Microsoft is the latest major tech company to come under the scrutiny of its own employees for using innovation to support controversial missions of the government, and the USDS believes using tools like Slack, Skype, Google Suite and others could free up time for federal workers to focus more on the mission-oriented services. All this and more in Public Spend Forum’s Weekly Roundup for October 19, 2018.
Just as Microsoft announced it will soon be able to handle the Pentagon’s Secret-level classified information in its Azure cloud, a group of the company’s employees made it clear they don’t want their work to be used for “waging war.” The authors of a new post published on Medium takes objection to Microsoft bidding on the Department of Defense’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) commercial cloud procurement. Microsoft is only the latest major tech company to come under the scrutiny of its own employees for using innovation to support controversial missions of the government.
Members of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) have a hypothesis that by using modern collaboration tools—like Slack, Skype, HipChat, Google Suite and others—overworked federal employees could free themselves up to focus more on the mission-oriented services. USDS hopes to be a case study to show just how helpful they can be for any kind of project that involves co-workers who don’t sit side-by-side every day. FedScoop sat down with USDS members embedded at various agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and who are experiencing firsthand how much of an impact collaboration tools are making on the important work of the federal government.
Political protests against contractors that assist with controversial administration priorities such as ramping up security along the southern border has become a problem for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to a top acquisitions official. Mark Borkowski, an assistant commissioner who leads Customs and Border Protection’s acquisitions office, said the issue has made it difficult to attract fresh ideas from innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley. Among Silicon Valley firms, concerns about political fallout often come in addition to general anxiety about the “deadly embrace of government,” said Anil John, technical director of the Homeland Security Department’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program. Yet despite political concerns, John’s program has been able to deliver a substantial amount of technology to Customs and Border Protection. And while there’s no quick fix for overcoming Silicon Valley hostility to some government programs, Borkowski urged patience and an open mind.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) initiatives over the past year to address supply chain risks are beginning to gain traction. Chris Krebs, the DHS undersecretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), offered insights at several events over the last few weeks, setting up bigger expectations for 2019. The National Risk Management Center is focusing on information and communications technology (ICT) with a new task force. DHS said the group will “examine and develop consensus recommendations for action to address key strategic challenges to identifying and managing risk associated with the global ICT supply chain and related third-party risk.” Krebs also said DHS wants to get out of reactive mode when it comes to addressing these real and potential risks. In addition, the idea of writing smarter procurements is behind the request for information DHS released last August.
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