NewsBrief June 5, 2020

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: June 5, 2020

Here’s the newest price tag for DoD’s arsenal of equipment

(DefenseNews) WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s portfolio of 121 key defense acquisition programs now has a price tag of $1.86 trillion, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The number comes from the GAO’s annual assessment of Pentagon acquisition, delivered to the public on Wednesday. The figure involves a 4 percent increase over the previous year but also factors in, for the first time, 15 major IT investments ($15.1 billion) and 13 middle-tier acquisition programs ($19.5 billion). The vast majority comes from 93 major defense acquisition programs, or MDAP, worth $1.82 trillion. Of those, 85 MDAPs worth a total of $1.8 trillion are already underway, with the rest expected to enter production in the near future. The $1.8 trillion figure marks the largest level of investment in MDAPs since 2011, and an increase of $44 billion over the department’s 2018 MDAP portfolio. Read More

OMB seeks new chief statistician

(fedscoop) The Office of Management and Budget is ready to fill its opening for a full-time chief statistician, according to a USAJOBS posting on Monday. The job has been open since January, when previous officeholder Nancy Potok retired from government. In the interim, the deputy administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Dominic Mancini, has been doing double duty as acting chief statistician. Making between $131,239 and $197,300 annually, the chief statistician will be responsible for improving federal statistical activities and programs across more than 100 agencies while supervising OMB‘s Statistical Policy and Science Branch. Read More

DHS executes pivot to agile, but needs better reporting metrics

(FCW) The Department of Homeland Security has successfully planned and made progress executing its shift to agile software development over the past four years, but needs to do a better job on reporting metrics, according to a recent audit. In a study released June 1, the Government Accountability Office, said DHS “has taken many positive steps in its transition to agile software development,” including streamlining acquisition and life cycle processes that allow iterative delivery to providing senior executive level support for the transition. While moving from waterfall development to agile, however, GAO said DHS did not adequately address the skills and resources required to complete the shift. For instance, the report said hasn’t much incentivized or rewarded its development teams for using agile. Read More

Will the pandemic trigger the long-predicted retirement wave?

(Federal News Network) For many years we have been hearing about a “retirement tsunami” where the federal government will see large numbers of older workers heading for the door. I have said repeatedly that the numbers that were used to support those predictions were flawed. They simply looked at the retirement eligibility of current workers and projected the percent who would be eligible to retire in a few years. Such projections are meaningless, because they assume a static workforce. What really happens is that people leave the workforce and are replaced with new people. The long term turnover rate in the government, like every other organization, is 100%. Everyone leaves eventually. Read More

Automation is advancing in federal acquisition

(FCW) Federal agencies are evolving from leveraging rote robotic processing bots in their acquisition operations toward more complex artificial intelligence processes to inject even more efficiencies into contracting. “We do have seeds of true AI sprouting” for federal acquisition applications, Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi, director of the Acquisitions Centers of Excellence in the General Services Administration said during a Defense One June 3 virtual event on automation in acquisition. While robotic process automation (RPA) bots that handle rote, repetitive chores and free up humans for other work are increasingly common, AI is more complicated, according to Ghaffari-Tabrizi. Read More

Pentagon taps $688 million in coronavirus aid for defense industry

(DefenseNews) WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funding to support vulnerable manufacturers of submarine torpedo tubes, aircraft engine parts and hardened microelectronics that were hit by closures or other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $688 million defense-industrial base fund is just one category within the $10.5 billion the Department of Defense received from Congress’ $2.1 trillion CARES Act package. The department submitted its 54-page spending plan to Congress on Friday amid pressure from lawmakers after DoD had spent only 23 percent of that money weeks after it was signed into law in late March. Read More

Intelligence Community Wants Better Tech for COVID-19 and the Next Pandemic

(Nextgov) U.S. pandemic researchers and responders were caught flat-footed by COVID-19, but the intelligence community’s lead research division wants to catch up and be ready for the next viral outbreak. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, issued a broad agency announcement offering seedling funding for early-stage technology and methods that could revolutionize pandemic response. Specifically, the agency wants “quick turnaround projects for COVID-19 research topics.” Read More

How to build a data architecture to drive innovation—today and tomorrow

(McKinsey Digital) Over the past several years, organizations have had to move quickly to deploy new data technologies alongside legacy infrastructure to drive market-driven innovations such as personalized offers, real-time alerts, and predictive maintenance. However, these technical additions—from data lakes to customer analytics platforms to stream processing—have increased the complexity of data architectures enormously, often significantly hampering an organization’s ongoing ability to deliver new capabilities, maintain existing infrastructures, and ensure the integrity of artificial intelligence (AI) models. Read More

JPL Mission breaks record for smallest satellite to detect an exoplanet

(SpaceDaily) Long before it was deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in Nov. 2017, the tiny ASTERIA spacecraft had a big goal: to prove that a satellite roughly the size of a briefcase could perform some of the complex tasks much larger space observatories use to study exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. A new paper soon to be published in the Astronomical Journal describes how ASTERIA (short for Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) didn’t just demonstrate it could perform those tasks but went above and beyond, detecting the known exoplanet 55 Cancri e. Read More

Toy dinosaur that joined astronauts on SpaceX flight extinct at most stores

(Nextgov) A sparkly, glittery toy dinosaur flew along with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s trip to the International Space Station this weekend. But if you were hoping to add the dino to your home toy box, you may be out of luck. The cute little guy is all but extinct at online stores. The dinosaur was seen on the broadcast of Saturday’s launch, floating past Behnken and Hurley. The plush toy was dubbed a zero-gravity indicator, because once it begins to float, the astronauts, who are of course buckled down, know that they’re experiencing weightlessness. A plush toy of Earth was used in a similar way for an uncrewed SpaceX flight in 2019. Read More