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Scientists Take One Step Closer to Medical Tricorder

April 2, 2013

The National Institutes of Health is funding the development of a medical instrument that will quickly detect biothreat agents, including anthrax, ricin and botulinum as well as infectious diseases. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are creating the first of its kind point-of-care device that could be used in emergency rooms during a bioterrorism incident. To design the device, which will be able to detect a broader range of toxins and bacterial agents than is currently possible, the $4 million project will include comprehensive testing with animal samples. According to Anup Singh, senior manager, Sandia biological science and technology group, this differentiates the work on this device, because toxins may behave differently in live animals and humans than in blood samples.

Sandia scientists will be collaborating with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center, which will provide insights into toxins and diseases at animal laboratory facilities. Bio-Rad, which manufactures and distributes devices and laboratory technologies, is consulting on the project to evaluate product development, assist with manufacturers’ criteria and provide feedback when a prototype is built.

“We want dual-use devices that combat both man-made and nature-made problems,” Singh says. “We’re not just going to wait for the next anthrax letter incident to happen for our devices to be used and tested; we want them to be useful for other things as well, like infectious diseases.”

 

Sandia Starts Multiple High-Tech Projects with Caterpillar

March 27, 2013

Sandia National Laboratories has signed an umbrella Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Caterpillar Incorporated that covers multiple projects over the next three years. Though Caterpillar is best known for large construction and mining equipment, the CRADA authorizes work in computer and computational science, information and data analysis, mathematics, engineering science and high-performance computing. Technical categories covered by the agreement include simulation design exploration, advanced analytics, multiphysics engineering modeling and simulation, and high-performance computing. Caterpillar is seeking help from Sandia to develop advanced modeling and simulation technologies for virtual product development. Sandia has several technology partnership options that industry, nonprofits, government and academia can use to access the laboratories’ resources.

Cyber Investigators Analyze South Korea Malware

March 25, 2013

The malware that infiltrated computer systems across South Korea’s banking and television broadcast industries on March 20 shares similarities with the Shamoon program used last year to wipe clean the hard drives of 30,000 Saudi Aramco workstations, according to experts at General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions. Investigators at the company’s newly-opened cyber forensics laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, say the malware is not a Shamoon variant, but that the two programs share some characteristics.

Company officials acknowledge the speculation that North Korea launched the attacks but did not comment on the program’s origin. It is not unusual, they say, for a criminal group or nation to use malware that deliberately mimics attacks used by others. Doing so, of course, casts suspicion elsewhere, helping to mask the malware’s true origins. “A number of commercial firms were hit with a somewhat similar attack. It was not Shamoon. But the techniques were somewhat similar,” says Jim Jaeger, the company’s vice president of cybersecurity services.

Cyber lab personnel identified the South Korea malware as “239ed75323.exe,” a malicious file capable of wiping data in disk drives. One of the areas it targets is the disk’s master boot record, without which a computer cannot load its operating system. The program writes a pattern to the disk that repeats the word “HASTATI.” Hastati is an apparent reference to a class of infantry in the armies of the early Roman Republic that originally fought as spearmen and later as swordsmen. The malware did not overwrite the entire disk, so some data can be recovered. The cyber lab experts posted their initial findings in a blog the day after the attacks.

 

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.

 

Military Moves on Mobile

March 4, 2013

Despite continued budget crunching, U.S. Defense Department officials are continuing to implement a three-phase plan to equip the department’s 600,000 mobile-device users with secure classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that leverage commercial products. In conjunction with the Defense Information Systems Agency, the department’s chief information officer is establishing a basic multivendor mobility capability with the Defense Department for assessment. This first phase, which continues through April, deploys voice and data services over a commercial wireless network, and a contract will be awarded for the department’s initial enterprise mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application store (MAS). Phase two, which is set to last nine months, will focus on creating a security and service delivery infrastructure to support several competitive acquisition options. During the final phase, set to begin in October 2013, an operational capability will be offered to all Defense Department entities as a subscription-based service. Work is contingent on the availability of fiscal year 2013 and fiscal 2014 funding.
 

 

Federal IT Job Shadow Program Underway

February 5, 2013

The Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council has launched the 2013 Information Technology (IT) Job Shadow Day program. For more than a decade, the program has enabled high school students from all across the country to shadow federal IT professionals in their communities for a day. Job shadow events will take place between now and May 1. Federal employees who would like to volunteer can register on the Office of Personnel Management’s MAX.gov website. School faculty and administrators who would like their schools and students to participate can sign up on the IT Job Shadow Day page on the CIO.gov website.

 

 

U.S. Navy Slows NGEN Award

January 31, 2013

The U.S. Navy now plans to award the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract(s) for transport and enterprise services in May rather than on February 12, as originally planned, service officials announced The delay is due to the complexities of the NGEN requirements and the need to complete a thorough review of the bids, Navy officials say. The continuing resolution and possibility of sequestration have not impacted the NGEN contract(s) award schedule; however, it is unclear how they might impact the NGEN award schedule in the future, officials add.

 

U.S. Air Force Likely to Expand Cyber Force

January 30, 2013

 

The U.S. Air Force expects to add about 1,000 people, mostly civilians, to its cyberforces in the coming years.

 

Energy Boost for Materials Development

January 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Critical Materials Institute to bring together researchers from academia, the private sector and four DOE national laboratories to find solutions that can be applied to a material’s life cycle and increase U.S. global competitiveness in the materials marketplace.

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