DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — October 3, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

Final FY 2019 Appropriations for the NNSA Released

The final fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations numbers for the Department of Energy (DOE) now include the budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). These approved numbers follow the finalized DOE numbers as part of the Department’s first timely appropriations in over 20 years. The NNSA appropriations continue steady funding increases to complete efforts to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and associated weapons production complex. NNSA’s total budget has seen a 4-percent increase to $15.2 billion. (A graphical representation of the final appropriations in available here.) The final appropriations are far more conservative than the initial budget request submitted by the Trump administration.

Some T2-related budget provisions of note include the following.

  • $65 million to fund new low-yield warhead complicates weapons R&D: $65 million was requested to develop a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched nuclear missiles. Those, particularly Democrats, who introduced the Hold the Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive (LYNE) Act in Congress objected to this request. The Hold the LYNE Act would prohibit the research and development (R&D), as well as the production and deployment, of these nuclear warheads, as their R&D would increase the risk of entering nuclear war. However, the Trump administration asserted this warhead development would increase American “flexibility” in nuclear weaponry to heighten national defense.
  • $163 million to advance exascale computing: In our previous T2 Touchpoint and its deliberation of the finalized DOE appropriations, we reported that exascale computing was the reasoning for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research suboffice. In line with this, the NNSA will maintain its contribution to exascale computing, which rose slightly from FY 2018 appropriations levels to $163 million. That said, the overall budget for NNSA’s Advanced Simulation and Computing Division will decrease 4 percent to $717 million—$13 million has been delegated to artificial intelligence (AI)-related projects.

A detailed breakdown of NNSA funding between fiscal years is available here.

Policy Pulse

AI in Government Act Introduced in Senate

Last Wednesday, a group of senators introduced the Artificial Intelligence in Government Act. As written, the bill requires the General Services Administration (GSA) to employ more AI experts and to conduct research on federal artificial intelligence (AI) policy. A board of experts under the GSA would also advise on AI implementation strategies for federal agencies. In addition, the federal data strategy developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would include AI, with a plan to invest and implement the technology across agencies. AI experts would also need their skills examined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in order to standardize this sector of the federal workforce.

Although the bill has not been made available to the public, we will monitor its movement to the House.

House Report Underlines Importance of AI as Matter of National Security

In the House, AI has also been a recent topic of conversation regarding its implications for national security. Texas representative Will Hurd and Illinois representative Robin Kelly introduced a report based on how American AI could be enhanced when compared to other countries—particularly China. We previously reported that Hurd claimed America was “tied with China” when speaking on American AI innovation on behalf of the Congressional AI Caucus. He continued by saying “we’re still the benchmark because the greatest innovators, the smartest people are here in the United States of America, but … [China’s] ability to move quickly because they can force action is one of the reasons they could potentially get a leg up on us.”

Hurd and Kelly’s report, titled “Rise of the Machines: AI and its Growing Impact on U.S. Policy,” follows two hearings held by the House Oversight Subcommittee on Information Technology to discuss the government’s role in AI R&D. (A similar AI hearing was held in June by both the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Energy.) The main call to action in the report lies in the need for increased funding of AI basic research and workforce development, in tandem with China’s increased investment. In an accompanying press call, Hurd claimed that Chinese military intelligence units are plotting to infiltrate American digital infrastructure.

While mainly suggesting areas for improvement, Hurd praised the government’s increased reliance on quantum information science (QIS)—“to turn artificial intelligence smart, we’re going to need quantum computing,” Hurd asserted—as well as its move to third-wave AI, which advances the concept of an AI’s ability to adapt to ever-changing data contexts. In regard to this phenomenon, Hurd suggested federal AI R&D dollars be distributed to solve the issue of bias and privacy concerns around the collection of private data in AI systems by promoting transparency about how AI tools arrive at their final answers with this sensitive information.

“Rise of the Machines” can be read in full and downloaded here.

Agency Activities

Inside the White House’s First National Cyber Strategy in 15 Years

The Department of Defense (DoD) released its National Cyber Strategy—the first in 15 years. In a press release, the White House outlined the Strategy’s four pillars: 1) to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life; 2) to promote American prosperity; 3) to preserve peace through strength, and 4) to advance American influence.  As part of this Cyber Strategy, the DoD will work to preserve American superiority in cyberspace and disrupt malicious cyberattacks before they reach U.S. networks.

The first pillar: The Cyber Strategy will protect U.S. networks and people by securing federal networks and information, as well as national critical infrastructure and intellectual property, while also developing a superior cybersecurity workforce. The Strategy will also promote an open and secure internet by promoting a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance and international cyber capacities. The government will also retool its risk management strategies to better align with information technologies (IT) and the federal supply chain.

The second pillar: In order to promote American prosperity, the U.S. technology marketplace will support and reward the continuous development, adoption, and evolution of innovative security technologies and processes across the civil and private sectors. Strategies will also be developed to overcome barriers to adopting these secure technologies.

The third pillar: To preserve peace through strength, cyberspace will be considered an engagement of national power. Policymakers will employ cyberspace across every element of national power to identify and disrupt destabilizing power threatening national interests and security.

The fourth pillar: Finally, to advance American influence, the U.S. will attempt to preserve the open internet reinforced by domestic interests. The U.S. will maintain its active international leadership role to address expanding threats and challenges to its posture in cyberspace by also collaborating with international allies to ensure cross-border communications, content, and commerce—all tenets of the open internet.

The full Cyber Strategy is available here.

White House’s Cloud Strategy Moves from “Cloud First” to “Cloud Smart”

The Trump administration’s answer to Obama-era Cloud First IT modernization strategy has been revealed and rechristened Cloud Smart. This new strategy “focuses on equipping agencies with the tools needed to make informative technology decisions in accordance with their mission needs and leverages private-sector solutions to provide the best services to the American people,” according to the White House’s draft strategy. The three pillars of Cloud Smart policy include workforce, procurement, and security.

Workforce: First, agencies need to identify skill gaps for current and future work roles. Skill gap analyses will examine an agency’s current IT workforce, leverage industry projections to plan for future workforce trends, and maintain an aggressive cloud technology training programs. Current employees unskilled in cloud technology will undergo reskilling initiatives in order to retain legacy employees. Where skill gaps remain, recruitment of new personnel will leverage industry recruitment best practices, promote flexible pay rates, and market to potential employees.

Procurement: In order to acquire cloud technology for federal use, the government will reconfigure buying practices and utilize cloud vehicles for service procurement in the marketplace. Agency leadership should review purchase contract terms and conditions to verify if the acquisition of cloud technologies is in accordance with customary commercial practices and risk management strategies. Cloud technology contracts should also integrate security and privacy design principles, secure coding techniques, and trusted computing methods into its clauses and language.

Security: Trusted internet connections, continuous data protection and awareness—such as encryption and Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) strategies, and FedRAMP certifications to standardize security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud services—should emphasize data-level protections and use modern virtualized technologies. Security, as it evolves with cloud technology, must be monitored and approached holistically.

The Request for Comments on the 2018 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy is available on the Federal Register until October 24.

DC Dispatch