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TTC’s Big Data for Defense Symposium Offers Insight into Air Force and Army Programs

It’s become a sure sign of autumn for me when the Technology Training Corporation’s annual big data for defense and homeland security symposium rolls around in September.  TTC always manages to get top-notch speakers from both government and industry and this year’s symposium was no exception.  The event takes up two days and is hosted at the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, VA.  These notes and comments provide a couple of highlights from the symposium.

Jeff Eggers, Chief Technology Officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance of the US Air Force (AF/A2D) began by providing an excellent overview of the Air Force’s recent efforts to enable the use of big data analytics in operational/tactical environments.  Stating up front that the Air Force is reviewing big data concepts and methods to dramatically change the way it processes and uses sensor intelligence, Eggers assured the audience that the goal of Air Force efforts is standardizing sensor data feeds to make all data discoverable.  The standardized data will pass through automated tools and go to so-called “all source” analysts for the first stage of analysis before it is distributed to warfighters for use on the operational level.  An example of such use would be identifying targets for precision fires.

Processing data quickly, however, is the key to making it usable.  To that end the Air Force is dedicating funds to implement what it calls Sensing-as-a-Service.  SensaaS is the concept of making all data from multiple sensors available via a single delivery platform.  The sensors are embedded in a system of systems, like the Distributed Common Ground System-Air Force, and the data and analysis would be made available to users as a web-based service or via a battlespace network.  SensaaS is currently in the research and development stage, but Eggers’ says he’s been assured the concept is workable.  From an industry perspective this suggests that additional investment is coming from the Air Force to field a proof of concept prototype.  Such an approach would be consistent with defense acquisition initiatives to make greater use of prototyping in procurement phases.

Lisa Shaler-Clark, the Deputy Director in Program Manager – Futures at Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), followed Mr. Eggers later in the morning with some fascinating comments on work being done to integrate Army intelligence with the Intelligence Community’s IC IT Enterprise, or ICITE program.  Shaler-Clark noted that Army INSCOM has made great strides moving data from stovepiped systems into an enterprise data warehouse.  This warehouse provides analysts with vastly improved data access, but it has also created a deluge of data for them to deal with.  The solution to that problem for INSCOM has been to host a Hadoop-based cloud analytics system to parse the data.  The data is tagged in multiple ways and then made available for analysis via a number of automated tools.  Data is also integrated into the ICITE and INSCOM is leveraging the NSA’s cloud for additional storage.

Finally, from the sound of what’s happening there, INSCOM is one of those places you’ll need to visit if your company sells analytics capabilities.  Be aware, though, that Shaler-Clark’s office isn’t interested in capabilities that duplicate what they already have.  They want new capabilities that enable them to do what they cannot already do today.

TTC is planning to follow up this symposium in November with its first conference on the Internet of Things.  This conference, Internet of Things for Defense and National Security, will be held on November 13-14 in Arlington, Virginia.  The line-up of speakers that I've seen so far looks very interesting.  Hope to see you there.



State and Local Regional Top Opportunities for FY 2014

Deltek’s recently published State and Local Regional Top Opportunities for FY 2014 Report shines light on state and local contracting from a regional standpoint, spanning all verticals (health care, social services, justice and public safety, homeland security, transportation and general government). Using the GovWinIQ opportunities database, the free report analyzes the quantity and value of projects in each region across all vertical areas, and also takes a closer look at how the verticals are represented in each of the four regions. The top opportunities highlighted in the report were selected for their representation of major technologies within the six vertical areas and their illustration of state and local contracting as a whole. 

GovWinIQ Active Opportunities and Leads

Key takeaways from our regional analysis of state and local contracting opportunities include:

  • The South has the highest number of projects per region (662) as well as the highest total value of projects per region ($15.2 billion), mainly due to the inclusion of Texas, Virginia and Florida. Southern states, especially Florida, often utilize regional projects and initiatives and later implement them statewide.
  • The Midwest has the highest average value per project ($23.3 million), but the lowest number of total projects (423). Midwest states are innovators for cooperative contracts (WSCA) and many generic term contracts.
  • The Northeast has an interim number of projects (514) as well as interim average value per project ($22.2 million). Northeast states are often early adopters and innovators for federally mandated initiatives.

From a vertical and regional standpoint, key takeaways include:

Justice and Public Safety (JPS) and Homeland Security (HS) Verticals

  • The Northeast has the highest concentration of JPS contracting opportunities
  • In the Midwest, most JPS initiatives occur at the local level (Ohio, Ill., Wis.)
  • FirstNet will be a huge driver for state broadband initiatives nationwide

Health Care (HC) and Social Services (SS) Verticals

  • Eighty-three percent of active HC/SS opportunities are for statewide systems
  • Consortiums are increasingly popular nationwide for social services IT systems, including WIC MIS, SNAP/TANF EBT, and UI systems
  • Most local-level HC/SS opportunities are for electronic health/medical records or vital records

General Government (GenGov) Vertical

  • The South has the most active opportunities in the GenGov vertical (35.4 percent), followed by the West (24.6 percent), Northeast (21.6 percent), and Midwest (18.3 percent)
  • Data center consolidation/modernization, disaster recovery services, server virtualization, and cloud services are expected to be popular technologies/services procured over the next few years
  • California, Illinois and Texas have the most active GenGov opportunities, while active GenGov opportunities out of Pennsylvania, Virginia and California have the highest total value

Deltek is hosting a free webinar on the State and Local Regional Top Opportunities for FY 2014 Report on November 7, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST. The webinar will delve into all three state and local verticals, providing insight into some specific projects and overall trends for fiscal year 2014. To register for the webinar, please click here!



Continuous Monitoring Program Stalled, New Policy Forthcoming

In August 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued awards to seventeen vendors for a potential $6 billion contract to support a government-wide network threat monitoring program. On the heels of those announcements, the program implementation faced hurdles around legislation and budget. While progress seems to have been stalled during the shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is preparing to issue new policy providing direction to agencies on implementing federal information system continuous monitoring (FISCM).

Part of a massive effort, DHS’s Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) program will provide information technology tools and continuous monitoring as a services (CMaaS) to combat threats on government civilian networks. The program aims to establish a common set of tools and services in place aligned with national and industry standards. These capabilities would enable agencies to be more responsive to network anomalies.

The core capabilities for DHS’s continuous monitoring fell into five areas: hardware asset management, software asset management, vulnerability management, configuration management, and anti-virus. The continuous monitoring program outlined several approaches, including a service-based solution. These CMaaS solutions will be based upon NIST standards including a number of guidelines set out in NIST’s 800 series of special publications.

DHS received $183 million from Congress in 2013 to support financing this effort for many agencies.  Although Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) were awarded out of DHS’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program, the contracts will be run by the General Services Administration (GSA). Earlier this month, the momentum reportedly stalled. Vendors expecting the release of a request for quote (RFQ) under the contract last week are continuing to wait for further action. The RFQ was expected to address agencies’ requirements for information technology inventory management tools for both hardware and software.

In the meantime, new information security policy from OMB is in the works to clarify the types of systems and data that are monitored. Recent reports suggest that the policy has been ready for a few weeks but officials have withheld the release pending further review. At over ten pages, the policy is expected to offer comprehensive guidance for federal information system continuous monitoring (FISCM).

Amid numerous recent cancellations of government events, an upcoming CDM workshop was announced. Scheduled for November 6, 2013, the event will explore threats to federal systems, leveraging diagnostics and monitoring to improve information security, as well as use cases and examples.

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on Twitter @FIAGovWin.

Recapping the 2013 WIC Technology and Program Integrity Conference

The National Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Association (NWA) held its biannual WIC technology conference Sept. 17-20, 2013, at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Texas. New this year, the conference incorporated program integrity into its traditionally technology-centric agenda. With a theme of “Empowering Minds for a Better Future,” sessions focused on implementing electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems, enhancing management information systems (MIS), the value of data mining, benefits of WIC mobile applications, and the increasing role of technology in vendor management and program integrity.

There was no shortage of presentations, demonstrations or buzz about EBT systems. With the October 1, 2020, deadline to implement EBT systems, states still in the planning stages are really starting to sink their teeth into the process. There was a lot to be said about states that have already implemented EBT, and WIC agency officials were very interested in talking to these states’ representatives to learn about the EBT implementation process and the possibility of transferring their EBT system. Jerilyn Malliet, chief of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) State Technology Branch, reported that 72 percent of states are in some stage of EBT, be it planning or implementation (i.e. they have an approved Implementation Advanced Planning Document [IAPD]). This represents a 22 percent increase from the number reported at the 2011 WIC Technology Conference. Of the 90 individual WIC programs nationwide, 34 are in the planning phase, 21 in the implementation phase, and 10 are rolled out statewide.

Data mining was another hot topic at this year’s conference. The data mining capabilities of an EBT system could not be realized with paper vouchers. With EBT, state agencies are able to collect and analyze many facets of client redemption down to a granular level. For example, Michigan uses data from its EBT system to identify which local WIC clinics or retails are over-issuing specific products and can then use this data to mitigate the problem, thus improving program integrity. In Kentucky, CDP is partnering with the state to develop a standalone WIC data warehouse that collects and houses data from their WIC Direct EBT solution as well as any Universal Interface capable EBT system in the state. Like its WIC Direct EBT solution, CDP is embracing the “build it once” mentality for its business intelligence solution and hopes it can one day be transferred to other state agencies and used in other public assistance programs. As EBT systems become more prevalent, and data analytics technology more advanced, I envision WIC state agencies will increasingly look to vendors to build and deploy data mining solutions for their WIC programs.

A comprehensive recap of the WIC Technology & Program Integrity Conference is available for download here.


Balancing Security and Capability Remains Challenge for Mobile Adoption

The Mobile Work Exchange held its fall 2013 town hall meeting on September 12, 2013. The conference explored strategies for deploying a more mobile workforce, offering insight from over 20 speakers from both government and industry leadership.
In his opening address, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Rick Holgate noted shifts in technology adoption over the last five to ten years. Holgate, the Assistant Director for Science & Technology and Chief Information Officer, cited findings from two surveys saying, “One thing I think we would all agree on is that the federal workforce is extremely optimistic about the productivity that mobility represents and the potential productivity gains.” Indeed, the impact of mobility spans various areas like productivity, transportation, and real estate. Potential savings estimates range from $12 to $14 billion per year in efficiencies. These untapped areas for efficiency mainly fall into two areas in areas related to increasing workforce productivity and consolidating real estate.
Along with increased mobile capabilities over the past 5 to 10 years, the work environment has evolved. These advances in mobility have introduced new challenges, particularly related to security and privacy. Referencing the Mobile Security Framework, Holgate applauded “agencies that have somewhat different security perspectives and baselines and ways of thinking about security” collaborating to establish a government-wide baseline for mobile security. Traditionally, guidance documents from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have identified security controls but left it up to individual agencies to determine how to apply them. This baseline guidance allows agencies to make progress with mobile adoption efforts, particularly around shared mobile device management solutions.
The theme of security challenges continued throughout the day. In his luncheon keynote, the Air Force’s Major Linus Barloon described various issues he’s encountered related to information security. Challenges persist around identifying ways to improve prevention of security incidents, spill containment, and re-establishing security. Current technology has evolved to where previous approaches, like wiping machines and reintroducing them to computing environments, are no longer considered as effective.
Based on his experience, Barloon suggested that getting devices in the hands of users is only a quarter of the problem around mobility. Noting the numerous contract vehicles and acquisition mechanisms, Barloon observed, “It’s very easy to get that device into your users’ hands.” Once that’s achieved, however, questions arise about governance, extending to legal, ethical, and acceptable uses for devices. With the shift to mobile environments, issues emerge around translating and applying risk management frameworks to mobile devices, determining how to apply risk principles to these devices, and also defining how these devices will factor into continuous monitoring. It’s a balancing act, as Barloon described it. One the one hand, agencies aim to limit risk. On the other, they’re looking to increase operational capability.
In his closing, Holgate suggested the development of the next generation for the Digital Government Strategy is likely to assess agencies in terms of maturity of mobile adoption. This next step would also look to determine how to bring lagging organizations up to speed. Another area for development, Holgate noted, is in establishing metrics for program impact, especially in areas like workforce productivity and quality of citizen services.
The next Mobile Work Exchange session is scheduled for April 10, 2014. More information is available through the event site.
Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ@FIAGovWin.. Follow me on twitter 

Mobile technology in the WIC Program: Day 2 of the WIC Technology and Program Integrity Conference

Day two of the WIC Technology and Program Integrity Conference opened with an energetic presentation on the development of the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) mobile app for the heavily referenced Health Care Provider’s Guide to Breast Feeding. DSHS utilized an existing partnership with Austin Community College to assist with the interface design and utilized the Texas Department of Information Resources’ (DIR) State Cooperative Purchasing Program to secure a contract with Catapult Systems to develop and deploy the app. The goal of the mobile app project was to “trigger” the behavior of breastfeeding and, ultimately, improve public health outcomes.
The presentation proved that the development of a mobile app – a somewhat intimidating venture from a design, development and cost standpoint – is actually quite feasible. Utilizing a “keep it simple, keep it small” approach and leveraging existing partnerships is key to a low-cost, quick-turnaround mobile app project. This presentation and others honed in on the fact that “WIC is moving on a mobile path.”
Deltek will expand on this and other sessions in our full WIC Technology and Program Integrity Conference recap, to be released next week!

WIC Technology & Program Integrity Conference kicks off!

Yesterday kicked off the biannual Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Technology & Program Integrity Conference. Reverend Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA), delivered a powerful message about the urgent need for WIC advocates to contact state congressional representatives and stress fully funding the WIC program in the stopgap bill that must be passed by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. Greenway’s opening statement also urged state agencies to strive for statewide EBT implementation and rollout by 2018, two years prior to the October 2020 federal deadline.
The first general session – an update from the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) – provided latest news on the WIC MIS, EBT and program integrity fronts. Most notable was the exciting announcement that $44 million in funding was recently allocated to WIC state agencies for infrastructure and technology projects for MIS and EBT. At this time, 72 percent of states are in some form of EBT, whether it be planning or statewide rollout. With that, FNS is confident that all states will reach the October 2020 deadline for EBT implementation.
Uncertainty is certainly prevalent at the conference. Most state program officials I spoke with are still in the dark about whether to choose an online of offline solution for WIC EBT. The opening of the exhibit hall proved there are numerous choices out there for states, and vendors are eager to promote their solutions. It was apparent that preliminary discussions with vendors will likely play a large role in guiding the development of RFP requirements for EBT systems in individual states. State representatives have been eager to ask questions of both FNS staff and vendors to help guide them in figuring out their state’s path to EBT rollout.
In addition to several sessions on MIS and EBT systems, the conference agenda features presentations on the critical role of data and data mining, efforts to improve vendor management, the role of mobile in WIC, and effective methods to reduce fraud and abuse of WIC benefits.
Stay tuned for more conference updates!

Recapping the National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD) Conference

As the 2013 National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD) Conference wrapped up, both vendors and state IT officials may have left Charleston, S.C., with one message pounding in their heads: Watch out for storm clouds on the horizon.
Concerns over cybersecurity, employee retention and the pending roll out of FirstNet – the national public safety broadband initiative – dominated this year’s conversation as NASTD officials packed sessions with multiple speakers on each topic. Each subject has been more or less driven by a combination of current events and long-term trends.
The long-awaited wave of retiring baby boomers is finally underway and wreaking havoc on the ability of federal and state agencies to replace experienced personnel and retain institutional memory. After four years of planning and design, federal officials are getting ready to tally the number of states that will opt in to the federal FirstNet broadband plan and those that will build their own network. States received a wakeup call in October 2012 when nearly 4 million social security numbers and credit card data were hacked from South Carolina’s state government. The cyberattack brought to life the warnings that cybersecurity officials in the public and private sector have been quietly raising for years.
Most of the speakers opted to take an awareness approach and attempted to lay out the dire problems and statistics as plainly as possible; not because they were dodging the issues, but often because there are no obvious solutions to these problems. Besides, that wasn’t necessarily their job. Ultimately, these challenges are going to have to be addressed by the people who were sitting in the audience.
The dominant themes among these kinds of conferences for the past few years has been the recession, budget cuts and figuring out how to maintain service levels with fewer resources. The conversation has begun to shift, but the major themes of NASTD 2013 demonstrated that the end of one crisis often provides state IT officials with just enough breathing room to prepare for the next.
Cybersecurity in the age of cloud adoption and the mobile workforce will be one of the preeminent issues state and local governments deal with over the next 3-5 years. The volume and sophistication of attacks directed at state governments is rising at an alarming pace every year, which means that more state CIOs are going to be expected to pursue aggressive security strategies over the next few budget cycles. More attacks similar to the South Carolina hack will ensure that funding and budgets for these areas are robust. Dedicated network penetration and training for staff to help identify common phishing techniques and personnel security measures were two methods that most security officials stressed at the conference.
In the public safety realm, vendors should be on the lookout for another handful of RFIs dealing with FirstNet development and implementation. Whether a state opts in or out of the federal plan, the NTIA foresees a considerable amount of private sector involvement for this project over the next few years, which is good news for vendors nationwide.
For the full version of the National Association of State Technology Director's Conference Recap, click here (subscription required)

Future of Open Data Draws Attention to Innovation, Policy

Representatives from federal agencies, transparency organizations, legislative staffers, technology companies, and activists gathered this month to discuss the future of open data policies. Yet, some agencies have their own initiatives to encourage innovation underway.
On September 10, 2013, the Data Transparency Coalition hosted the nation’s first open data policy conference. The discussion examined the impact of open data and explored opportunities for new tools to streamline processes and target waste, fraud, and abuse. Meanwhile, the government is looking to release the follow on to its Open Government Action Plan, and the floor is open for comments and suggestions on encouraging public participation, improving management of public resources, and achieving effective collaboration to advance public services. Feedback submissions are requested by September 23, 2013.
Even as government, industry, and academia chart steps to open silos within the federal data portfolio, agencies are making strides to achieve great agility by leveraging data. In a recent interview, Dr. Sasi Pillay, Chief Technology Officer for IT, described several programs promoting innovation at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One focuses on engaging individuals outside of NASA. Another focuses on engagement inside the organization by connecting the right NASA employees and staff.
This past April, NASA’s Open Innovation projects completed an activity that engaged over 10,000 people around the world in a 48 hour period to work on 58 different problems. Many of these problems were developed and presented by NASA employees that had encountered challenges they’d been unable to resolve. Over 770 solutions were developed in that 48 hour period, which Pillay considers “a huge amount of success.” Pillay estimates the return on investment (ROI) for NASA was between $10 to 12 million for around $500,000 of investment including logistics and civil service time. The next step for the effort will be to explore the developed solutions internally to determine if they can be implemented.
NASA’s IT Labs program includes an annual poll for ideas and problems from within the organization. This is the 2nd year the activity has been completed, and so far 25 technologies have been identified for further investigation and development.  The aim is for some of these investments to go on to benefit the rest of NASA.
Pillay notes that the challenges of continued declining budget spur two approaches: either reduce services or increase investment in innovation. One key area that received further attention and investment at NASA is mobility. Last year, 20 partners helped to develop a strategy for aggressively embracing and adopting mobile capabilities at NASA. Going forward the agency has 30 actionable small projects, some of which include Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) efforts. To this end, NASA is taking an approach that emphasizes securing data and applications rather than endpoint devices. The focus marks a departure from past approaches that sought to save money by standardizing end-point devices. Now, NASA hopes to accommodate a variety of devices and implement strategies that make information accessible while addressing data and security layer requirements.
In recent years, early investment and aggressive adoption of new technologies has not come without setbacks. This has been especially true of technologies that have prompted agencies to approach and manage data in a new way. Cloud computing adoption, for example, has required continued development of strategies, evaluation of security controls, and operational evaluations. So while, some efforts hold the promise of cost savings or greater agility, it’s critical to ensure governance and adoption strategies are mature before rushing ahead.
For more information on the second National Action Plan (NAP 2.0) and details on submitting responses visit the Open Gov blog.
Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on twitter @FIAGovWin.

APCO International 2013 Conference Recap

The 2013 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference was held August 18-21 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. The conference included educational training sessions on a variety of important topics that are essential to the public safety communications industry. The training sessions covered nine different tracks: Frontline Telecommunicator; Supervision and Leadership Development; Communications Center Management; Regulatory and Legislative Issues; Emergency Preparedness, Response and Situational Awareness; Radio Technologies, LMR, Spectrum Management; Emerging Technologies and Applications; Current Event and Hot Topics; and NG911 and New Response Technology.

Keynote speakers tied their addresses with themes of this year’s conference: connect, innovate and accelerate. Author and adventure-seeker Erik Weihenmayer spoke about the challenges he’s faced as a blind man and the mountains he’s had to climb, literally.

At the 2012 APCO conference, FirstNet was just coming into fruition with a 12-member FirstNet board being announced. Several months after the event, the entire industry took part in a notice of inquiry for the FirstNet technical architecture. Since receiving more than 100 responses last year, FirstNet and its board have made great strides in turning the idea of a national broadband network into a reality. Initial funding has been allocated in the amount of $7 billion, along with $135 million for a new state and local implementation grant program that will be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

With a discussion of FirstNet came a lot of sessions on LTE and Land Mobile Radio (LMR). The rise in technological advancements is clear when looking at the features of LMR and LTE, and the provision of new standards and ways to package information with LTE will only increase in the years ahead.

Last month, Deltek and the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) published the FY 2014 Justice and Public Safety Market Overview, which provides a comprehensive look into spending within the industry since FY 2010 and a forecast for the upcoming fiscal year. Buried in the deep-dive analysis are some key takeaways that provide a glimpse into what government officials and vendors at APCO 2013 are facing.

GovWinIQ subscribers can  read the full Deltek recap of the APCO 2013 Conference. Non-Subscribers can gain access with a free GovWinIQ trial.



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