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Meet the new head of 18F

The new acting head of 18F Brian Whittaker is the first in the team's short history to come from outside. However, it helps that until recently, Whittaker was the deputy director at the Centers of Excellence, another IT modernization initiative housed — like 18F — within the Technology Transformation Services at the General Services Administration. Whittaker recently sat down with FedScoop to discuss his adjustment to the new role, 18F's similarities to the CoE program and what he has in store while he's executive director. The agency's dependence on Slack and other collaborative tools, he said, is one thing he's had to get used to. Tajha Chappellet-Lanier spoke with Whittaker.

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Inside VA's IT budget request

The Department of Veterans Affairs has asked appropriators for a 12% bump in IT funding for fiscal 2021. VA leaders took to the Hill last week to defend what would be one of the largest increases across the government for IT funding. “I will admit that VA has been underfunded on the IT front through the past several decades,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “We were right at the bottom.” Wilkie's team said the uptick stems from new costs to upgrade the department's IT infrastructure in support of its electronic health record modernization, cloud migration, decommissioning legacy systems and building out systems in support of the MISSION Act, among other things. Jackson Barnett was at the hearing.

MetTel lands 2 EIS task orders in February

MetTel is the first small business on the government’s flagship telecommunications and network modernization contract to win business. The company scored two deals under the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract before the close of February — one with the Social Security Administration for local, long-distance and access management with a ceiling of $253.5 million, and another with the VA for voice services with a ceiling of $127.3 million. Of the 28 task orders awarded to date under EIS, AT&T boasts 11, Verizon eight, CenturyLink seven, and MetTel two, according to federal contracting data. BT Federal, Core Technologies, Granite Telecommunications and Harris Corp. have yet to receive task awards. Dave Nyczepir has more on MetTel's wins.

DOD launches AI policy team

With last week's release of ethical principles for artificial intelligence, the Department of Defense has also created a policy team to help implement the framework. The two-member team, housed in the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, will be led by Alka Patel, a lawyer who has worked in the private sector and academia on AI policy. “She has the right blend of technical, policy, legal and ethics experience,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the JAIC, told reporters Monday of Patel. “In the coming months, she, along with the rest of our JAIC policy team, will be bringing together thought leaders from across the rest of the Department to work on the implementation of AI principles.” Jackson has more on Patel's team.

Exit interview: Renee Wynn on her journey as NASA CIO and what’s next

As NASA CIO Renee Wynn gets set to retire from government after 30 years of service, she caught up with FedScoop for a one-on-one interview to recount her tenure as IT chief of the nation’s space agency — some of which didn’t quite go as expected. She also described what her successor will face as she departs, and explained what she’ll miss the most in leaving government. She also gave a clue to what might come next in her career. "The space economy is blossoming right now," Wynn said. "And it’d be interesting to see where that goes." Read more from Wynn as she departs.

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