FedScoop » News http://fedscoop.com Federal technology news and events Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:25:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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iPhone 5

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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Rogers downplays NSA moonlighting controversy http://fedscoop.com/rogers-downplays-nsa-moonlighting-controversy/ http://fedscoop.com/rogers-downplays-nsa-moonlighting-controversy/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:18:13 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64829 The NSA has a new public relations crisis on its hands — senior officials moonlighting for cybersecurity companies and even signals intelligence contractors. But is this trend related to the new NSA director's desire to "create a more permeable membrane" between the agency and the private sector?

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Rogers 2014 INSA Leadership Dinner

NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers. (Credit: Intelligence and National Security Alliance)

One of the first things Adm. Mike Rogers did when he took the helm as the 17th director of the National Security Agency was ask his staff to find ways to, in his words, “create a more permeable membrane” between the private sector and the agency so stronger partnerships could be developed. Now, just six months later, it seems that membrane may have some holes that allowed a couple of senior agency officials to keep one foot in the NSA and its secrets, and the other foot in private enterprise with all of its monetary temptations.

Earlier this month the NSA was forced to launch an internal review of the practice after Reuters published a story detailing how the agency allowed Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s chief technical officer, to work 20 hours per week for IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., a private cybersecurity firm founded by former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander. The company reportedly charges financial institutions up to $1 million per month for cybersecurity services based on technology patents Alexander developed while he was employed as NSA director. Under pressure, Alexander terminated the agreement with Dowd last week.

Dr. Patrick Dowd, chief technology officer and chief architect, National Security Agency (Photo: FedScoop)

Patrick Dowd, chief technology officer and chief architect, NSA. (Credit: FedScoop)

While the Dowd case raised eyebrows in and out of the national security community, it is not the only case that seems to be tied to Rogers’ push for a “more permeable membrane” between NSA and industry. Last week, NSA announced Teresa Shea, the director of signals intelligence (SIGINT), was rotating out of her position to another undisclosed job. Shea has been the subject of multiple investigative reports during the past three months that revealed the head of NSA’s most powerful component had formed Telic Networks, a private company based out of her home that specializes in SIGINT and electronic intelligence (ELINT) signals processors. Shea’s husband, James Shea, is listed as the company’s president and resident agent and is also employed by DRS Signals Solutions Inc., a SIGINT contractor.

Rogers downplayed the appearance of a conflict of interest in these cases and the potential for such arrangements to put classified government information at risk during a question-and-answer session Tuesday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

“We have a formal set of processes that must be applied when individuals are going to do something in addition to their NSA duties,” Rogers said. “We review that consistently over time and when circumstances change what was acceptable at one point, we’ll say, ‘Hey, that’s not acceptable anymore, the circumstances have changed the nature of the relationship between the outside entity and us.’ In terms of the flow of partnerships and information back and forth, I have been very public about saying for the National Security Agency, I would like us to create a model where members of our workforce don’t necessarily spend 30 or 35 years working directly for us, which right now has been the historic norm.”

But that doesn’t seem to be exactly what happened in the case of Dowd and Shea. Both Dowd and Shea likely reported directly to NSA’s Deputy Director Rick Ledgett, who as the senior civilian leader of the agency acts as NSA’s chief operating officer. And while NSA would not comment on whether Dowd or Shea received permission for their private business activities, a spokesperson told FedScoop in every case, employees must seek out and receive approval from their supervisors.

“Individual employees are obligated to seek and obtain approval from their supervisor when required,” NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said. In addition, Vines said NSA’s ethics officials provide advice on conflicts of interest analysis. 

As for Shea’s reported job change, Vines said it is in no way related to press reports that allege a conflict of interest. “NSA considers regular rotations of senior leaders as a catalyst for achieving diverse, fresh perspectives on the nation’s critical national security challenges. The pending transition of a director of signals intelligence was planned well before recent new articles,” she said.

“Given the state of technology, we’ve got to create a world where people from NSA can leave us for a while and go work in the private sector,” Rogers said. “And I would also like to create a world where the private sector can come spend a little time with us. Because one of the challenges as a nation that I think we’re dealing with, and you’ve seen this play out over the last year or so, we talk past each other a lot because we don’t understand each other. And I’d like to see what we can do to try to change that. It will produce better outcomes for both of us, and it will serve us better as a nation.”

In a statement emailed to FedScoop, the NSA said the agency takes federal ethics laws seriously and has established a formal program around financial disclosures for employees. All NSA employees file a financial disclosure report called an Office of Government Ethics form 278, which is reviewed by their immediate supervisor. If the supervisor finds a potential conflict of interest, he or she is supposed to make a note in the report and refer it to an ethics counselor. The ethics counselor conducts an independent review and compares the employee’s holdings and financial interests with a list of NSA contractors.

“If the employee has financial interests in an agency contractor, the ethics counselor reviews the relevant agency documentation to see if the contracts are for support to the employee’s organization,” the NSA statement said. “If so, a dialogue with the employee’s supervisor occurs in order to determine if the employee has duties that could affect his/her financial interests. When a possible or actual conflict is found, the agency and employee agree upon a suitable remedy.”

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Todd Park subpoenaed again to testify on HealthCare.gov http://fedscoop.com/house-committee-subpoenas-todd-park-revealing-report/ http://fedscoop.com/house-committee-subpoenas-todd-park-revealing-report/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:01:10 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64816 House Science Committee Republicans want the former federal chief technology officer to answer questions about his role in the launch of HealthCare.gov.

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U.S. CTO Todd Park (right) and CIO Steven VanRoekel address attendees at FedScoop's U.S. Innovation Summit on Wednesday.

Former U.S. CTO Todd Park (right) with former U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel (File photo: FedScoop)

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a prior statement from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and a letter from the White House.

Republicans in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have authorized a subpoena for Todd Park, former federal chief technology officer, to appear for questioning related to his involvement with HealthCare.gov prior to its launch and its corresponding security vulnerabilities.

The committee, led by Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, initially debated whether to issue the subpoena in September, soon after it was revealed that a test server for HealthCare.gov was successfully breached, though no users’ personally identifiable information was put at risk. The committee invited Park to testify Sept. 10 on the federal health care marketplace website’s security, but according to Smith, the White House canceled the meeting within 24 hours because “they did not want any official transcript of the discussion.” That led Smith to question, “What is the White House trying to hide?”

The House Science Committee and its oversight subcommittee published a report Tuesday in which they justify Park’s subpoena, citing various articles of evidence it claims connect the former CTO to the shoddy website rollout, even though he testified last November that “he did not ‘actually have a really detailed knowledge’ of the website before it was launched and was ‘not even familiar with the development and testing regimen that happened prior to October 1,’” the report states.

The report itself is brief, but attached to it are more than 40 pages of emails and meeting minutes from the Affordable Care Act Information Technology Exchange Steering Committee, which Park co-chaired, dating as far back as 2012. These documents marking Park’s correspondence lead the committee to believe he was “intimately involved with the development of HealthCare.gov, including its cybersecurity standards and protocols,” the report says.

Though Park testified in November 2013 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he didn’t “actually have a really detailed knowledge base of what actually happened pre-October 1,” emails obtained by the committee suggest otherwise. In one correspondence with former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle, Park wrote he wanted to have “a discussion of our defenses, the threats, and our responses to the threats. I would absolutely love to be part of as much of this meeting as I can,” and “I will also reach out to Alex Karp today to let him know that we would love to speak with him about cyber and the Marketplace – we should do a confidential, cone of silence consult with him after we’ve had our meeting.” Karp is the CEO of Palantir, a Silicon Valley software firm.

Based on follow up emails, it appeared that Park did take part in that discussion, which allegedly happened over the phone. Further correspondence also suggests that Park was involved with technical testing and other key steps in developing HealthCare.gov and that he was a “direct liaison with various staff members in the White House as well as the President,” the committee argues in the report.

Despite Republicans’ constant targeting of Park for the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, Democrats heralded him as a champion for piecing the system back together after it launched. This isn’t the first time that Park has been subpoenaed either. When he testified last November on his involvement with the site, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena for his appearance. This led to an uproar from many Democrats and others in the technology community upset he was taken away from his role in helping fix the website. His supporters began a campaign and petition against his appearance called “Let Todd Work.”

Democrats from the House Science Committee did not comment on the report. However, during a meeting in September in which the committee voted on the subpoena, ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, questioned why the majority had not brought up Park’s involvement for eight months, when they received documents they sought from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. She also revealed that the White House was cooperative with the committee’s most recent requests. Counsel to the president wrote in a letter to the oversight subcommittee, “If the Subcommittee desires additional information, there is no need to resort to subpoenas. Mr. Park will be pleased to testify at a Subcommittee hearing in November.”

“I am sorry to see that the majority have leaped to conclusions about Mr. Park that are not borne out by the evidence before us,” Johnson said in her statement. “The chairman alleges that OSTP and Mr. Park knew more than they have acknowledged, but the truth is that we cannot come to a fair conclusion absent the documents which the White House was willing to give us. I hope that in its hunt for headlines the committee treats Mr. Park with courtesy and fairness. Today’s actions to reject the White House’s offer and insist on unnecessary subpoenas unfortunately suggest that fairness is not going to be the hallmark of this effort.”

Despite the White House’s efforts to cooperate, Park has been summoned to testify Nov. 19, about a year since his last testimony on his involvement with HealthCare.gov. The next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act is set to launch just days before that on Nov. 15.

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DARPA sets Guinness world record for world’s fastest circuit http://fedscoop.com/darpa-guinness-world-record/ http://fedscoop.com/darpa-guinness-world-record/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:41:55 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64809 DARPA joined the ranks of the record-breaking Tuesday, setting a world record for the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit.

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DARPA’s Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit is the first solid-state amplifier demonstrating gain above 1 THz (1012 GHz). This achievement, recognized by Guinness World Records, could open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the submillimeter-wave spectrum and bring unprecedented performance to circuits operating in more conventional bands. (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA’s Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit is the first solid-state amplifier demonstrating gain above 1 THz (1012 GHz). This achievement, recognized by Guinness World Records, could open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the submillimeter-wave spectrum and bring unprecedented performance to circuits operating in more conventional bands. (Credit: DARPA)

When people think of Guinness World Records, they often think of oddities like the women with the world’s longest fingernails or most piercings in a lifetime. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency doesn’t exactly spring to mind.

Yet, on Tuesday, DARPA joined the ranks of the record-breaking, setting a world record for the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit. Becoming the first circuit to clock in above 1 terahertz (1 trillion cycles per second), it eclipsed the 850-gigahertz record set by DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics program in 2012.

Made in partnership with Northrop Grumman Corp., DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said the circuit would allow DARPA to continue the boundaries of what technology can do for the military.

“When you’re at this juncture where this amazing new technical capability is shown, we can speculate about what might come from this advance,” Prabhakar said.

Philip Robertson, an adjudicator for Guinness World Records, called the circuitry — which is about the size of one salt grain — “quite extraordinary” while presenting DARPA and Northrop Grumman with a certificate commemorating the record.

“It took some of our boffins — a British word for very intelligent people — a fair amount of study to understand and comprehend what this meant for the future,” Robertson said.

It turns out Guinness scientists weren’t the only one flummoxed by the actual application of this breakthrough. Bill Deal, a terahertz electronics program manager for Northrop Grumman, said he found a way to expound on exactly what this technology does by explaining it in terms his friend’s 10-year-old could understand.

“If you look at the frequency of your cell phone, it operates at 2 GHz,” Deal said. “We’re building an amplifier that amplifies radio signals at 1,000 GHz. That’s 500 times faster. Let’s compare that to a car going on the freeway. If we took our car on the freeway at 65 mph, and we sped it up by 500 times, we would be going 32,500 mph on that same road. The fastest a human being has ever traveled in a rocket ship is 27,000 mph. So it’s a big achievement, and it’s a different world.”

Dev Palmer, program manager at DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office, said as the physical dimensions for the circuit shrank and the fabrication tolerances got tighter, achieving a 1 THz speed became a difficult and delicate process. Palmer compared it to tuning the smallest string on a guitar.

“If you’ve ever tuned a guitar, you know that to make the string hit a really high note, it has to be shorter, lighter and tighter,” Palmer said. “You put the string on the guitar, turn the tuning peg and get the right pitch. You turn it tighter and tighter, you get worried that the string is going to snap and poke you in the eye, but you gotta keep turning that knob, and then the string sings. Making terahertz transistors is actually a lot like that.”

Palmer said this technology will have a range of applications, including new high-resolution security imaging systems, improved collision-avoidance radar and spectrometers, with the latter being a focus of the new SCOUT project DARPA recently launched.

Despite the light-hearted nature of being presented with the record, Dale Burton, CTO of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, said the circuit would go a long way in securing the safety of the nation’s war fighters for decades to come.

“We live in very dangerous times with very dangerous threats, and we need to make another leap to the next generation of technologies and technological dominance,” Burton said. “We need new innovations to constantly stay one step ahead to seek to do us harm.”

Robertson, who admitted that a number of Guinness’ records “don’t have resonance or an impact on everyday society,” said he sees the technology behind this record outliving the record itself.

“I think this one in the future will be quite significant in how we communicate on many different levels and how we deal with the planet,” he said.

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Commentary: Consumers benefit from progressive Internet regulations http://fedscoop.com/commentary-consumers-benefit-progressive-internet-regulations/ http://fedscoop.com/commentary-consumers-benefit-progressive-internet-regulations/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:15:56 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64789 Debra Berlyn, president of Consumer Policy Solutions and chairwoman for the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee, discusses what’s at stake for consumers in the net neutrality debate.

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The hot topic in telecommunications for consumers this year has been net neutrality, and it has garnered plenty of debate. Millions of consumers have submitted comments about this issue to the Federal Communications Commission, more than for any other issue. It’s clear that people feel protective of an open Internet and want to preserve its great benefits. We’ve had months of discussion, forums, and roundtables — and yet some confusion still remains — sometimes even among tech-savvy consumers. How did we get to this point – and what’s really at stake for consumers?

Let’s recap: Early this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out many of the open Internet rules that had been set by the FCC in 2010. Those rules were sound; they mandated basic net neutrality principles, such as the prohibition against blocking legal online content, but the legal basis of the rules was not. Currently, the FCC is in the process of forming a stronger basis for principles to preserve the open Internet.

Debra Berlyn is the president of Consumer Policy Solutions and chairperson of the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee. (Credit: Debra Berlyn)

Debra Berlyn is the president of Consumer Policy Solutions and director of the Consumer Awareness Project. (Credit: Debra Berlyn)

Now, the FCC must charter a course between two main paths. The commission could choose to reclassify broadband services and adopt Title II “common carrier” utility regulations. These regulations currently apply to some landline telephone providers. With this proposed option, broadband services would be subject to the same rules as monopoly telephone service providers were from the 1930s. Taking the other path, the FCC could use its existing authority under Section 706 of the Communications Act to enforce open Internet principles, including bans on blocking and “fast lanes,” on a case-by-case basis.

There is no question that the Internet is critical to consumers. It has brought many important and life-enhancing benefits. Consumers use the Internet for education, news, banking, entertainment, and social and professional networking. Widespread access to advanced broadband connectivity makes it possible for us to find telecommuting opportunities, to take educational courses from our kitchen table, to age in place, and to stay connected with family members and friends from across the country and around the world. We all want to continue to receive the benefits from these online innovations. We also need to have the ability to access the information and services we want, and to access them easily, quickly, and from any location.

During the many months of debate on this issue, some have warned consumers that the great benefits the Internet delivers are now at risk. No on wants to risk the loss of these benefits — and no one wants their online traffic blocked. These warnings have caused great concern for consumers.

There is a way to address these concerns and get to a clearer path. The regulatory approach the government has previously maintained toward the Internet has basically worked. Historically, the government has imposed rules that have encouraged investment and innovation, while leading to more benefits and choices for consumers. The success of this style of regulation — a relatively lighter touch of regulation — has enabled the widespread availability of broadband services and applications. It’s brought us the Internet consumers know and use today. Selecting to enforce the open Internet principles under Section 706 of the Communications Act would continue a regulatory approach that has had positive results — a proven track record of success.

Alternatively, the other path before the FCC of reclassifying under Title II raises greater uncertainty and consequences. There would be new rules, requirements, and costs for broadband service providers (large and small), and also on startups that make software, apps, operating systems, and devices that could negatively impact innovation, investment, and consumers.

When we examine how we got to where we are today in our Internet world, it’s clear to see where we should be going. The FCC most certainly should preserve the open Internet principles under their more progressive Section 706 authority. This approach is best to encourage investment and innovation, but most importantly for the consumers who benefit every day from their online experience.

Debra Berlyn is president of Consumer Policy Solutions and director of the Consumer Awareness Project.

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Are agencies headed toward shared office space? http://fedscoop.com/agencies-headed-toward-shared-office-space/ http://fedscoop.com/agencies-headed-toward-shared-office-space/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:17:45 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64777 GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini said moving agencies isolated in different buildings to "a common federal space is an inevitability." Having a common office space could allow agencies to share certain utilities like security, conference rooms and dining facilities, he said.

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General Services Administration Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini presented his plan to improve GSA during a Tech Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday at the McLean Hilton. (Photo: David Stegon/FedScoop)

General Services Administration Administrator Dan Tangherlini teased the idea of bringing federal agencies together in one common office. (File photo: David Stegon/FedScoop)

It’s an idea that’s been talked about since Lyndon Johnson was president: What if federal agencies, instead of separating themselves into independent building silos, joined together in one location for maximal interaction and collaboration?

Dan Tangherlini, administrator of the General Services Administration, teased the idea Tuesday to a crowd of industry and government officials at ACT-IAC’s 2014 Executive Leadership Conference, saying “we actually think this idea of the federal office building giving way to the common federal space is an inevitability.”

“The idea was to build this big federal office building and put the agencies together,” Tangherlini said. “It was to make it more efficient for the customer interaction. But it was also so that the agencies could share certain utilities like security, conference rooms and dining facilities. What happened over the ’80s and ’90s is we got away from it. We really focused on the individual agency as a specific, very unique entity that had its own building requirements.”

Really, though, he said most federal buildings don’t differ from one to the next.

“I’ve been in hundreds of federal buildings now, and I’m having a really hard time describing why one is so unique, why it’s so different from that one and they need to be separated,” Tangherlini said.

GSA, in charge of federal real estate, has acted as a sort of model for modern federal offices. At its 1800 F St. headquarters in the District of Columbia, the agency is set up with an open office workspace in which employees for the most part don’t have assigned desks or office units. Staffers instead hotel the spaces when they need them for increased ability to collaborate and the freedom to work where needed throughout the building. As of late, that program has come under scrutiny for security concerns.

Tangherlini said GSA is a major believer in the idea of “liquid” office space and has invited “as many as 20 people from any agency that wants to try the 1800 F [St.] experience to come over and live in the wild with us. We’ll give you laptops, we’ll connect you to your IT system and you can experience it.”

The Johnson-era idea of putting all agencies in one or several buildings would be a massive undertaking. But Tangherlini said federal government could start slow, and he said GSA could be the pilot offering its space.

“We have expansive authorities for out-lease and co-location,” he said. “So the question is if we do that, do we have to do it with us being completely evacuated out of the building? Could we share space? Could there be opportunities for that? We’ve talked to [the Small Business Administration] and [the National Economic Council] about the idea of leveraging federal office space for that purpose.”

The idea of shared office space is a hat-tip to the private sector’s immensely popular idea of co-working space and startup incubators, in which many small companies come together to share a single office, making it more affordable and opening them up for collaboration.

That latter benefit is something that would help federal agencies tremendously, especially in their IT pursuits. Earlier in his discussion, Tangherlini said federal agencies could do a much better job at shared services, using the expertise of other agencies to provide tools instead of trying to recreate the wheel.

“Figure out those services that are utilities, treat them as utilities and find the agencies that deliver them well,” he said. GSA works with several agencies that provide things like financial management because, as Tangherlini said, that’s not the agency’s mission. “GSA’s job isn’t to be a financial manager. Our job is to provide buildings, to provide acquisition and provide technology.”

Agencies sharing office space face many concerns, particularly when they have different security efforts. To that he said they could “push the ones with the certain kind of security requirements together and push the ones that have a real customer focus together. It’s really more of a challenge to be solved rather than a problem that will actually combat us from getting there.”

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Unmanned high-tech balloon used in hunt for alleged murderer http://fedscoop.com/unmanned-high-tech-balloon-used-in-pa-alleged-murderer-search/ http://fedscoop.com/unmanned-high-tech-balloon-used-in-pa-alleged-murderer-search/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:57:51 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64776 Since September, authorities have been searching for a man who allegedly gunned down a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper. Now, police are deploying an unmanned aircraft system — a silent, high-tech balloon equipped with cameras to monitor a three-to-five-mile radius — to help with the search.

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This high-tech balloon, equipped with cameras, is on loan to the Pennsylvania State Police from the Ohio Department of Transportation. (Credit: Pennsylvania State Police)

This high-tech balloon, equipped with cameras, is on loan to the Pennsylvania State Police from the Ohio Department of Transportation. (Credit: Pennsylvania State Police)

After more than a month on the trail of murder suspect Eric Frein, authorities in Pennsylvania have yet again taken to the skies for their search — but this time, they’re not using a helicopter.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, the search now includes a large Mylar balloon, classified as an unmanned aircraft system, that contains several cameras that can monitor the ground from the air. The balloon is on loan from the Ohio Department of Transportation, which currently operates UAS under a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a list of COAs obtained by MuckRock’s Shawn Musgrave via the Freedom of Information Act.

Murder Suspect Eric Frein (Credit: FBI)

Murder Suspect Eric Frein (Credit: FBI)

FedScoop reached out to the FAA to confirm that the balloon would still operate under the Ohio DOT’s COA in Pennsylvania, but did not receive a confirmation by publication time.

The balloon resembles a weather balloon, Pennsylvania State Police Public Information Officer Trooper Connie Devens told FedScoop, and is tethered to a stationary point on the ground. In the past month of the search for the fugitive, the state police have used helicopters with thermal imaging to examine the dense, wooded area where Frein may be hiding; however, through the use of the balloon, the state police will cut costs and provide a silent way to conduct the search.

According to information about the balloon provided by its manufacturer, the maximum airborne height is 480 feet. Once airborne, the cameras on board can detect a single person in a diameter up to three miles. It can also detect groups of people and vehicles in a range of five miles.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is volunteering its time to operate the balloon, but the Pennsylvania State Police is paying for the helium, according to the spokeswoman. The state police did not provide an amount per day spent on the balloon or a comparison to the price of using a helicopter in the search, but did report that the cost “is substantially less.”

Authorities launch the balloon in Henrysville, Pa., as a part of their search for Eric Frein. (Credit: Pennsylvania State Police)

Authorities launch the balloon in Henryville, Pennsylvania, as a part of their search for Eric Frein. (Credit: Pennsylvania State Police)

“At times the balloon’s observation can be in lieu of helicopters; however, the balloon was not intended to replace the helicopters, it is in addition to them,” Devens said.

The balloon will be flown at the Alpine Mountain Ski & Ride Center in Henryville, Pennsylvania, nearly six miles from Frein’s hometown of Canadensis, Pennsylvania, where a lot of the search has already occurred. The flight location is also just over 11 miles from the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport. According to WNEP, a local news station in northeastern Pennsylvania, the balloon’s presence near the Paradise and Price Township line coincide with where leads and tips about Frein’s location direct them.

On Sept. 12, Frein allegedly shot and killed Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County. Frein was identified as the only suspect three days later, and has been on the run ever since. On Sept. 18, the FBI added Frein to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, bringing the reward for information leading to his arrest up to $175,000.

All together, Frein is charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, criminal homicide, criminal attempt to commit homicide in the first degree, criminal homicide of a law enforcement officer and criminal attempt to commit criminal homicide of a law enforcement officer.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, no other unmanned aircraft systems have been used in the search. Devens declined to comment on other technology being used in the search.

The Frein case is not the first time in recent memory that authorities have used UAS in a search. In September, authorities used rotocraft drones to look for a missing woman in Texas.

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CIO on GPO’s IT model: ‘Best of both worlds’ http://fedscoop.com/cio-on-gpos-it-model-best-of-both-worlds/ http://fedscoop.com/cio-on-gpos-it-model-best-of-both-worlds/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:51:50 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64755 The Government Printing Office doesn’t have to follow mandates sent down from the White House. In fact, without an order from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency instead has the flexibility to pursue the projects that work for their agency and their budget.

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The Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. Source: GPO

The Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. (Credit: GPO)

As a legislative agency, the Government Printing Office is not subject to the information technology mandates sent down by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t follow the executive branch’s trends, GPO’s Chief Information Officer Chuck Riddle told FedScoop in a phone interview

“We try to follow those things where we can because they’re mandated in the executive branch because they’re the best practices,” Riddle said. “We’d like to do those things as well wherever we can.”

Riddle, who comes from an executive branch background as the former chief technology officer and associate chief information officer at the Agriculture Department, said he wasn’t ready for what working at a legislative agency would be like.

“When I first came [to GPO], I don’t think I completely understood what it meant to be a legislative branch agency. I came from the executive branch, and when I found out that legislative branches aren’t required to do some of those things that OMB mandates, I figured that was the best of both worlds,” Riddle said. “You’re not given these unfunded mandates and told you have to do it. You get to sort of cherry pick and then you just go forth and conquer.”

One of those initiatives comes from a 2010 OMB memorandum from then-federal CIO Vivek Kundra to consolidate federal agency data centers to reduce costs of hardware and to cut down on environmental impact. Riddle said GPO would follow suit.

Chuck Riddle, CIO, GPO

Chuck Riddle, CIO, GPO

“We’re going from three data centers down to two, and at the same time, virtualizing the data center environment, as a lot of places are, so we can shrink the physical footprint of our servers and not have to have so many physical servers and get by with smaller footprints,” Riddle said. “Over time, once we do that, the electricity consumption, the cooling, all of those things become less of an issue and less of a cost.”

However, even though GPO can follow the example of the executive branch, that doesn’t mean it is always an easy sell.

“The challenge is that if you don’t have the mandate, sometimes it’s really tough to get things done,” Riddle said. “It does make it more challenging for CIOs [in the legislative branch] to stay on top of those things without having the heavy hand to motivate agencies like they have on the executive branch.”

The lack of a heavy-handed mandate can make change and innovation difficult for agencies like GPO, which for decades had been focused on a physical print product until moving the majority of its operations to the digital sphere in recent years.

In addition to publishing printed copies of the congressional record and the President's budget, GPO also provides digital access to its materials through apps and its website. Source: GPO

In addition to publishing printed copies of the congressional record and the president’s budget, GPO also provides digital access to its materials through apps and its website. (Credit: GPO)

“With anything, [data center consolidation] is a change, so you’ve got to make sure that you’re slow and methodical about it, but I think we’re making progress on that,” Riddle said. “It’s an art, not a science, as I see it. Sure, you’d love to modernize everything and be done with it, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right approach either.”

Riddle is no stranger to change — earlier this month, the agency announced it was in the process of migrating its email to a cloud-based system. Although the agency was not the first one governmentwide to embrace cloud-based email, it was the first legislative agency to do so.

The migration is going well, Riddle said. The agency is on track to have all of its systems migrated by the end of the year.

“We’re methodically moving people to the cloud,” Riddle said. “We just do it in a very methodical, structured way so we don’t disrupt anything as we go, because people get very used to how they’ve always done it, so you want to make sure that as you’re moving folks that you’re phasing it in slowly so that they understand it and that they can become champions to the next people who are coming into the cloud.”

According to Riddle, bringing change and helping change occur permeate a lot of what the CIO role is, in addition to the financial end of the job.

“As a CIO, I’m really supposed to be a change agent, and I try to act in that capacity,” Riddle said. “It’s really just trying to do more with less, I guess. We’re not a huge agency, but I think we produce some pretty interesting things with the technologies that we do have. You can’t be, as a CIO of an agency, introducing technology that’s three or four years old. It’s a balancing act, I think.”

It was unclear if other legislative agencies were following the executive branch’s model. FedScoop reached out to the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress, but did not receive a comment before publication time. Lisa Hoppis, the CIO of the Congressional Research Service, declined to comment.

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Avoiding downtime ‘isn’t rocket science,’ says Solarwinds’ LaPoint http://fedscoop.com/solarwinds-chris-lapoint-network-downtime/ http://fedscoop.com/solarwinds-chris-lapoint-network-downtime/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:51:00 +0000 http://fedscoop.com/?p=64748 IT operations staff and information security staff at federal agencies should communicate to ensure damage mitigation systems are are simple as possible, Chris LaPoint, vice president of public sector at SolarWinds, said.

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SolarWinds’ Chris LaPoint has some advice for agency IT staffers looking to limit frustrations with their network. (Credit: iStockphoto.com)

Chris LaPoint, vice president of product management at SolarWinds, gets the essence of what runs through IT practitioners’ heads when they need to fix a problem on their network: It was working yesterday. It’s not working today. What the heck changed?

When dealing with federal agencies, there is often a lot to unpack with that line of thinking. Thin staffing, limited budgets and lack of full network knowledge can often cause a boatload of related headaches. LaPoint said it doesn’t have to be this way, and he recently offered FedScoop some advice government IT professionals can use when avoiding network downtime in the future.

A Gartner study earlier this year measured that by 2015, 80 percent of outages impacting “mission-critical services” will be caused by internal people and processes, with more than 50 percent of those caused internal factors: change, configuration or release integration, and hand-off issues.

Since agencies are often dealing with large networks, LaPoint said it’s crucial for IT professionals to keep damage mitigation systems as simple as possible, breaking down massive changes into manageable chunks for a team to execute.

“It order to detect what changed, I think you have to have a solid backup strategy with a lot of space left in configuration,” LaPoint told FedScoop. “This is not rocket science. But I think what you find within federal government agencies is there are a lot of times where there isn’t a full picture of what their environment looks like.”

To bridge this disconnect, LaPoint said it’s vital that IT operations staff and information security staff communicate as much as possible to take advantage of practices that may already be in use.

“If you look at information security and the importance of automation, IT ops has been doing that sort of work for a long time,” LaPoint said. “They’ve been gathering the same data that info security guys would love to use, but the info security guys end up building their own tools or surviving by asking IT ops on a periodic basis for that data.”

LaPoint said this sort of thinking is creeping into federal agencies but hasn’t completely set in. He points to a recent survey SolarWinds conducted that found IT professionals considered automation and information security two separate focus areas.

“There needs to be some convergence of those two,” LaPoint said. “I think there is an evolution of thinking that needs to happen from the traditional way of looking at information security as a periodic event to continuous monitoring. There are definitely a lot of agencies thinking about this, but there are a lot that aren’t. They are looking at it a separate thing versus looking at how IT ops and information security can really come together to move faster.”

LaPoint understands that introducing new ways of thinking is immensely tough, given all that agency professionals must cope with. However, as technology changes and risks to network downtime grow inside and outside of systems, it’s integral that agencies consider an evolution in their methods.

“It’s no longer a world where you can be a network engineer and just only care about network engineering,” LaPoint said. “You’ve got to understand to blended problem that is IT today.”

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