-agile-new-interagency-consulting-unit/ http://fedscoop.com/18f-spread-gospel-agile-new-interagency-consulting-unit/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:45:35 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64887 The innovators disrupting bureaucracy in the General Services Administration's 18F have learned quite a bit since launching in March, and now they're taking that gospel to other agencies with a new program called 18F Consulting.

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The innovators disrupting bureaucracy in the General Services Administration’s 18F have learned quite a bit since launching in March, and now they’re taking that knowledge to other agencies with a new program called 18F Consulting.

During a panel Monday on citizen services at ACT-IAC’s Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, Greg Godbout, executive director of 18F, explained how the new pilot program is meant to help other agencies learn from the agile practices 18F has developed in user-centered services design.

“The central purpose is to be like an agile coach or a solution architect, to look at software inside the federal government and go, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’re gonna bring in a design-thinking team first. Before we go to procurement with this, we’re going to really make sure we’re at least kind of getting this right. Oh, and by the way, all the contracts you’re going to engage in are going to allow for pivots and allow for real agile work to occur,’” Godbout said.

According to 18F’s website, the program is “focused on providing hands-on consulting services to Federal program managers and other leaders who need assistance in designing and managing software acquisitions that use modern development techniques (e.g., agile, lean, open source). We offer a variety of services under the authority of the Economy Act from knowledgable and experienced software engineers and acquisition specialists. Think of us as your in-house technical brains for your next software acquisition.”

Currently there’s an issue with federal procurement where user-centered design is too often thrown away for what Godbout called “stakeholder design,” which regards the approval and decisions of senior leadership more than it does the people who are meant to use it. Because of this, he said project teams are handcuffed to failure.

“One of the problems that stills exists … is by the time something becomes a procurement for vendors to get involved who can bring in ideas and do all that different stuff, in the vast majority of cases it’s too late,” Godbout said. “They get this requirement, it’s written in stone to ‘build this functionality.’ I can’t tell you how many projects we’ve seen where the whole project team knows they’re going in the wrong direction and they’re just going to walk off that cliff because contractually, they’ve got to nail these certain pieces of functionality and they’ll be OK. They’ll legally be OK, they won’t, like, get fired necessarily — they’re going to just walk off that cliff.”

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Taken from a deck introducing 18F consulting, a list of the program’s offerings. (Credit: 18F)

Working with about 14 projects now, 18F — which Godbout described as “a production floor inside the federal government” building out different services and re-engineering business processes — is diverting from that mentality and instead pressing to “contract and expect change.”

“The advantage we have, and what we need to figure out how to do for the procurement side, is can we have a conversation early on with the people who approve the budget,” he said. “There’s a problem here. It’s pretty compelling when you bring a group of users to the table and explain to the person who owns the program and say, ‘They’ll refuse to use your system if you build that functionality.’”

Even internally at GSA, 18F has passed on lessons learned in agile methodology.

“18F has done an awful lot in helping us transform the way we’re doing kind of internal business. We joke a lot that 18F, if nothing else, if it were to end tomorrow, at least it taught us how to hire people faster,” Administrator Dan Tangherlini said Tuesday at another ACT-IAC discussion. “By applying these agile approaches to even basic business processes, we’ve gotten better at doing something as simple or as straightforward as hiring folks. We’re hoping that we can show people that model and that they can learn from it too.”

Watching 18F operate in a completely agile manner, Tangherlini said, has opened GSA’s eyes on how to better consume information technology by helping break old habits.

“It’s great actually to have people who don’t have all the engrained experiences of what it’s like to work in the agency and ask the question, ‘Why do you do it this way?’” he said, likening it to a three-year old who continually asks “Why?”

“After the third ‘Why?’ you’re like, ‘I’m actually … I have no idea why,’” Tangherlini said. At 18F they keep pulling the “Why? string,” and a lot of times, he said, the answer comes down breaking a bureaucratic habit.

18F's dashboard in alpha. (Credit: 18F)

18F’s dashboard in alpha. (Credit: 18F)

Godbout said 18F will also soon launch a dashboard where U.S. citizens can see metrics on all of its current projects.

“The end result will be communication is the key to customer service,” he said. “The U.S. should be able to go to any program in the government, go to a page and see an active, real metric of what that program is doing for the U.S. citizen.”

It should launch in the next week or two. Here’s the alpha version of it.

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DeSalvo will ‘maintain leadership’ at ONC during HHS service http://fedscoop.com/desalvo-will-maintain-leadership-onc-hhs-service/ http://fedscoop.com/desalvo-will-maintain-leadership-onc-hhs-service/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:53:18 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64872 After news last week that Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health IT, was asked to join the Department of Health and Human Services as acting assistant secretary of health, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has clarified that she will not relinquish the leadership duties of her former post.

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Karen DeSalvo will stay on in a leadership capacity with ONC while serving HHS to fight Ebola. (Credit: ONC)

After news last week that Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health IT, was asked to join the Department of Health and Human Services as acting assistant secretary of health, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has clarified that she will not completely relinquish the leadership duties of her former post.

While it was initially reported that DeSalvo, who will take her new role under HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to aid in the national health crisis posed by Ebola, would remain in an advisory capacity to Lisa Lewis, who is filling in as the acting national coordinator, an ONC blog post published Tuesday clarifies that she will maintain her leadership responsibilities with the organization.

“Importantly, she will continue to work on high level policy issues at ONC, and ONC will follow the policy direction that she has set,” the post, co-authored by DeSalvo and Lewis, says. “She will remain the chair of the Health IT Policy Committee; she will continue to lead on the development and finalization of the Interoperability Roadmap; and she will remain involved in meaningful use policymaking. She will also continue to co-chair the HHS cross-departmental work on delivery system reform.”

The blog post also describes more about her new role with HHS: “As a key part of her role and the overall strategy on the HHS Ebola response, she will join the team of trusted experts, reaching out to healthcare providers, other stakeholders and the American public to help implement our preparedness and education efforts.”

Lewis, who served as acting principal deputy national coordinator prior to DeSalvo’s arrival in January and most recently as chief operating officer, will be in charge of day-to-day operations.

The day after DeSalvo announced her departure, ONC Deputy National Coordinator Jacob Reider also announced he will depart the office in November.

The ONC is facing a critical reshuffling. In addition to losing DeSalvo and Reider, the office also recently announced the departures of Judy Murphy, chief nursing officer and director of the Office of Clinical Quality and Safety, to IBM Healthcare Global Business Services and Doug Fridsma, chief scientist.

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Will different medical devices call for different cyber standards? http://fedscoop.com/different-cybersecurity-recs-different-medical-devices/ http://fedscoop.com/different-cybersecurity-recs-different-medical-devices/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:12:24 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64832 As the FDA receives more cybersecurity risk assessments for medical devices, "there will be a repertoire that we identify with and then look for in other submissions,” an FDA official said.

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An increasing number of medical devices, from pacemakers to insulin pumps, include components that could open them to cyber vulnerabilities. So will the Food and Drug Administration start taking into account the differences in these devices as the agency evaluates premarket submissions?

“Over time as we accumulate experience with the provided cybersecurity risk assessments, there will be a repertoire that we identify with and then look for in other submissions,” Seth Carmody, a staff fellow with FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Carmody made the comments during a 1.5-hour webinar Wednesday during which members of industry posed specific questions about medical device cybersecurity guidance released this month. The event comes a week after Reuters reported that the Department of Homeland Security was investigating at least two dozen cases of possible cybersecurity flaws in medical devices.

Questions during the webinar dealt with a range of issues, including what the reporting requirements are for updating software, what kinds of devices the guidance encompasses and how to include information about cybersecurity risk mitigation in application submissions.

In the guidance, FDA said that manufacturers should incorporate specific controls within their products to combat cybersecurity risks, and they should factor in patients’ risks and the environment in which the device is used. The agency also indicated that device security falls to device manufacturers, health care facilities and patents alike.

Abiy Desta, from the Office of the Center Director at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in response to a question during the webinar, said that reviewers who evaluate premarket submissions receive training about guidances, and they have access to subject matter experts that can help with questions.

One caller asked how the new cybersecurity recommendations for medical devices aligned with the agency’s health IT draft framework, a report released earlier this year that includes a proposed strategy for maintaining security protections while still promoting innovation. The draft framework has a separate category for medical devices. The panel recommended that the caller reach out to officials involved with the framework.

The same caller lamented about having to follow cybersecurity recommendations from several agencies.

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DISA mobility update: 40,000 unclassified devices by 2015 http://fedscoop.com/disa-mobility-stig-update/ http://fedscoop.com/disa-mobility-stig-update/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:01:15 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64841 The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to spend the rest of this year and the next moving DOD into a new suite of devices.

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DISA said it currently manages about 4,000 unclassified Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices. (Credit: Apple)

The Defense Information Systems Agency considers its mobility program “well greased” and expects to integrate up to 40,000 unclassified devices across the military and Defense Department by the end of 2015.

In a Wednesday conference call with reporters, Mark Orndorff, DISA mission assurance executive, and Kimberly Rice, DISA portfolio manager for mobility, said they will be spending the rest of this year and the next moving DOD into a new suite of devices.

DISA expects to increase the number of classified and unclassified devices. Currently, DISA manages around 270 classified Motorola RAZR MAXX phones, with a goal of deploying 1,500 by the end of 2015.

On the unclassified side, DISA has deployed around 4,000 Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices, and expects that number to increase tenfold by the end of next year.

Both Orndorff and Rice said they are satisfied with device availability and DISA has the ability to keep up with the rollout of commercial products, including Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 6.

However, Rice said it’s not a free-for-all when it comes to new devices, due to agencies or offices that have to wait for funding to purchase new products. She also has to account for the fact that older BlackBerry products are still widely used: Rice estimates the DISA still manages around 80,000 to 85,000 BlackBerry devices.

“Just because a new device is out, [agencies aren't] going to necessarily turn around, break their contract and get a new device,” Rice said.

While the majority of unclassified devices are registered with the Army, Rice said DISA is working with the Navy and Air Force on some pilot programs that could bring Android into the fold in 2015.

With new technology being phased in, Rice said DISA will also be working to phase out SME-PEDs, which was once the only mobile device cleared for classified use.

“We have requirements and are working across departments and federal agencies to phase out SME-PEDs and verify how many folks are going to need replacement devices,” Rice said.

As far as protection for unclassifed devices, Orndorff said he doesn’t expect DISA to issue any Secure Technical Implementation Guide approvals before the year is out. The agency issued STIGs for BlackBerry, Samsung KNOX and MDM management provider Good Technologies earlier this year.

Orndorff called the STIG process a “very dynamic area” and is working with “several different vendors” to move products through the authorization process, which has been integrated with the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP). Last week, Samsung was approved for handling classified documents after going through various NIAP security tests.

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