DOD’s Ethical Principles Challenges for AI

The Department of Defense issued five Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence(AI) this February. They are Responsible, Equitable, Traceable, Reliable and Governable. The DoD AI principles were developed by the Defense Intelligence Board. The recommendations were developed over a 15-month period by AI leaders in government and the private sector and were based on existing Law of War principles and statutes. They are designed to address new ethical issues raised by AI.

The DoD General Counsel, Paul C. Ney Jr., has commented on the importance of applying the existing principles of the law of war to new legal issues and in particular AI saying that ““The advantage of artificial intelligence and other autonomy-related emerging technologies is the use of software or machine control of the systems rather than manual control by a human being.”

DoD has established an AI policy team in the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) under the command of Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan. Shanahan quickly hired attorney Alka Patel to head the policy team implementing the principles. Patel had been the executive director of the Risk & Regulatory Services Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Implementation of the DoD principles

Among the first steps taken by using the new DoD principles at JAIC by Patel and her colleagues:

  • Including the principles as applicable standards in requests for proposals, including a May award to Booz Allen Hamilton.
  • JAIC participation, through Patel, in a Responsible AI subcommittee, part of a larger DoD working group writing a broader DoD policy document.
  • Establishment of pilot program, “Responsible AI Champions,” bringing together a broad group inside JAIC to look at the principles throughout the entire cycle of AI programs.
  • Early work on the creation of a Data Governance Council within the U.S. government and other countries.

Issues to be looked

Issues to be looked at carefully while applying ethical principles to real-world business and national security issues.

  • Clarification of the terms used in the principles, including, but not limited to, what is “appropriate,” in the principle of responsibility and “unintended bias” in the second principle of equity.
  • As acknowledged by Ney, Stuart Russell and many others, what will be the scope of human control of AI involved in military applications?
  • As also broadly discussed, what will be the scope of ultimate human accountability for AI decision-making?
  • And finally, the overarching problem about “moral machines”: “what to think about machines that think.”

Implications for the private sector

For the Defense contractors and the private sector, the implications are immense. The Pentagon is continuing to litigate issues regarding its $10 billion cloud computing contract between Microsoft (which won the contract in 2019) and Amazon and others, which are contesting the contract.

References:

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2091996/dod-adopts-ethical-principles-for-artificial-intelligence/

The Department of Defense plans to modernize acquisition following the impacts of COVID-19

Microsoft wins DoD's controversial JEDI Cloud contract | Federal News  Network

In the midst of the social, economic and political impacts the pandemic, COVID-19, has brought to the American population; the Department of Defense has committed to updating its acquisition system for the post-pandemic era. Doing so by implementing the DoD Directive 5000.01 on September 8, 2020, and by so adapting the departments roles and responsibilities for its acquisition framework. As some businesses have adjusted to the pandemic with, flexible scheduling and teleworking, so too has the Department of Defense. Their plans include digital engineering and software modernization.

            This follows the trend of the federal government’s acquisition modernization, using the new acquisition platform SAM.gov as reference, the Acquisition strategies of the United States government are all moving towards increased digitalization.

            The spur for digitalization stems from realizations created by covid-19. The Department of Defense believes it has demonstrated its capabilities of responsible spending, Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen Lord, said during the September 9 Defense News Conference, “COVID gave us a burning platform to demonstrate we could be very responsible in terms of taxpayer dollars, very responsible in terms of security of warfighter, but move at speed of relevance to get things done”. This confidence is a result of the department’s ability to absorb the adverse effects COVID-19 has had on its subcontractor businesses, be it production or giving employees time off. Since the pandemic hit, the Defense Management Agency and Defense Logistics Agency have been tracking around 22,000 companies that the Department of Defense works with. And while the DoD has managed to assist in subduing those effects, Ellen Lord believes “they’re going to start showing up. soon”. She later followed up this statement within the press conference saying “When we get to the point where we’re having payments and incentive fees and award fees earned, and if we haven’t done the deliveries, that’s where you’re going to see the hit”. Lord said companies should account for the hits they have taken during the period, March 15 through September 15, following which they should submit proposals showing those impacts for The Department of Defense to assess at once.

            The projected time period for this accounting is six months, Lord said. Roughly half the time will be for the RFPs to flow down the supply chain to subcontractors. The second half will be when the Department of Defense reviews all proposals to determine what may be reimbursable. All proposals would be examined before any spending occurs, as opposed to a standard que’d system. The DoD has been calling for more money for contractors since early summer 2020. The expected amount would be between $10 and $20 Billion USD.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/ability-to-work-from-home.htm

Network modernization requirements in federal agencies

Federal agencies are facing monumental challenges with the technology requirements and upgrades needed to maintain operations and lead in the current environment. A number of capabilities that were earmarked in the fiscal 2021 IT budget are among them: retiring legacy systems, cloud migration, artificial intelligence, mobile computing, and data analytics to name a few. As the government looks forward to a future where operations are restored to normal – whatever that may look like – it will be important for agencies to prioritize.

One way to prioritize is to, first, upgrade network infrastructure, the hardware and architecture that supports all internet-connected devices. These systems of converged cables and wireless access points, multi-gigabit ethernet switches and routers are the backbone of five of the most important next-generation technologies – all of which are among the areas that could significantly increase in deployment later in 2020.

5G

The 5G cellular network is necessary for powering next-generation capabilities such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), 4K video streaming, as well as augmented and virtual reality. 5G is expected to make its true roll-out later this year after radio spectrum and 5G-enabled devices become more available. With speeds considerably faster than 4G, the next generation of cellular will be able to transmit data at the highest rates, enabling faster and more reliable decision-making.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 will provide agencies with increased bandwidth and faster internet speeds, enabling them to take advantage of the abundance of data they store and maintain. A survey by IHS Markit (now Omdia) last year said companies estimated that more than 64% of access points purchased by 2021 will be Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 has a four-fold capacity increase over the current Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 APs, which is important for supporting high-bandwidth applications. Wi-Fi 6 is expected to be 50% of all IP traffic in the next two years, driven primarily by bring-your-own-device and IoT capabilities.

CBRS Spectrum

Approved as a public-private spectrum-sharing agreement, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is 150 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band that improves wireless coverage and capacity, making it ideal for in-building, public space and industrial IoT wireless requirements. CBRS supports both 4G and 5G cellular and allows for private LTE networks, giving agencies total network control, stronger security and better interoperability. It also supports a wide-range of new, mission-critical and low-latency IoT applications.

IoT

These new connectivity options increase the deployment of converged IoT and edge devices such as IP security cameras, LED lighting and 4K/HD digital signage. With IoT, agencies can gain tremendous insight from data collected from sensors and other devices that connect – and report back to – a central location. This is the idea behind the smart cities concept, where any number of operations – from water and electrical usage to traffic lights and vehicles – can be outfitted with sensors to pull data that gives real-time visibility of operations, trends and anomalies to make cities safer and more efficient. While having so many devices increases the cyberattack surface, IoT risks can be mitigated by key technologies including encryption mechanisms and electronic key management.

Cloud

Similar to 5G, commercial platform-as-a-service cloud makes most other technologies possible. Cloud’s ability to scale up or down quickly and to connect at the edge, from anywhere, are huge incentives, as well as its support for large-scale data sharing and storage. Only with cloud can federal agencies employ the full capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive actionable data.

In a recent address on Capitol Hill, Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology (IT) category in the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) talked about the importance of network and IT modernization to enable a more efficient government. Zielinski said that he “cannot overstate the importance of modernizing while transitioning.” This includes educating “agencies about the immense promise of 5G” and that GSA will soon “release a 5G strategy that outlines IT category activities and goals for its adoption across government.” GSA is pushing for network modernization; agencies need to follow.

There is no lack of options when it comes to IT budgets, but by prioritizing modernization, including these five technologies, federal agencies will be investing in solutions that can be used for years to come. That said, in order to take full advantage of these capabilities, agencies need to modernize their IT and network infrastructure. In doing so, government agencies will be in a better position to adjust to new and emerging requirements.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://www.splunk.com/en_us/form/four-pillars-of-government-it-modernization.html?utm_campaign=google_amer_usa_en_search_generic_pubsec&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=Four_Pillars_Of_Govt_WP_EN&utm_term=%2Bfederal%20%2Bit%20%2Bmodernization&_bk=%2Bfederal%20%2Bit%20%2Bmodernization&_bt=310891581830&_bm=b&_bn=g&_bg=64613956231&device=c&gclid=Cj0KCQjws536BRDTARIsANeUZ58AlraaQ3gB_HLb-OD906wA2SvuNuvEwROvfML8-gVrY6pUUv3oh-AaAjU5EALw_wcB

https://www.govloop.com/the-need-for-network-modernization-in-the-federal-government/

Data Democracy

“Data democracy” term is a methodological framework of values and actions that benefit and minimize any harm to the public or the typical user. It can also be defined as making digital information accessible to the average non-technical user of information systems, without having to require the involvement of IT. Data democratization has been a trending topic amongst CIOs, CDOs, CTOs, CEOs, government leaders, and elected officials for the way it enables institutions to be more agile, accountable, innovative and aligned with their goals.

To empower government workforces, data can be used to enable front-line workers with independent authority to make decisions and solve problems in real-time. Traditional experiences with local, state and federal agencies were mono-directional. Citizens, residents or organizations make requests, submit cases or apply for permits only to wait and trust that the system is at work. Other times tickets get escalated and move through opaque processes that are unwieldy and outdated by modern standards. Putting data in the hands of front-line workers empowers them to solve more challenges faster at the point of intake. This creates benefits for both employees and customers. It engenders higher employee satisfaction by providing greater autonomy to workers who feel they are making a difference first-hand, and additionally, it will also elevates the customer experience, allowing government agencies and civil servants to truly serve citizens, businesses and constituents. According to the 2019 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 91% of respondents reported that they are seeking ways to do their jobs better. Creating data democracy in government agencies will help restore shaken trust in public institutions as constituents and stakeholders see their government being more transparent, reachable and responsive to their needs.

The 2020 Census count data will provide a clear and better understanding of our people, allow us to intersect demography data with other information and ultimately inform everything from investing in schools and roads to planning for future disasters. The recent COVID-19 crisis has shown just how important it is to have accurate data on where people live, who they are, and how close they are to others or to resources.

 The federal government owns the most important data on science, epidemiology, climate change, commerce, raw resource utilization and more. Federal research agencies are staffed with some of the brightest minds, they nevertheless function better still when matched with the researchers, innovators, thinkers, and capital from private research institutions, private enterprises and other non-governmental actors. Comprehensive data and the ability to leverage it across government will allow decision-makers to plan and build a better future for all citizens.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Reference:https://www.nextgov.com/ideas/2020/08/data-democracy-data-age/167781/

Annual federal contract spending reaches new records

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federal government into emergency spending mode, agencies—including the Defense Department—were on pace to blow past the single-year contract spending record of $598 billion set in fiscal 2019.

As of Aug. 5, the federal government has obligated $438 billion in spending, with agencies expected to unload almost $200 billion more before the close of the 2020 fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis. The government typically spends about one-third of all money appropriated by Congress in its fourth quarter—July, August and September—since most money unspent is returned to the Treasury.

“We’ve been saying at the end of fiscal 2020, total government spending is likely to be around $630 billion,” Daniel Synder, director of government contracts analysis at Bloomberg Government, told Nextgov. “That was before we factored anything related to the CARES Act or COVID-19 spending.”

Synder said the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March could add another $10 billion to $20 billion to the government’s total discretionary spending in fiscal 2020—much of it on networking capacity, bandwidth and telework services—which would put the government’s total discretionary spending to $650 billion or more.

The government’s discretionary spending has increased significantly since 2015, driven largely by the Defense Department. Discretionary spending at the Army, Navy and Air Force each jumped approximately 10% in fiscal 2019. Since 2015, annual defense spending on contracts increased $122 billion—totaling $404 billion in fiscal 2019—while civilian agencies spent some $193 billion on goods and services in fiscal 2019. Agencies that deal with health care, including the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments, saw the largest increases in discretionary spending among civilian agencies. Conversely, the departments of Energy, State and Homeland Security saw their discretionary spending obligations decrease.

The fourth quarter spending surge is likely to drive record technology spending as well. Bloomberg Government’s analysis estimates agencies will obligate about $28 billion on unclassified IT contracts in the fourth quarter, about $1 billion more than agencies spent last year.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2020/07/20/spending-on-contracts-drives-growth-in-federal-defense-dollars-to-states

https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2020/08/annual-government-spending-approaches-historic-territory/167474/

Secret of success in government contracting world.

Government contracts may be lucrative for big companies, but for many small businesses, they’re not. That’s because few small firms win them at all. Only 22.5% of federal contracts go to small businesses and a dismal 4% are awarded to firms owned by women, according to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) from 2012.

That doesn’t mean these deals are not worth going after. They can be very lucrative–or you wouldn’t see so many big companies going after them. For women entrepreneurs, winning such contracts is a well-tested way to create a high-growth business, according to research by American Express OPEN, which found that 42% of women-owned small business contractors generate annual revenue greater than $1 million.

Prepare to invest. Winning a government contract takes more prep work than you may think. Women-owned firms that succeed in winning contracts devote an average of $112,000 in time and money preparing to go after them, according to Weeks. For male-owned firms, the investment is even higher: about $137,000. Of course, this is all relative. If you’re chasing a big contract that you win, whatever you spend could pay for itself several times over.

Tailor your services. Federal agencies don’t limit their purchases to things like airplane parts. However, it’s not always easy to sell what you offer, whether that is meeting planning services or a book you published. Success contractors adapt what they sell to federal requirements. “You have to be selling what a federal agency is buying,” says Weeks. “Not all businesses are the right kind to be selling to a federal agency.”

Find a mentor. Try attending networking events and information sessions for contractors that government agencies hold, so you don’t have to wade through all of the fine print on your own. “When you don’t know someone, who has been in federal contacting, it’s much harder to figure out if there’s something for you,” says Weeks. The SBA offers a program for women entrepreneurs called ChallengeHer that will be holding events across the country this year. The SBA is collaborating with Women Impacting Public Policy, which has pushed for greater access to government contracts for women entrepreneurs, and American Express OPEN.

Diversify your clients. Among small businesses that are active federal contractors, 19% of revenue comes from federal government contracts, on average, while 14% comes from state and local contracts. One reason to vary your clients is it insulates you against cutbacks in any one agency.

Try again. When asked how frequently they had bid on a prime contract or subcontract over the last three years, women business owners who had won active contracts had put in five prime contract bids and three subcontract bids.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/contracting/2020/07/success-in-the-contracting-world-is-not-just-about-winning-bids/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2014/06/30/the-secret-to-winning-government-contracts-isnt-what-you-think/#7308c3d1152e

Sabre88 Awarded Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Training Support Services contract with the United States Coast Guard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Benjamin Bratton

Sabre88, LLC.

Tel.: (973) 321-4886

Fax: (973) 833-0286

info@sabre88.com

www.sabre88.com

Sabre88 Awarded Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Training Support Services contract with the United States Coast Guard

The award comes as a follow-on to an existing contract with the United States Coast Guard, further demonstrating the capability to provide reliable support services to the Federal Government as it has since 2008.

Newark, N.J., July 31, 2020 – Sabre88, LLC, nationally recognized firm and provider of acquisition support services to the federal government, was recently awarded a five-year follow-on contract to deliver training support services to the United States Coast Guard. This comes during unprecedented times and is a testament to the quality of service that Sabre88 prides itself on providing to its customers and clients.

Sabre88 will provide acquisition training support services for the Department of Homeland Security including executing existing training modules along with the development and customization of new training modules specifically for the United States Coast Guard.

The effort to provide acquisition support services to the United States Coast Guard will include training sessions at eight locations across the country from Washington DC to California. Sabre88 will also be incorporating expanded virtual training sessions to accommodate the specific needs of the United States Coast Guard during the current pandemic.

“Sabre88 is excited to expand upon its relationship with the United States Department of Homeland Security with the award of this contract,” said Robert Cottingham, Jr., CEO of Sabre88. “We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate Sabre88’s dedication to providing precise, swift solutions to the federal government no matter the circumstances.”

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HHS Modernization

Department of Health and Human Services is the U.S Government’s agency for protecting the health and providing essential human services. Its basic mission is to enhance the well-being by providing effective health and human services sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.

Recently, as pandemic took over across the U.S, the Department of Health and Human Services was doing more than its name implies. Its non-human side would be a major part of the equation in dealing with an environment almost no one really imagined: Large-scale telework. HHS Chief Information Officer José L. Arrieta said on Federal Monthly Insights — EIS “We upgraded circuit capacity of the HHS network,” and further added “We invested in improving our firewalls and improving our VPN capability across HHS.”

Arrieta’s department is huge, and he likes to say “we’re one of the largest network surfaces on the face of the Earth.” There is a built-in resiliency and redundancy in the HHS network, allowing it to deal with data-sharing traffic or a large cyber-attack.

“From a circuit perspective, from the VPN perspective, we have a series of kind of internally federated network security layers as well. And the interesting thing is that level of resiliency and that flexibility, that type of environment created has been extremely beneficial for us during this time because it gives us options,” Arrietta said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Additionally, Arrieta said , “I think that one of the things that we’re doing with the EIS contract award is we’re focusing on our primary mission space, which is we want to obviously ensure that folks have modern phones, that we’re lowering fixed costs, ensure that network availability exists, and ensure that folks have access to the network, whether they’re accessing it through VPN, O365 or they’re in the office,”

Arrieta is aware that HHS needs to focus on sharing data securely as a data-sharing entity.

“I think that during this pandemic, the one thing we’ve learned about public health is the ability to collect information (and) insight, in terms of what’s happening across the United States in real time, is imperative for a well-coordinated response that will protect human lives. And sharing data rapidly is the other kind of key tenant,” Arrieta said.

As HHS looks to modernize its networks, the need will arise to incorporate the needs of a variety of components, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration — all of which have their own specific needs.

“We are a data-sharing entity. If we were a house, we’d have a million windows and doors,” Arrieta said.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Reference: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/technology-main/2020/07/whats-behind-the-million-windows-and-doors-of-the-hhs-modernization/

EIS at GSA

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Enterprise Infrastructure solutions (EIS) is a comprehensive solution-based vehicle to address all aspects of federal agency IT telecommunications, and infrastructure requirements. GSA announced the award of EIS on July 31, 2017.The EIS program is at present being carried out at the General Services Administration. GSA’s acting deputy assistant commissioner in the federal acquisition service Allen Hill said it is “like a locomotive that you throw coal on and it gets faster”. 

Additionally, Hill also told Federal News Network’s Jason Miller on Federal Monthly Insights-EIS that “We have 208 solicitations that are expected right now”, And nearly 22% of the plan task orders. “That’s 45 out of 208 Fair Opportunities, of which 29 have had task orders by large agencies, 14 of those by medium agencies, and two of them are small agencies.”  And “Agencies are being very deliberate in making their awards. So, they’re taking the extra time,” Hill said on Federal Drive with Tom Temin, to make sure everything is in order, which might also be why there are fewer protests. “But also, the vendors are doing a great job in responding and providing the type of value that is needed for these agencies to make those decisions on what vendor gets selected for that award.”

Meanwhile, vendors waited for the solicitations to come out and for more and more awards to be made over the past several months. The fair opportunity solicitations are being put out to the industry, and the industry is responding. Competition is also present in the market leading to broader base of contractors and so some awards might go to non-incumbents. Creating competition between vendors can result in innovative and better solutions in the services being offered. Hill said “We here at GSA are taking a different approach. We do not want to get into the reactive mode of waiting for the agencies to tell us what they need. We want to be proactive and working with the vendor community and offer those technologies out there. And so, we’re constantly meeting with the vendors to find out what’s new out there to be able to offer.”

“So, we’re trying to be the enablers for them, to not have to be concerned about what those technologies are and making sure that EIS is continuously able to deliver modernized capabilities for the agencies,” Hill said. “And that’s why it’s structured the way it is. It allows us to bring on those technologies so that agents can leverage them, unlike its predecessor, which is a little bit more legacy type approach. It is the old school approach of doing telecommunications. EIS is more of the new way of how telecommunications should be done.”

Author: Chandni Mandaviya

Federal Agencies expected to spend almost $200B on acquisition contracts in Q4 2020

he fourth quarter spending surge is upon us, and it appears the federal acquisition community isn’t just focused on getting money out the door, but request for proposals, too. Agencies are expected to spend $194 billion between now and Sept. 30, according to Bloomberg Government. Departments will spend a big chunk of that total on technology — $28 billion — and on professional services — $32 billion. But this has been a trend for some time.

“The $182 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 spending obligations is about a $7 billion decrease from 2018, but fiscal 2019 represents about a $30 billion increase since 2016,” BGov said in a recent webinar. “Spending in the last month of the fiscal year is usually more than that of July and August combined.” Of that $194 billion expected to go out the door in Q4 2020, BGov estimates that agencies will spend $101 billion in September, the most in one month since 2018 when they spent $99 billion.

Given how much money has to get out the door, BGov said, “Most agencies may give preference to schedules, governmentwide acquisition contracts, set-asides and sole-source contracts in the fourth quarter.” For instance, NASA said agency customers’ fourth quarter spending accounted for 54% of all of its revenue under the SEWP GWAC in 2019, 33% of which came in September alone.

Currently SEWP is 35% ahead of 2019 sales and could reach $8 billion to $9 billion in total obligations in 2020. Over at the National Institutes of Health’s Technology Acquisition Assessment Center (NITAAC), they expect fourth quarter spending to account for 57% of their total revenue for 2020. While the fourth quarter portends to be extra busy, so does the first quarter of fiscal 2021.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil

References: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/pay/2019/12/congress-agrees-to-3-1-federal-pay-raise-in-2020-spending-bill/