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Technology for Border and Perimeter Security

Technology for Border and Perimeter Security

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A new strategy for the Army’s $28 billion intel-sharing system

A new strategy for the Army’s $28 billion intel-sharing system

The Army’s legacy battlefield intelligence-sharing system hasn’t been without its controversies.

The system, known as the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, faced criticism for its ability to effectively disseminate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data quickly and it faced significant debate over the many years and billions of dollars that went into developing and defending the system instead of choosing a commercial option.

The system has been in development for more than a decade and could cost as much as $28 billion over the next 20 years, lawmakers said in a 2013 letter to high ranking officials on the House Armed Services and House Appropriations committees.

But after years of public acrimony and legal wrangling, Army leaders now say they hope to move forward by better incorporating commercial off-the-shelf capability, user feedback and smaller “capability drops” that eschew the incremental approach of the past.

This new era of DCGS-A involves an emphasis on troop feedback, improved market research and better cooperation with industry, all of which directly contribute to getting more cutting-edge capabilities into the hands of soldiers faster, according to DCGS-A Project Manager Col. Rob Collins.

“As we’ve taken a more agile approach to how we improve our DCGS system, those things we’re focusing on – tactical, data, leveraging commercial – have been a core aspect of our strategy,” Collins told C4ISRNET. “How can we use the best of what industry can bring to us? We’ve been doing that by market research…what commercial capabilities are out there? Which ones can be modified? That tells us where we can tailor our requirements to take advantage of those commercial aspects…and we’ve already seen where we can speed up the improvements to the program.”

While DCGS-A previously was developed and fielded in increments, the Army now is delivering capability drops that are smaller, discrete and more agile, focused on specific needs and uses, Collins said.

“That allows us to do a couple things: We’re allowed to do more targeted market research into what’s available today, to be able to deliver more quickly,” he said. “It allows us to really hone in and ensure we’ve got our requirements right from an operational and a user’s perspective, so that once we establish those everything else from there falls into place. Once you have the requirements right, once you do market research accurately and identify products available, naturally you can move at a much quicker pace to acquire those things without lengthy development timeframes.”

The first capability drop, which Collins said was aimed at the tactical echelons and for which the Army released a request for proposals in August, now is in source selection as Army leaders look to reduce the system’s footprint at the lower echelons. The Army recently held an industry day for drop 2, which is focused on big data analytics that improve how intelligence is collected, prepared and disseminated in the battlefield, Collins said. He added that he expects advanced analytics to be a major part of the future of DCGS-A.

Besides the shift to capability drops, another major shift has been increased focus on user feedback from soldiers. The feedback comes from a range of sources, including in the theater as well as from training exercises across the country and Network Integration Evaluations. The feedback is resulting in moves to simplify the IT systems that underpin DCGS-A, enhance the user interface, inject feedback into the acquisition process, optimize training on the system and even improve the engineering behind human-systems integration.

“We’re looking at more of a collective approach that teaches them how to employ these capabilities as part of overall maneuver, the commander’s perspective,” Collins said. “We spend a fair amount time looking not just at how capabilities can provide intelligence products, but how it can interface with and feed the larger military decision-making cycle. A lot of the feedback is to reduce that complexity, make it easier to use…and make it more useful and accelerate the times required to produce the intel products.”

Army leaders also are looking to the other services, all of which have their own DCGS systems, and the intelligence community to better partner on moving the program and the system forward amid a changing threat landscape.

“DCGS is not just an Army system…we’re part of a larger, enterprise portfolio across the DoD. We have the DCGS systems of the Air Force, Navy, Marines and even [Special Operations Command]. It’s really about how we get the larger intelligence community, intelligence enterprise, to work and share data across that enterprise,” Collins said. “We’ve made several adjustments to make this program more agile, more open, more adaptable, and we certainly understand the future landscape is making sure we can address the unknowns and the unknowable.”

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Among Pentagon’s New Year’s resolutions: more cyber

Among Pentagon’s New Year’s resolutions: more cyber

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s No. 2 expects to spend a chunk of time on cyber issues in 2018, amidst a broad reorganization of the department’s management and acquisition structure.

Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense, told reporters Dec. 21 that part of his focus for the new year will be making sure the Pentagon’s cybersecurity is up to snuff after years of what officials openly talk about as having fallen behind the commercial sector.

“There’s certain risks that we understand and that we have vulnerabilities, and the task is to really mitigate that,” Shanahan said.

President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy placed an emphasis on cyber capabilities when it was released last month, and the upcoming National Defense Strategy, to be released in January, is expected to also devote time to the issue.

Shanahan will have a direct hand in the issue amidst broader changes to the department.

The first big step in that transformation comes Jan. 2, when John Gibson II becomes the department’s first chief management officer, elevating from his current role as deputy CMO.

The DCMO position itself is fairly new, with the first DCMO, Elizabeth McGrath, taking office in July 2010. But under a series of reforms pushed by Congress in recent years, it was decided the DCMO spot needed to be raised in profile in order to push forward best business practices for the department.

Gibson hasn’t been in the building long — he was nominated on June 19 and confirmed Nov. 17 — but he previously served as deputy undersecretary of defense for management reform as well as assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller. And he’ll likely have his hands full off the bat.

Under a reorganization plan laid out in August, the CMO will have six ”reform leaders” who will oversee changes to logistics and supply chain; real property; community services; human resources; health care; and a broader performance management reform leader, who will be responsible to work with the CMO and deputy secretary to establish “a process for routinely managing the progress of the functional reforms and IT business system deployments against the plan using those goals and other measures.”

It also creates a program executive for IT business systems, with the express goal of bringing down the number of individual IT systems across the department and streamlining them. And Gibson will also be in charge of leading a major cloud-computing initiative, Shanahan said.

Shanahan noted that each service has its own way of handling HR or finances, something that Gibson will try to change. As a result, Gibson will be leading “a more full integration of the fourth estate [defense civilians] into the department of defense,” as well as “shifting from service-led functions into more enterprise-led functions. This is in the areas of IT, HR, finance.”

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Health data management trends to watch for in 2018

Health data management trends to watch for in 2018

Shot of two surgeons analyzing a patient’s medical scans during surgery

By Bill Siwicki
January 04, 2018

Informatics, data analytics, privacy and security, clinical documentation improvement and information governance are among the imperatives that will dominate data trends in 2018, according to the American Health Information Management Association.

Data Analytics
Demand for services and projects will increase in 2018, AHIMA predicts. Data analysts are expected to be busy helping providers participate in new payment models and find their way through new policy initiatives such as MACRA.

Informatics
Data experts will help to mitigate physician burnout with electronic health records by streamlining processes to capture data in EHRs, protect patient-generated data in mobile apps and develop interfaces and dashboards for telehealth services, AHIMA said.

Privacy & Security
While cybersecurity incidents will likely continue to make headlines in 2018, there are a number of policies related to data security to watch for this year, AHIMA said. These include the issuing of “minimum necessary” requirements, guidance around mental health information and data sharing as required by proposed rules of both the 21st Century Cures Act and the penalty sharing provision of the HITECH Act, experts said.

Clinical Documentation
Clinical documentation improvement specialists will also continue to be deeply involved with claims denials in 2018, helping to identify denials for coding and documentation that should be appealed as well as continue to expand to new and specialty areas of healthcare such as long-term care, home health, psychiatric units and rehab facilities that call for high-quality documentation, AHIMA predicted.

Information Governance
In the area of information governance, experts said enterprise-wide retention policies and data quality will continue to cause cybersecurity challenges for providers in 2018, demonstrating the strong need for IG programs to address them.

Government & Policy
Federal rules and regulations will also be worth paying close attention to this year. In addition to the 2018 budget, which will affect funding of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, the forthcoming definition of “information blocking” defined by the 21st Century Cures Act will be a major story to look for because of its impact on a large portion of EHR users, AHIMA said.
Four big issues impacting inpatient and outpatient coding in 2018 will be reimbursement, telemedicine, copy/paste and coding auditing, the experts added. Also, starting in January, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 will require physicians to start reporting patient relationship modifiers.

Workforce
Finally, with regard to education and workforce issues, “upskilling” existing practitioners for more advanced roles in data analytics and informatics, preparing academic faculty to teach higher-level content in data analytics and revising curriculums to ensure students are prepared to meet workplace needs are all education and workplace trends to pay attention to in 2018, according to AHIMA.

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DOD’s Shanahan to DCMO: establish a cloud-computing program

DOD’s Shanahan to DCMO: establish a cloud-computing program

An abstract digital world globe showing north America. The globe is sorrounded by communication lines and digital infographics. The border of the image features encrypted computer code.

Justin Doubleday
January 08, 2018

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan has tasked the Pentagon’s deputy chief management officer with leading the military’s adoption of cloud technologies by establishing a new program and budget line for the effort.

Based on feedback from the cloud executive steering group he established in September, Shanahan directs Jay Gibson to implement the initial acquisition strategy for accelerating the adoption of cloud technologies, according to a Jan. 8 memo provided to Inside Defense. Shanahan instructs Gibson to lead the implementation alongside the Pentagon’s cost assessment and program evaluation office, the chief information officer and the Defense Digital Service.

Gibson is expected to soon be named the Pentagon’s chief management officer, a position created by Congress in the latest defense authorization act.

Inside Defense reported last week that Gibson had replaced Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord as chair of the steering group, while CAPE and the CIO had been added as voting members, according to a Jan. 4 memo penned by Shanahan. That memo has since been “rescinded” and the Jan. 8 memo takes its place, according to a DOD spokesman.

Once elevated to CMO, Gibson will still lead the adoption of cloud technologies, the spokesman said.

The latest directive says phase one of the cloud-adoption effort “will leverage cloud technology to strengthen and streamline commercial operations within the department.” Gibson is instructed to “work with industry to ensure DOD is maximizing security, building clouds that can scale effectively to meet department demand, and developing common standards to minimize switching cost to take full advantage of vendor competition,” the memo continues.

To that end, Shanahan directs Gibson to establish a “Cloud Computing Program Manager” or CCPM. The program manager will report to Gibson, who is also authorized to “establish a budget line item and allocate an appropriate number of civilian and military billets to the CCPM based on mission need,” the memo states.

The memo appears to respond to concerns voiced by industry over the steering group’s plans to downselect to just one cloud services provider for the entire Defense Department. Industry associations argued that strategy was misguided and would lead to a limiting and costly situation of “cloud lock-in.”

Shanahan’s latest memo signals the initiative will begin with a less expansive push into the cloud.

“The initial cloud acquisition strategy will start small and employ an iterative process as the department explores how to leverage cloud technology to lower costs, improve performance and increase lethality,” the document states. “Additionally, this initiative will use existing systems, facilities and services for the DOD and other federal agencies when possible to avoid duplication and achieve maximum efficiency and economy.”

The second phase of the cloud adoption initiative will involve the DCMO and the CIO working with the services, the under secretary of defense for intelligence and Lord’s office “to build cloud strategies for requirements related to military operations and intelligence support,” the memo states.

“The department understands that applying cloud technology within the battlespace has unique challenges and opportunities and may require specialized technology investments,” it adds.

The memo, however, makes no mention of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure acquisition strategy. A Nov. 6 information paper on JEDI laid out a plan to move DOD to one cloud services provider, with a contract award planned for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018. The information paper partly contributed to industry’s concerns over the cloud executive steering group’s approach.

Asked about the JEDI information paper, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Patrick Evans told Inside Defense the steering group’s acquisition strategy “is executing and evolving in the midst of the significant reorganization” at DOD, including the disestablishment of Lord’s office, the establishment of a chief management officer “and other defense reform initiatives.” He said Shanahan’s latest memo reflects those organizational changes.

“As the department’s analysis and market research process continues, the JEDI cloud path forward will continue to evolve and mature as appropriate,” Evans wrote in a Jan. 8 email.

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HHS seeks a single framework solution

HHS seeks a single framework solution

An attractive senior black man uses his smartphone on the trail

By Jessie Bur
January 9, 2018

The healthcare industry operates with many incompatible networks, so the Department of Health and Human Services has taken a major step on its quest to forge a framework to bind them together. HHS on Jan. 5 released for public comment its draft Trusted Exchange Framework, which proposes policies and standards to promote the interoperability of health data systems.

“The draft Trusted Exchange Framework we issued today reflects the successes and challenges already existing in the exchange of health information and is designed to help guide the nation on its path to interoperability for all,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.

“The principles and direction we released today, combined with the support of providers, existing health information networks, health IT developers, and federal agencies, are designed to help improve patient care, care coordination, and the overall health of the nation.”
The framework was mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in December 2016.

  • According to HHS, health organizations currently have to subscribe to multiple data exchange networks, which drives up costs and has issues with scalability. A single interoperability framework would help ensure that different networks can communicate with each other.
    The framework operates on six principles:
  • Standardization – adhere to industry and government standards
  • Transparency – conduct the exchange in an open and transparent manner.
  • Cooperation and non-discrimination – work with others in the industry, even if they are a direct competitor.
  • Security and patient safety – ensure data security and integrity throughout.
  • Access – ensure that patients and caregivers have access to health data.
  • Data-driven accountability – Exchange multiple records at one time to enable identification and trending of data to lower the cost of care and improve the health of the population.

According to the HHS press release, the final framework will support the goals of allowing patients to access their own information, health providers and others to receive population-level health data to better understand trends in that data and innovators to create new programs for increased usability.

Once the framework is finalized, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator will select a Recognized Coordinating Entity to develop a common agreement that qualified health networks and their participants can voluntarily agree to adopt.
ONC will also be working with other health-related federal partners, including Veterans Affairs, to establish the best standards for the framework.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs supports ONC’s efforts to create a common ‘on-ramp’ to health information networks that supports widespread interoperability, said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA executive in charge. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that our veterans’ health information flows and is available when and where it is needed to support seamless care.”
“We know that many stakeholders, including healthcare providers, health systems, developers, and existing health information networks have extensive experience in trust agreements and common exchange networks and strongly encourage stakeholders to share that insight with us,” said Rucker.

The comment period for the framework closes on Feb. 18, 2018, and comments can be submitted to [email protected]

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