NewsBrief October 29, 2021

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: October 29, 2021

DOD looks to civilian workforce to close technology gaps

(FCW) The Defense Department has been increasingly looking to recruit civilians to fill its tech talent needs, but lawmakers worry that there won’t be enough resources to fund the uniformed services and procurement needs. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said the civilian to military personnel in DOD was at an “all time high” and “unsustainable.” “I know that many civilian employees, particularly at our depots, are needed to carry out DOD’s national security mission,” Calvert said during an appropriations hearing Oct. 26 on the defense workforce. Read More

Federal Data Strategy finally gets Year 2 Action Plan

(fedscoop) The Federal Chief Data Officers Council released the long-awaited, second action plan for the Federal Data Strategy, intending to build on progress agencies made implementing the original’s data governance, planning and infrastructure actions. Agencies haven’t completed all of the actions in the 2020 Action Plan, which was released in December 2019, and may not begin work on the delayed 2021 Action Plan until year’s end, according to its forward. The plan blames 2021 being a presidential transition year for its late release on Friday, as well as more immediate priorities of the Biden administration. Read More

GAO prods OPM to review pandemic hiring

(FCW) A government watchdog says that the Office of Personnel Management needs to develop a process to gather and disseminate government-wide lessons learned from the use of temporary hiring authorities given to agencies to hire staff more quickly as they dealt with the pandemic. During the crisis, some agencies got access to special hiring authorities from Congress and OPM itself, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. OPM gave five agencies direct hire authority, giving them leeway to disregard certain competitive hiring practices, like rating and ranking procedures or veterans’ preference, for certain positions. Read More

House passes bill to address software supply chain risk at DHS

(fedscoop) The House passed a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a process for identifying materials used in software to mitigate future supply-chain cyberattacks. A software bill of materials (SBOM) lists the origins of every component, and the DHS under secretary for management would be expected to require them of all contractors furnishing software to the department. The bill passed 412-2 by roll call vote, as lawmakers attempt to push DHS to modernize its software acquisition process in the wake of the SolarWinds supply-chain attack that manipulated third-party components to compromise the department and eight others. Read More

What Everyone Gets Wrong About the Never-Ending COVID-19 Supply Chain Crisis

(MITSloan) The ongoing global supply chain crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating. Widespread product shortages are focusing attention on supply chain issues as never before — and while this publicity has shed some light on the problem, it has also spawned (misguided) calls to end the practice of just-in-time inventory management. Multiple factors have led to the current situation, but they spring from two overarching causes: suppliers’ inability to adjust to soaring demand, and government interventions. Read More

How the Air Force manages risk in its supply chains

(Federal News Network) When a part is needed for a plane in the Air Force, it usually comes through the 448th Supply Chain Wing in the Air Force Sustainment Center. Ensuring that all those parts get to their destinations, and that they are not tampered with or sabotaged, calls for a good deal of risk management. Stephen Gray, director of the 448th Supply Chain Wing, says that risk management has been an ever changing and challenging problem as the United States tackles supply shortages, a pandemic and tries to lessen its reliance on Chinese goods. Read More

How Accountability Practices Are Pursued by AI Engineers in the Federal Government

(aitrends) Two experiences of how AI developers within the federal government are pursuing AI accountability practices were outlined at the AI World Government event held virtually and in-person this week in Alexandria, Va. Taka Ariga, chief data scientist and director at the US Government Accountability Office, described an AI accountability framework he uses within his agency and plans to make available to others. And Bryce Goodman, chief strategist for AI and machine learning at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a unit of the Department of Defense founded to help the US military make faster use of emerging commercial technologies, described work in his unit to apply principles of AI development to terminology that an engineer can apply. Read More

Weird stellar remnant may be from one of the first stars in the universe

( Astronomers have detected an extremely unusual star that they believe is a stellar fossil, or remnant, of one of the universe’s very first stars. The star, named AS0039, is located in the Sculptor dwarf galaxy around 290,000 light-years from the solar system. This stellar remnant has the lowest concentration of metal, particularly iron, of any star measured outside the Milky Way. The researchers think that finding is evidence that the remnant is a direct descendent of one of the universe’s earliest stars, which contained very little metal. Read More

Are we alone in the Universe? NASA calls for a “New Framework”

(Space Daily) How do we understand the significance of new scientific results related to the search for life? When would we be able to say, “yes, extraterrestrial life has been found?” NASA scientists are encouraging the scientific community to establish a new framework that provides context for findings related to the search for life. Writing in the journal Nature, they propose creating a scale for evaluating and combining different lines of evidence that would ultimately lead to answering the ultimate question: Are we alone in the universe? Read More

Newfound baby exoplanet photographed from more than 400 light-years away

( An amazing new image shows one of the youngest alien worlds yet found, giving scientists more clues about how planets form. The newly discovered exoplanet, known as 2M0437b, is a few times the size of Jupiter and orbits a star 417 light-years from Earth. At just a few million years old, it’s far younger than the planets of our own solar system, which formed about 4.5 billion years ago. 2M0437b is so young, in fact, that it’s likely as hot as lava, thanks to energy released during its formation, researchers noted. Read More