NewsBrief March 12, 2021

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: March 12, 2021

The TMF is set to get $1B payday

(fedscoop) With the House passage of the American Rescue Act on Wednesday, the Technology Modernization Fund is one step away from finally getting the $1 billion injection lawmakers and tech advocates have been lobbying for nearly a year. Now that both chambers of Congress have passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, it is headed to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it Friday. The bill, among other things, will send stimulus checks of up to $1,400 to Americans who qualify, extend a $300 weekly unemployment supplement and provide billions in relief to businesses, governments and other organizations that have struggled during the pandemic. Read More

Vague contract language hampers cybersecurity for weapons systems, GAO says

(FCW) The cybersecurity of the Defense Department’s weapons systems may hinge on clear contract requirements, according to a recent report. The Government Accountability Office found that missing or vague cybersecurity requirements in acquisitions contracts for weapons systems often led to DOD getting a system that didn’t meet its security needs, according to a report released on March 4. “The government is less likely to get what it wants if it omits all or part of its cybersecurity requirements,” W. William Russell, GAO director for contracting and national security acquisitions, wrote in the report. Read More

Navy reorganizes JADC2 project office, boosting tech authorities

(fedscoop) The Navy has centralized some IT and wartime network authorities under the project office in charge of building stronger networks and data management for future maritime warfighting operations. The newly created office overseeing Project Overmatch — the Navy’s stab at turning the concept of Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) into a reality — was given authority over IT and technology spending in research and development portfolios related to networked warfare in a recent memo. The authorities will allow the office to move faster in developing new IT and technologies to extend network connectivity across the seas, a Navy spokesperson confirmed. Read More

Pentagon issues cyber tasking order in response to Exchange hack

(FCW) The Pentagon has ordered its agencies and commands to take actions “in line” with the emergency directive recently issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in response to vulnerabilities found in Microsoft’s Exchange software. “Joint Force Headquarters – DODIN coordinated with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and then issued a Cyber Tasking Order in line with CISA’s emergency directive to all DOD agencies and commands directing them to take actions necessary to protect DoD networks and IT systems,” Russell Goemaere, a Pentagon spokesman, told FCW Tuesday. Read More

GAO’s emerging tech shop developing framework to test reliability of AI algorithms

(Federal News Network) The Government Accountability Office expects to take on as many as 200 COVID-19-related projects over the next five years, and is staffing up its emerging technology office to keep up with oversight of artificial intelligence. A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, GAO still faces a higher demand for its oversight work. To keep up with every request Congress asks of its watchdog office, GAO is asking for an $83 million increase to its budget and 220 additional full-time employees. GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro said Wednesday that the agency’s work in fiscal 2020 saved the federal government nearly $78 billion, and or every dollar Congress invested in GAO, the agency identified $114 in cost savings. Read More

Future-Proofing IT: GSA, Defense Leaders Discuss Tools, Processes for Mission Resiliency

(MeriTalk) Federal IT leaders discussed how to build mission resiliency and deliver exceptional experiences for employees and citizens by adapting their tools, people, and processes at ServiceNow’s 2021 Federal Forum on March 9. A resilient mission depends on a resilient workforce with the ability to deliver solutions in a time of crisis, explained Katie Olson, deputy director at the Defense Digital Service (DDS). DDS, which provides critical technologies and cybersecurity for the Department of Defense (DoD), had to surge through the pandemic to support DoD mission-readiness. Read More

New House task force focuses on supply chain vulnerabilities

(FCW) The House Armed Services Committee has launched a task force to investigate defense supply chain vulnerabilities, foreign manufacturing concerns and other issues raised by the pandemic. “The experience of our totally disrupted supply chains in the early part of the pandemic was a pretty searing experience,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, told reporters on March 10. Supply chain vulnerabilities have long been a concern in the Pentagon but really gained increased attention in recent years particularly regarding foreign manufacturing of technologies such as small drones, semiconductors and microelectronics. Read More

A quantum trick with photons gives machine learning a speed boost

(NewScientist) Machine learning, a process used to train artificial intelligences, can take an extremely long time – but a quantum trick could massively speed things up for tasks involving particles of light called photons. In reinforcement learning, an algorithm runs through the same problem over and over again and is given a numerical reward only when it reaches the correct answer. That process teaches it to find the correct answer more quickly when pitted against similar problems later on. Read More

NASA Practices VIPER Moon Rover Assembly in New Clean Room

(NASA) NASA’s water-hunting lunar robot now has a workspace prepped and ready at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will be built for its upcoming mission to the Moon. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, has a new 1,000-plus square-foot clean room, called the Surface Segment Integration and Test Facility, where engineers will assemble and outfit the rover. Located in a corner of the center’s Space Vehicle Mock Up Facility, the VIPER team recently launched the assembly of a full-scale replica of the rover. The “assembly pathfinder” activity will last roughly three months and serve as a dress rehearsal for the flight version. Read More

Rare supernova relic found at the core of our Milky Way

( NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered the remains of a rare kind of stellar explosion near the center of the Milky Way. Supernovas are stellar explosions that seed the galaxy with elements vital for life. Sagittarius A East (or Sgr A East) is a supernova remnant that lies near Sagittarius A* — the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. This supernova remnant is the first known example in our own Milky Way galaxy of an unusual type of white dwarf stellar explosion called a Type Iax supernova, according to a statement from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Read More