Month: October 2019

GitHub opens up about its relationship with ICE

GitHub

In a post on the GitHub blog, CEO Nat Friedman publicly addressed the company’s business relationship with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, its opinion on the current administration’s immigration policy and “the principles by which we make decisions in these areas.”

The issue is that ICE renewed its purchase of GitHub Enterprise Server for $200,000. GitHub says it will honor the contract, but will continue its advocacy against the “administration’s terrible immigration policies” and will donate $500,000 “to nonprofit organizations working to support immigrant communities targeted by the current administration.”

From the post:

Like many Hubbers, I strongly disagree with many of the current administration’s immigration policies, including the practice of separating families at the border, the Muslim travel ban, and the efforts to dismantle the DACA program that protects people brought to the U.S. as children without documentation. The leadership team shares these views. These policies run counter to our values as a company, and to our ethics as people. We have spoken out as a company against these practices, and joined with other companies in protesting them.

We respect the fact that for those of us in the United States, we live in a democratic republic in which the public elects our officials and they decide, pursuant to the rule of law, the policies the government will pursue. Tech companies, in contrast, are not elected by the public. But we have a corporate voice, and we can use our voice and our resources to seek changes in the policies that we oppose. As a matter of principle, we believe the appropriate way to advocate for our values in a democracy is to use our corporate voice, and not to unplug technology services when government customers use them to do things to which we object.

We believe that this principled approach will also be impactful as a matter of pragmatism. Attempting to cancel a purchase will not convince the current administration to alter immigration policy. Other actions, such as public advocacy, supporting lawsuits, meaningful philanthropy, and leveraging the vast resources of Microsoft will have the greatest likelihood of affecting public policy. Our voice is heard better by policymakers when we have a seat at the table.

As software becomes more important in the world, we will continue to face increasingly challenging political and social questions. Even with careful thought, we will sometimes make mistakes. My hope is that we can be an organization that works hard to make principle-based decisions, that regularly reflects on and remains willing to refine its principles, and that recognizes the inevitability of interpersonal disagreement around those principles and challenges that constructively. It’s incumbent on all of us to find ways to cohesively navigate the increasingly turbulent times we find ourselves in.

More: GitHub and US Government developers

TSA seeks chief innovation officer

Photo: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is looking for an executive-level chief innovation officer. Salary is $127,914 to $184,620 per year. Submission deadline is October 29.

Responsibilities:

The Chief Innovation Officer reports directly to the Executive Director of Strategy, Policy Coordination, and Innovation under the Chief of Staff, Transportation Security Administration and as such supports and implements the TSA Administrator’s vision, strategy, and direction for the agency. The Chief Innovation Officer leads TSA’s enterprise innovation program, including managing and exercising executive and technical authority for the following functions:

Leading the agency’s enterprise innovation efforts to meet the goals and objectives of the TSA Strategy, Administrator’s Intent, and other Administrator priorities. Recognizing promising ideas, processes, and approaches and finds ways to introduce them into the organization.

Leading an innovation team that facilitates a cross-organizational process that encourages creative thinking and provides an avenue for employees and stakeholders to submit ideas. Receiving, evaluating, recommending and prioritizing innovation submissions. Providing employee and stakeholder feedback on submissions.

Capturing entrepreneurial ideas and innovative practices throughout TSA. Strategizing with senior leaders and their program offices to transform general ideas into workable solutions.

Collaborating with executive and senior TSA leadership to prioritize, resource, and implement innovative solutions. Engaging TSA leadership and program offices to discover new solutions and approaches to old problems. Analyzing existing practices to isolate areas for improvement or enhancement, including challenges associated with transitioning new solutions into execution.

Collaborating with TSA senior leaders and stakeholders to develop actionable milestones and performance metrics to measure effectiveness of the agency’s innovation program. Tracking the implementation of new or revised practices, assesses the progress, recommends changes to implementation plans of action and milestones, and evaluates the success of implementation.

When delegated, representing the TSA Administrator in executive and senior-level interagency, international, and stakeholder engagements in order to formulate effective new ideas and innovative strategies to improve TSA’s approach to doing business.

Assessing research and development of other organizations to spot trends in innovation and possible opportunities. Engaging external stakeholders, non-traditional industries, academia, think tanks, industry, and others to gain insight on potential opportunities for TSA to leverage.

Leading the communication of TSA’s innovation goals and processes to the workforce and stakeholders. Collaborating with senior leadership to develop and advance improvement in workforce innovation and the skills underpinning them.

Full job post.

NSF will fund $120 million to advance artificial intelligence innovation

National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes
Photo: National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation announced $120 million in funding for a new organization — the National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes — “that will significantly advance research in AI and accelerate the development of transformational, AI-powered innovation.”

From the announcement:

The program, led by NSF in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has both planning and institute tracks. The planning track will support planning grants for up to two years and $500,000 to enable teams to develop collaborative plans and capacity for full institute operations. The institute track will support cooperative agreements of $16 million to $20 million for four to five years (up to $4 million per year) for the creation of AI Research Institutes in an initial set of high-priority areas:

Trustworthy AI

Foundations of Machine Learning

AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System

AI-Augmented Learning

AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing

AI for Discovery in Physics

Earlier this year, NSF joined other federal agency partners in announcing the release of the 2019 Update to the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development (R&D) Strategic Plan. In addition, Advances in AI are core to many of the “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments,” key among these being Harnessing the Data Revolution and the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.

More: NSF leads federal partners in accelerating the development of transformational, AI-powered innovation

NSA launches new cybersecurity directorate to ‘prevent and eradicate threats to national security systems and critical infrastructure’

The National Security Agency announced the creation of a new fifth domain-focused internal organization that will “work to prevent and eradicate threats to national security systems and critical infrastructure, with an initial focus on the defense industrial base and the improvement of our weapons’ security.”

From the announcement:

The Cybersecurity Directorate will reinvigorate NSA’s white hat mission by sharing critical threat information and collaborating with partners and customers to better equip them to defend against malicious cyber activity. The new directorate will also better position NSA to operationalize its threat intelligence, vulnerability assessments, and cyberdefense expertise by integrating these efforts to deliver prioritized outcomes.

Related, the NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell wrote an extensive editorial for The New York Times calling for a more proactive approach to cyber resilience and a concerted, proactive effort supporting the agency’s online security efforts. Gerstell outlines four areas where policymakers must take note of.

The first is that the unprecedented scale and pace of technological change will outstrip our ability to effectively adapt to it. Second, we will be in a world of ceaseless and pervasive cyberinsecurity and cyberconflict against nation-states, businesses and individuals. Third, the flood of data about human and machine activity will put such extraordinary economic and political power in the hands of the private sector that it will transform the fundamental relationship, at least in the Western world, between government and the private sector. Finally, and perhaps most ominously, the digital revolution has the potential for a pernicious effect on the very legitimacy and thus stability of our governmental and societal structures.

Video:

Learn more at nsa.gov/cybersecurity.