Facing the Future of Biometrics

With many of us using our faces to "open" our phones, biometric technology has become an everyday consumer technology. Capitalizing on the comfort and ease of use of facial recognition, government agencies are looking to incorporate it (and other biometric methods) into their modern cybersecurity plans and approaches but are realizing implementation in a government setting raises a host of complications.

Interest in facial recognition is strong

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in August of 2021 that detailed current and planned use of facial recognition technology by federal agencies. In a survey of 24 departments and agencies it found that 18 reported using the technology and 10 reported plans to expand their use of it. Continue reading

I See What You’re Saying. Natural Language Processing’s Role in our Digital World

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a computer science practice that aims to give computers the ability to understand text and spoken words in the same way humans can. NLP is a key feature of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as understanding the language that we use to "teach" computers is critical to evolving the accuracy of the AI tasks we are asking of them.

The most familiar application of NLP is speech recognition--taking the spoken word and converting it to text. Speech recognition also is part of any application that follows voice commands.To work properly, the technology has to be knowledgeable of accents and frequently understand context (semantics) to differentiate words with a similar sound but have various meanings or spellings. NLP is also closely tied to several tasks that work in the background of applications we use everyday, including spam detection, foreign language translation, virtual assistants, chatbots, social media sentiment analysis, and text summaries/abstracts for long documents.

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Department Spotlight: U.S. Department of the Treasury

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is the steward of U.S. economic and financial systems, and is responsible for maintaining the nation's financial infrastructure. This includes the production of currency, the disbursement of payments to the American public, revenue collection, and the borrowing of funds necessary to run the federal government. The most familiar agency within Treasury may also be the most dreaded, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). With tax time approaching, we thought it was a good time to look at the challenges and focus of the Treasury.

  • Cybercrime - The Treasury has always been focused on preventing fraud related to currency and tax evasion, but much like the Department of Defense has recognized cyberspace as a new battlefield. Treasury is now focusing on the Internet as the primary stage for money-related crimes. The speed at which crimes are carried out online require new techniques and tools. The use of cryptocurrencies to mask criminal behavior is also a huge focus of the Treasury's investigative departments.
  • Blockchain - While blockchain has a tie to the movement of cryptocurrencies (both legitimate and criminal), Treasury is also looking at the technology as a way to better facilitate the management of federal grant funds. In one case, the National Science Foundation is using blockchain to track grant payments and ensure that the terms of the grant are being followed.
  • Cloud - Like the Intelligence community, Treasury is looking to develop a cloud solution that meets the unique security needs of its mission while delivering on the efficiencies of the on-demand nature of cloud. The Department is developing a proposal for "T-Cloud," an enterprise wide suite of cloud and professional services across multiple providers. The goal to is award this contract and get it implemented by 2022.
  • Citizen Experience - The IRS may be one of the most visible government agencies as citizens interact with them at least once a year. With their high touch with the public, the IRS has been a leader in redefining what customer service means in government. In fiscal 2018, 90% of customers were satisfied with their service via phone or a tax assistance center. This does not mean the work is done. A recent report gave the IRS a C+ on its use of language, saying the agency needs to make their web content more user-friendly using Plain Language

For those working at or supporting the Treasury, there are several upcoming events that can help bring these challenges and their solutions into focus.

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Gutting travel, conference budgets invites problems

Originally posted on Federal Times

Federal travel and conference spending is predictably tanking under the combined pressures of severe budget cuts and the repercussions of a string of high-profile conference scandals that started in April 2012.

The scandals -- embarrassingly lavish conference events held by the General Services Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department and the IRS that were brought to light by inspectors general investigations -- provoked a quick and harsh response from Congess and the White House. Travel and conference activity across government slowed to a trickle within weeks.

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OMB: No More Lavish Government Conferences

Originally posted byElizabeth Flockon U.S. News

New guidelines from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget say it's time to cut back on conference spending in light of the sequester. In a document, the agency said it had "taken aggressive steps to curtail conference spending," such as ensuring conferences that cost more than $100,000 were approved by the head of an agency, hotel costs were within per diem rates, and that a cyber conference was considered before any in-person event was planned.

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