A new federal approach to AI may be on the horizon

In today's Federal Newscast, the White House says it's considering a new approach to helping agencies adopt artificial intelligence.

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  • A new approach may be on the horizon to further implement artificial intelligence across government. The White House is considering creating an AI Center of Excellence to serve as a central hub to help agencies adopt this emerging technology. The White House Office of  Science and Technology Policy hosted an AI summit Monday with 175 people from government, academia and industry. The center of excellence would foster partnerships and encourage rapid scaling of AI across the government. Attendees also proposed ideas for types of CoE outreach that could foster cross-organizational communication of best practices for AI adoption. In addition to the center, the summit attendees heard case studies from the Defense Department, Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Library of Medicine. (White House)
  • The Defense Department’s new electronic health record is up and running at four more military treatment facilities. The second wave of deployments for MHS Genesis comes two years after the first launch. It includes Travis Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Lemoore and the Monterey Presidio in California, plus Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. DoD launched Genesis at four sites in the Pacific Northwest two years ago and plans to have it deployed worldwide by 2023.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to quickly take up new legislation designed to prevent veterans suicide. The IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act would let VA direct grant funding to community organizations who can help spread the department’s message about suicide prevention. Wilkie said the bill builds off success VA had in working with community organizations to end veterans homelessness. He said the goal is to strengthen partnerships and grant funding to lead to similar success with veterans suicide prevention. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The Energy Department is building three new supercomputers for artificial intelligence research as part of its new AI and Technology Office. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the center will help coordinate AI projects already underway at the agency. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in February that ordered agencies to prioritize AI research and development. (Department of Energy)
  • New provisions in the Intelligence Authorization Act are drawing ire from the White House. The language would require the chief financial officer and chief information officer of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to report directly to the head of the agency. In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, OMB acting Director Russ Vought said the idea is unnecessary as these two positions already serve statutory roles as the DNI’s principal advisers, and already have direct access to the DNI and principal deputy DNI. (White House)
  • The White House is pushing back against another proposal, this time in the House version of the annual defense authorization bill. It would give federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. The Office of Management and Budget said it supports paid parental leave but wants to provide it to all families nationwide, not just federal employees. OMB also took issue with several National Defense Authorization Act proposals that would require the Defense Department to publish regular security clearance status updates. The White House said the proposals would create too many burdensome reporting requirements. (White House)
  • Employee assistance programs for DoD’s civilian workforce are back up and running for the time being. A wide range of services including substance and mental health counseling had been unavailable to DoD employees since Labor Day weekend, but they began to come back online yesterday under a temporary agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS’s Program Support Center will deliver EAP for the next 60 days while Defense officials figure out a longer-term solution. PSC suspended its services to DoD on Sept. 1, but neither agency will say exactly why. (Federal News Network)
  • New goals from the Environmental Protection Agency laid out the direction the agency wants to head in 2020. The strategic plan includes a cleaner environment, more partnerships with state, local and tribal governments, and clearer agency regulations. EPA first released the plan in February, but Administrator Andrew Wheeler said this updated version better articulates his vision for the agency. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • The Federal Communications Commission plans to retire its last licensing applications still done on paper. In a notice of rulemaking, the commission said it will end paper filings to its Universal Licensing System, or ULS, and go completely electronic. The process would require applicants to provide e-mail addresses. The FCC said most radio license applications come in online already, but it still allows exceptions for several services such as private land mobile radio. Licensing applications for tower construction, and most antennas, are already electronic-only. (Federal Register)
  • As summer winds to a close, the 2019 Combined Federal Campaign is officially underway. The Office of Personnel Management kicked off the new campaign Monday. It runs through Jan. 11. This year’s CFC honorary chairperson is Peace Corps Director Josephine Olsen. This is her second time leading the campaign. Cash donations are prohibited again this year. Federal retirees can continue to donate to the campaign with a one-time donation or monthly payments through their annuities. (Office of Personnel Management)

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