Senators look to revive program to help small businesses work with the Pentagon

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  • Congress is looking to make it easier for small businesses to work with the Pentagon. A new Senate bill looks to improve the Defense Department’s Mentor-Protégé Program. The program expired last year. The initiative allows mentors to make cash advances to their protégés, which DoD then reimburses. (Sen. Martin Heinrich)
  • A bipartisan bloc of senators brought forth a bill to streamline the rollout of artificial intelligence at agencies. The Artificial Intelligence in Government Act would direct the General Services Administration to stand up a center of excellence on AI, and would create an advisory board on AI usage in government. The bill would also task the Office of Personnel Management with updating or creating new job series to reflect the growing role of AI in government. (Sen. Rob Portman)
  • A new bipartisan and bicameral commission has formed to review U.S. threats in cyberspace. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) announced the launch of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. It was established in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Among investigating cyber threats, the commission will also provide strategic guidance and policy recommendations on how to defend against them. It will be made of 14 members from Congress, federal agencies, and relevant civilian profession to help build the strategic approach. (Sen. Angus King)
  • Oracle fires another salvo at the DoD’s $10 billion cloud procurement initiative.The soap opera that is the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative, or JEDI, cloud procurement entered another dramatic turn in a new court filing by Oracle. The software giant alleges former Defense Department employees have been caught in a web of lies, ethics violations and misconduct in the development of the JEDI solicitation. Oracle claims two DoD employees had job offers from Amazon Web Services and failed to alert officials in a timely manner while participating in key parts of the procurement cycle. Oracle asks the Court of Federal Claims to either find that AWS is ineligible for award or require DoD to further investigate and resolve the conflict of interest claims. (Federal News Network)
  • It looks like smooth sailing for the Trump administration’s nominee to be administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Michael Wooten told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee if he is confirmed, he will highlight innovation best practices through the Federal Acquisition Regulations, as well as welcome other ideas that are outside the four corners of the FAR. Wooten said shining some light on these best practices would help change the culture of risk aversion. (Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • Eighteen bills cleared the House Veterans Affairs Committee, including one instructing the Veterans Affairs Department to share more data with Congress about recent veterans suicides on VA campuses. The committee also cleared legislation that would officially grant benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans. House VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to put this legislation up for a vote before Memorial Day. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) are hoping to give more career options to the families of Foreign Service officers living abroad. The bill would give hiring preference to Foreign Service spouses for certain State Department vacancies and contract positions. It would also give space to outside entities to providing career services at state facilities. The American Foreign Service Association has endorsed the bill. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
  • The Navy is launching its MyNavy Family app in anticipation of Military Spouse Day on May 10. The app focuses on eleven key milestone events within the life of a Navy family. Those include new spouse orientation and mentorship as well as networking resources. The program also brings together 22 different websites that are useful to military families. (Navy)
  • The Air Force has published new guidance that it hopes will break down data stovepipes across the service. It’s calling the more than 70 page document the Data Services Reference Architecture, and says the objective is to make information more shareable across weapons systems and across organizations. It defines data as a “collective asset,” and tells acquisition officials and program managers to start making their data discoverable across the Air Force under an “open first” approach. It also gives preference for the use of open source software to share data. (Air Force)
  • Three percent of cases closed by administrative judges at the Merit Systems Protection Board over the last five years ended in some kind of relief for federal employees. The MSPB says those cases ended in a cancellation or mitigation of a personnel action, back pay or retirement benefits. MSPB says this rate shows administrative judges are getting their decisions right most of the time. (Merit Systems Protection Board)
  • At least one small federal agency has a nearly complement of confirmed leadership. It’s the Export-Import Bank. The Senate confirmed three Trump administration nominees to its board of directors, Kimberly Reed, Spencer Bachus and Judith DelZoppo Pryor. Confirmation of two more board members remains pending, but the three new members give the ExIm board a quorum. That means the export financing agency can operate at full lending capacity. Loans of more than ten million dollars require board approval. (Export-Import Bank)

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