Behind the Curtain: National Contract Management Association

As we've written here, the contracting and procurement market is at an interesting crossroads. The current workforce is aging and retiring making it difficult to find and train incoming talent. Additionally, new technologies such as AI and blockchain are being introduced and changing daily workflow. Now more than ever, the contracting community needs ways to keep the workforce trained on tried and true processes of this profession as well as get up to speed on emerging technologies and tactics. Luckily, an organization exists to do just this.

The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2019 but with the industry pressures detailed above they have no plans of slowing down. The group brought in a new CEO in 2018 to lead their growth and support for members. Kraig Conrad comes to NCMA with 20 years of association leadership and experience helping organizations evolve to meet changing member and market needs. Kraig took some time to share how NCMA is ramping up efforts to support contract professionals through their events and training. Continue reading

Agencies Are A Step Closer to Creating Their Own Siri

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

Federal agencies are a step closer to automating some of their common customer service processes using artificial intelligence.

The General Services Administration recently wrapped a pilot that walked federal agencies through the process of building chatbots and other intelligent personal assistants similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa.

Graduates of that pilot have developed some basic prototypes--a single chatbot that lets users access Small Business Administration licenses, Internal Revenue Service tax credits, Forest Service park permits, and Health and Human Services Department benefits, for one. But prototypes weren't the point of the pilot, GSA's Emerging Citizen Technology Office lead Justin Herman told Nextgov--instead, it was to help agencies understand what they'd need before they can fully deploy intelligent personal assistants.

One finding, Herman said, was that agencies need to assess their cloud services, as chatbots and voice-controlled virtual assistants would need to pull information from the internet. Agencies also need to think about the way they structure the data the assistants might pull from, especially if that includes personally identifiable information from citizens, he said.

It's not yet clear where in each federal agency responsibility for creating intelligent personal assistants falls, Herman told Nextgov. Agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Labor Department completed the workshop and brought varying personnel, including public affairs officers, Python developers and innovation teams.

"No agency came at this pilot the same way," Herman said.

Herman's team, which has worked to help agencies adopt social media to better connect with citizens, has noticed new technology is generally initially relegated to a technology shop.

"Eventually, access to these services spreads down to the just the program level," Herman said, who explained he anticipates a similar pattern with intelligent personal assistants.

In the hackathon culminating the workshop, out of which agencies' prototypes emerged, federal employees worked alongside representatives from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle. In the future, depending on the platform, agencies might be able to develop their own assistants in house with little coding knowledge. A Labor Department team put together three Amazon Alexa skills with no prior experience, for instance. Others might need to contract out to technology companies directly.

GSA is planning a showcase to demonstrate how intelligent personal assistants could be used in government. In the meantime, Herman's team is collecting feedback from agencies about how the pilot helped them and what they need to be able to develop their own virtual assistants.

Though it's summer and the White House has recently undergone a transition, Herman said he was surprised at how representatives from some agencies are already cooking up new project ideas. Some are thinking beyond "how can we apply this to [getting] open data into services," he said, and instead considering combining chatbots with web forms and call centers using artificial intelligence.

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Cybersecurity a top priority in Senate appropriations bill

 

Originally posted on FCW by By Adam Mazmanian

Cybersecurity provisions emerged as a leading theme in the fiscal 2015 appropriations bill for the Commerce Department, Justice Department and science agencies. Projects designed to beef up security for government systems, target malefactors in cyberspace, conduct research and encourage the growth of cybersecurity professions and businesses all held their own.

The FBI is maintaining the around-the-clock incident-response National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force and will continue an agent-training program that gives the FBI authority and expertise for incidents affecting government systems, utilities, classified defense contractor systems and banks. The Justice Department is set for an increase to fund 25 new positions, including nine attorneys to prosecute cybercrime cases.

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