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Increasing Machines’ Learning Curve

March 21, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is searching for companies to participate in its recently launched Probabilistic Programming for Advanced Machine Learning (PPAML) program. Probabilistic programming is an innovative approach to manage the uncertain information that computers use to understand data, manage results and infer insights. The PPAML seeks to increase the number of people who can successfully build machine learning applications as well as boost the effectiveness of current machine learning experts. In addition, the project will focus on creating more economical, robust and powerful applications that require less data to produce more accurate results. “Our goal is that future machine learning projects won’t require people to know everything about both the domain of interest and machine learning to build useful machine learning applications,” Kathleen Fisher, DARPA program manager, says. The three-phase program is scheduled to run for 46 months beginning this year and continuing to 2017. The agency is hosting a Proposers’ Day at the Executive Conference Center, Arlington, Virginia, on April 10, 2013, to familiarize potential participants with the PPAML’s technical objectives. Interested organizations must register by 5 p.m. on April 5, 2013. A DARPA special notice document describing the specific capabilities the agency is interested in is available online.

 

Time to Apply for Contractor of the Year Awards

March 13, 2013

Nominations now are being accepted for the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards. Presented by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council, these awards recognize excellence in several size categories, from companies with an annual revenue of less than $25 million to those with more than $300 million in annual revenue.

To apply for the award, a company must be headquartered in the greater Washington, D.C., region and more than half of the firm’s employees must work within the region or employ a least 1,000 or more employees within the region. The Executive of the Year Award is presented to a C-level executive who works for a government contracting company and resides in the greater Washington, D.C., area. The Public Sector Partner of the Year Award honors a federal government procurement professional who has demonstrated unusual leadership and vision in building the spirit of partnership with the private sector or leading change in the procurement community.

The deadline for nominations is June 14, 2013, and an intent to apply form is available online. For more information, contact Jenny Coppedge or call (703) 752-7505.

The awards will be presented on November 7, 2013. This marks the 11th year that the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council have presented these awards.

 

Tap Into New AFCEA Online Resources

March 15, 2013

To help keep global security professionals abreast of business opportunities and changes in the government acquisition landscape, AFCEA International has gathered information about these topics in a new section of the AFCEA website. Called AFCEA Corporate Member Resources, the page features new content about military and government organizations as it becomes available.

The Budget Is Dominating the Dialogue--Especially That of the Security Community

March 1, 2013
by Kent R. Schneider

Anyone who has attended an AFCEA conference in the past two months has heard the constant drumbeat from senior government leadership on the limitations on operations and readiness likely to occur in defense, intelligence and homeland security. At the AFCEA/USNI West 2013 Conference in San Diego January 29-31, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a packed audience that the U.S. Defense Department did not know how much money it would receive, when it would receive it or what the restrictions on its use would be.

While we are getting a similar message from defense, intelligence and homeland security leaders, the most concise statement of the problem comes from Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter. In a January 10 memorandum, “Handling Budgetary Uncertainty in Fiscal Year 2013,” Carter points out that the department faces two elements of economic uncertainty in this fiscal year. First, the department, as are all U.S. federal agencies, is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires March 27. While the Defense Department is working with Congress to get appropriations bills, the possibility exists that it will operate under a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Under a CR, the department is limited to prior-year funding levels, and there can be no new starts. In addition, transfer of funds among categories is very limited. Second, Congress deferred potential sequestration under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 from January 2, 2013, to March 1. If sequestration does occur this late in the year, the approximately $46 billion in reductions would occur in a very concentrated period. Remember too that the reductions under sequestration have few exceptions and must be applied across all program elements.

Hotels Hot Target for Terrorists

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The hotel industry has seen a greater increase in terrorist attacks than any other industry in recent years, according to Alan Orlob, vice president of global safety and security for Marriott International. Orlob offered a first-hand account of the attacks on two hotels in Jarkarta, Indonesia, in 2009.

Orlob, the luncheon keynote speaker at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., was staying at a Ritz Carlton hotel, which is owned by Marriott, at the time of the attack.

He said that as he stepped out of the shower, he heard at an explosion at the hotel across the street. “I looked out my window, and I could see the front of the JW Marriott, and I saw smoke coming out of the back and people running,” he said. Moments later, another explosion occurred at the Ritz Carlton.

“I followed the broken glass and the destruction into the restaurant. I don’t know how many of you have been involved in improvised explosive device attacks, but it tears clothes off people and separates extremities. That’s what I was seeing that morning,” he said. “I remember feeling that sense of anger that morning.”

Orlob said he studies the tactics, techniques and procedures used by terrorists, and he offered lessons learned, including training first responders to decide which victims should be treated first, only evacuating a building if the evacuation area has been cleared first and ensuring evacuation plans are current.

The Bottom Line: Fewer Conferences? So What?

February 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The cancellation of several military and government conferences is among the latest collateral damage of financial belt-tightening and looming additional defense budget cuts. But the real question is, “So what?” Read that question carefully. It does not mean, “What does it matter?” but rather “What do global security professionals do now to develop effective networks with the business sector?”

And, those are only two of the important questions raised by the reduction in the number of conferences during a time when cutting costs is crucial. Among the others are:

Face Time Benefits Small and Large Businesses

February 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

AFCEA’s Small Business team is hosting a partnership symposium during the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference that features one-on-one meetings between large companies and small businesses to determine partnering potential.

Meet Linda Millis, Vice President, Industry Programs, AFCEA International

November 15, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Linda Millis didn’t aim for a career in the intelligence field, but the National Security Agency (NSA) had different plans. Agency personnel recognized linguistic talent when they saw it—particularly in someone who majored in Russian at the University of Maryland—and recruited her as a Cold Warrior. And the NSA wasn’t the only organization to see Millis’ potential value to U.S. security.

Cyber Committee Shares Expertise

November 15, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Ranging in topics from cloud computing to supply chain management, AFCEA’s Cyber Committee has published five white papers. Available on the committee’s website, information ranges from the basics to high-level recommendations that will be useful not only to organizations’ information technology personnel but also to leadership planning strategies for the future.

 

Managing Change in the
 Intelligence Community

October 1, 2012
By Max Cacas

A new computing architecture emphasizes shared resources.

The nation’s intelligence community has embarked on a path toward a common computer desktop and a cloud computing environment designed to facilitate both timely sharing of information and cost savings. The implementation could result in budget savings of 20 to 25 percent over existing information technology spending within six years, but the ramifications could include large cultural changes that result both in lost jobs and business for industry partners.

Al Tarasiuk, chief intelligence officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), explains that the changes will be difficult. Agency employees, and the vendors who help operate and manage information technology for the 17 agencies composing the nation’s intelligence apparatus, will feel the effects of the cost cuts.

“Right now, technology is not our biggest risk. The culture change is our biggest risk, and that extends to our industry partners. We have a lot of industry employed in the community through service contracts and other things. They could help, or they could choose not to help,” Tarasiuk emphasizes, candidly describing the pivotal role of these firms in a transition that could spell the loss of both business and jobs. “They know, and I’ve been very open with them, that we’re not going to need the pool of resources of people that we have today to manage what we have in the future.”

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