NewsBrief March 27, 2020

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: March 27, 2020

Managing the Flow of Ideas in a Pandemic

(MITSloan) Most organizations are hierarchical or centralized, so their senior leaders are at the center. All roads lead to them. The leaders are typically older and have more health conditions. During a pandemic, like the one we now face with COVID-19, standard organizational structures are a management disaster in the making — because the senior people are likely to be the hardest hit. We’ve all learned about the value of social distancing in reducing the spread of infection. In the workplace, physical separation often means going virtual, and we have plenty of tools for that. But given that ideas and decision-making flow primarily to and from the central (senior) people, the essential work of preventing the spread of illness can pose risks to the also essential work of running an organization. That’s true in part because informal conversations (such as ad hoc chats in hallways or while getting coffee) account for about half of decision quality. So if we try to rely on the usual flows of ideas and decisions in a primarily virtual arena, quality can degrade. It’s a wicked problem with no simple solution. Read More

The military has suspended all travel, deployments, exercises for the entire force

(Military Times) Weeks after putting a hold on permanent change-of-station moves and non-essential travel both abroad and in the United States for the next two to three months, the Pentagon has issued a stop-movement order that will affect all personnel and Defense Department civilians. The order affects travel for exercises, as well as deployments from combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. “Approximately 90,000 service members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order,” the release said. Read More

Air Force’s emerging tech supply chain remains strong despite COVID-19

(fedscoop) Amidst talk of disrupted defense supply chains brought on by shuttered factories and global lockdowns, the Air Force says its industrial base for new technology is relatively undisturbed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Despite having to move a three-day “pitch bowl” event online when South by Southwest was canceled earlier this month, the department still awarded nearly $1 billion to startup tech companies in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards — seed-like funding from the government to help commercial companies focus on early-stage technology. On top of this, other Air Force acquisition programs continue moving forward despite the disruption and economic uncertainty from the pandemic, said Will Roper, the Air Force’s head of acquisition, technology and logistics. Read More

DOD bans streaming websites to lessen strain during coronavirus telework

(fedscoop) The defense agency that operates the network teleworkers are logging into during the coronavirus pandemic has blocked media streaming websites like YouTube, Pandora, Netflix and others as network strain has slowed access to critical enterprise services, such as email. The Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Networks — the organization that secures, operates, and defends the Department of Defense‘s networks — may soon also block social media websites to “maximize operational bandwidth available for COVID-19 response,” according to a memo from the chief of naval operations shared with FedScoop. Charles Prichard, a DOD spokesman, confirmed the action: “Due to the current increased remote work demands, the Department will eliminate the capability to stream video and music on DoD networks, except for mission-critical activities,” he told FedScoop. Read More

Artificial Intelligence in Action

(Nextgov) Tomorrow’s technologies are in use by today’s federal civilian and defense agencies. Artificial intelligence—once the stuff of science fictionˆhas become a staple of the Trump administration’s technology policy, and its use is increasing among agencies looking to improve efficiencies and decision making. The White House and presidential advisers are grappling with how to promote AI and other emerging technologies, like quantum computing, and how they may shape the industries of the future. At the same time, federal agencies are mapping out their plans for the technology. The Labor Department plans to explore how automation can transform federal buying. The Pentagon developed and staffed a center entirely dedicated to unifying and enhancing the military’s AI capabilities, as did the Veterans Affairs Department. Read More

A new training system for the Air Force’s airborne ICBM launch center is coming soon

(Defense News) WASHINGTON — Next month, the Air Force is expected to get a new training system for its airborne ICBM command post after the older system was damaged in devastating floods in 2019. Offutt Air Force Base, located near Omaha, Neb., is set to receive a shipment for a virtual Airborne Launch Control System trainer in April, said Lt. Col. Matthew Hlivko, commander of the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron. The ALCS is an incredibly unique nuclear weapons system that provides the U.S. military a way to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles from an aircraft, giving the Pentagon another option if launch control centers on the ground are destroyed. The ALCS is operated by Air Force personnel onboard a Navy E-6B Mercury, and only 16 of those Boeing 707-based planes are operational. Read More

For remote learning in government, coronavirus cyber training could prove transformational

(fedscoop) Agencies are increasingly seeking training on cybersecurity fundamentals during coronavirus telework, offering the government a rare chance to transform how its employees learn using the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. Developed by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education framework breaks down agency work roles, like cyber defense analyst, to their core knowledge, skills, abilities and tasks (KSATs). The COVID-19 pandemic presents agencies with the opportunity to audit their employees and determine where there are cyber skills gaps that remote learning can fill, Rodney Petersen, NICE director, told FedScoop. Read More