Federal

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.

Winning ‘The Shadow War’

Whether it’s online, on land, underwater or in space, CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto’s “The Shadow War: Inside Russia’s and China’s Secret Operations to Defeat America” offers ominous insights into how the United States’ key adversaries are changing the dynamics of national security.

Sciutto provides context into present day Russia and China military strategies — from the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Ukranian political upheaval to foreign meddling in U.S. elections to satellite maneuvering — how the new game of security is played, and what the United States needs to rethink and execute for these new times.

Key excerpts:

The advent of the Shadow War should have surprised no one. In military terms, hybrid warfare is a natural product of a world with a single superpower and other rising or declining powers eager to challenge that superpower. For China, Russia, and other US and Western adversaries, hybrid warfare is the only way to take on a country such as the United States with otherwise unchallenged military might. In other words, the so-called gray zone is the only field of conflict on which these adversaries believe they stand a chance of winning.

US defense and intelligence officials now speak openly of the dangers of repeating the errors of the 1930s, that is, observing aggression by adversaries in Europe and Asia while assigning false limits to those adversaries’ ambitions. Those fears of repeating the mistakes of history are now fueling calls to defend against the Shadow War now or face the danger of a wider conflict in the years to come. And yet, without a commitment throughout all levels of the US government, the United States faces the alarming prospect of emerging from the Shadow War diminished and defeated.

U.S. national security officials agree that the United States must find better ways to fight and defend against the Shadow War, to impose costs sufficient to compel Russia and China to change their behavior, and, if possible, to impose costs sufficient to reverse the gains they have already achieved, or to make those gains untenable. The consensus of the current and former national security and intelligence officials I’ve spoken with is that none of these steps has so far been taken to a degree sufficient to make America safe.

NSA challenges students to test their cyber skills in mock national security exercise

Codebreaker

The National Security Agency will host a “cyber-challenge similar to those that regularly threaten national security,” open to students at any U.S. based academic institution. The exercise will run from September 20, 2019 to January 10, 2020.

From NSA:

The annual Codebreaker Challenge offers students a closer look at the type of work done at NSA and provides the opportunity to develop skills needed to achieve the Agency’s national security mission. The problems touch on skills like software reverse engineering, cryptanalysis, exploit development, block chain analysis and more.

This year’s challenge scenario is about tech savvy terrorists who have developed a new suite of communication tools that are being used for attack planning purposes. Intelligence suggests the terrorists are communicating via TerrorTime, a custom Android secure messaging app. Those who attempt the challenge will be required to reverse engineer and develop new exploitation capabilities against TerrorTime to enable message spoofing, user masquerades, and message decryption.

Release: NSA Launches Latest Codebreaker Challenge

Food Safety 2.0: FDA shares its vision for a digital, transparent food safety system

Photo: U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Photo: U.S. Food & Drug Administration

In an interview with the agency, the Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas discussed its latest efforts to “leverage new and emerging technologies to prevent contamination and rapidly trace the origin of a tainted food to its source.”

FDA announced the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative in April 2019, and the agency will hold an public meeting on the program October 21.

Key excerpts from the interview:

This isn’t just a slogan or a tagline. Instead, it’s a new approach to food safety, one that recognizes and builds on the progress made in the past, but also incorporates the use of new technologies that are being used in society and business sectors all around us. These include blockchain, sensor technology, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence to create a more digital, traceable, and safer food system. This new approach creates shared value for all stakeholders — farmers, food producers, regulators, consumers, and the planet.

That said, while technology is an important part of Smarter Food Safety, it’s more than that. It’s about simpler, more effective and modern approaches and processes. It’s about leadership and creativity. It’s also about working within and outside of FDA to foster a food safety culture that transcends borders between the public and private sector.

In my view, today’s food system is amazing, but it does have one major Achilles heel: A lack of traceability and transparency.

When it comes to food traceability, some are stuck in a past in which each segment in the food system is responsible for keeping track of food, one step forward to identify where the food has gone and one step back to identify the source. And it’s largely done on paper.  However, with the emergence of new digital technologies, the proliferation of the Internet of Things, and the continued advancement of sensor technology, many believe the one-step forward and one-step back model of food traceability is an outdated paradigm for the 21st Century. 

When FSMA was conceived and launched, it brought people to the table, both public and private partners. A New Era of Smarter Food Safety is doing the same. Now we plan to accelerate based on that foundation. How do we continue to modify and adapt? I foresee a more digital, data-driven, and transparent system that’s more precise and efficient.

Read more: Deputy Commissioner Champions More Digital, Transparent Food Safety System

White House adds ‘agile and responsive’ security practices to trusted internet connections updates

The White House
(Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

The White House announced updates to the federal government Trusted Internet Connections initiative with the intent to empower agencies with security practices that aim to remove barriers to modern technology adoption.

An Office of Management and Budget memo provides agencies with pilot program guidance and an implementation timeline.

From OMB:

The purpose of the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) initiative is to enhance network security across the Federal Government. Initially, this was done through the consolidation of external connections and the deployment of common tools at these access points. While this prior work has been invaluable in securing Federal networks and information, the program must adapt to modem architectures and frameworks for government IT resource utilization. Accordingly, this memorandum provides an enhanced approach for implementing the TIC initiative that provides agencies with increased flexibility to use modern security capabilities. This memorandum also establishes a process for ensuring the TIC initiative is agile and responsive to advancements in technology and rapidly evolving threats.

One component of TIC is Pulse.cio.gov, the U.S. government’s program that monitors HTTPS protocol status of federal (.gov) domains.

From Matt “Mr. FedRAMP” Goodrich:

Memo: Update to the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) Initiative

GAO tells Defense Department to ‘fully implement’ open source pilot program

Photo: U.S. Defense Department
Photo: U.S. Defense Department

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report assessing the lackluster status of the Defense Department’s open source pilot program, saying that until the agency effectively implements this, “the department will not be positioned to take advantage of significant cost savings and efficiencies.”

The Office of Management and Budget issued its federal source code policy in August 2016 requiring federal agencies to improve the way they buy, build, and deliver software solutions through the use of open source code. Part of the policy includes implementing agency-specific open source software pilot programs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 mandated that DOD initiate its pilot by June 2018.

Key excerpts:

A program manager from the Defense Information Systems Agency reported that the agency had identified an OSS solution that provided more functionality at less cost than the commercial solution provided through a vendor. The program manager explained that when the agency implemented the new OSS solution, it realized $20 million in annual savings over the commercial solution that had been maintained by a vendor.

A program manager from the Defense Information Systems Agency reported that the selection of an OSS solution rather than a COTS solution contracted through a vendor had resulted in increased efficiency. The official explained that the use of the OSS solution allowed the agency to develop and maintain in-house skills that would not have been available had they opted to contract with a vendor providing a skilled workforce.

In interviews with GAO, DOD personnel expressed mixed views on open source software with respect to security, however, “an official in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics reported that, as long as OSS is properly vetted to ensure it is secure and free from malware, it offers an opportunity for the department to achieve cost savings and efficiencies.”

According to GAO, DOD says it will “update its OSS memorandum by the end of the 2019 calendar year and issue it as policy.”

Full report: DOD Needs to Fully Implement Program for Piloting Open Source Software

Pineapple or pepperoni? Homeland Security’s pizza analogy hopes to educate the public on foreign interference of elections

Sailors prepare pizzas.
Photo: U.S. Navy

Because “responding to foreign interference requires a whole of society approach,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published resources that help educate the public on ways hackers can impact U.S. elections.

These include primers on how foreign interference works (using the relatable example, “American Opinion is Split: Does Pineapple Belong on Pizza?”), associated terms, and the intricate nuances of social media bots.

DHS defines foreign interference as:

Malign actions taken by foreign governments or foreign actors designed to sow discord, manipulate public discourse, discredit the electoral system, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets for the purpose of undermining the interests of the United States and its allies.

The initiative is part of Homeland Security’s #Protect2020 campaign to “enhance the security and resilience of election infrastructure, and to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the free and fair elections foundational to the American way of life.”

Government-funded report on government-funded research not accessible to the people who funded it

Photo: U.S. Department of Energy
Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

In 2013, responding to a 2012 We the People petition signed by more than 65,000 people, the Obama Administration worked to expand public access to the results of federally funded research.

In 2016, it touted the progress, stating:

“These efforts to open up the results of Federally-funded research promise to increase the return of Federal investments in scientific research, bolster the reliability of that research, accelerate scientific discovery, stimulate innovation, promote entrepreneurship, and enhance economic growth and job creation.”

In 2019, however, we’re still a long ways away from realizing innovation potential by creating a culture that defaults to immediate, open access of federally-funded research.

Case in point, a recent federally-funded grant that researched the impact of government-funded research on innovation, such as private-sector intellectual property and inventions, is inaccessible to most of the people who funded it.

The report, “Government-funded Research Increasingly Fuels Innovation,” is available for access behind a paywall under the publication’s (Science) Science Journals Default License that states the “Final Published Version will be made publicly accessible to nonsubscribers following a one-year embargo period.”

From the release:

“This research is an effort to detect, in a more nuanced way, the myriad fingerprints that U.S. federal research leaves, directly and indirectly, on innovation by others. We hope that it provides insights for the government, corporations, and citizens about where this funding goes and the downstream impact it has on innovation. And let’s not forget, that does not include the social and economic impact of federally supported research – but that’s for another day.”

The research results, funded by the National Science Foundation (#1536022), also don’t align with NSF’s own recent call for openness, transparency and collaboration.

The irony here is that it’s a government-funded report on the innovation impact of government-funded research, and it’s not open or made available for immediate consumption and collaboration.

While current standards make a one-year embargo acceptable from a policy perspective, if federally-funded research is to have optimal impact, it must be made accessible to everyone at the same time.

This particular research most likely won’t impact global innovation, however, it’s the principle of not opening it immediately that continues to foster arcane thinking of and treatment around information access.

For the taxpayers who funded this research and wish to see it, that’s for another year.