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Kent talks TMF, multi-year modernization

A month after leaving her role as Federal CIO, Suzette Kent is back for an interview with FedScoop about some of the biggest challenges the federal government faces in achieving meaningful digital transformation. One of the biggest barriers is the existing funding model for long-term modernization projects. In the discussion, she explained how trying to fit large-scale, multi-year modernization projects into one-year budget cycles can often lead to the short-changing of true digital transformation. “It is a fact that most technology projects take more than a year. And they certainly take more time to execute in the government perspective, when you look at the timeframe for acquisition, and all the things that you have to do along the path of a project,” even for something simple, Kent said. She also discussed what she thinks is necessary for the Technology Modernization Fund to have a major impact in government. Billy Mitchell spoke to Kent.

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DIU launches governmentwide drone-buying program

The Defense Innovation Unit has launched an acquisition program for governmentwide drone purchases. Called Blue sUAS, the program will launch in September on the General Services Administration’s Multiple Award Schedule to give agencies an easy way to purchase drones that have been vetted and cleared for use. The companies in the new program are Altavian, Parrot, Skydio, Teal and Vantage Robotics. The idea is the contract will give agencies an alternative to Chinese-made drones, which the government fears pose cybersecurity risks. Jackson Barnett has the news.

Soldiers talking to robots

In its larger pursuit of intelligent robots acting as “teammates” for soldiers, the Army has a new idea: It wants soldiers to be able to talk robots, and vice versa. Researchers are developing a voice-controlled “dialog system” called Joint Understanding and Dialogue Interface (JUDI), which uses natural language processing to allow two-way, hands-free communication between a soldier and robotic technology. “We want to just prove that robots can interpret language,” Matthew Marge, an Army Research Lab scientist working on the JUDI project, said in an interview. More from Jackson.

Team behind Federal Data Service set to meet

The team tasked with building the Federal Data Service is set to finally meet, FedScoop has learned. The Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building will host virtual and live-streamed meetings in the coming weeks, with the 25-member panel planning to move “quickly and rather substantively” to improve how federal agencies access, link and protect data, said Lucas Hitt, designated federal official for the committee. COVID-19 disrupted the committee from launching any earlier. And now, there's a good chance that data related to the coronavirus and its economic effects will be a big focus in the upcoming meetings. Dave Nyczepir has the story.

Brian Harrell out at DHS

A senior DHS official who has led major cybersecurity exercises, as well as a security team at the Super Bowl, submitted his resignation Thursday. A former electric sector executive, Brian Harrell joined DHS in December 2018 and has been the face of the agency’s work on drone security and other key issues. His departure follows that of another senior federal official, Grant Schneider, who announced his resignation from the White House earlier this week. CyberScoop has the story.

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