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Esper denies White House pressure on JEDI

Defense Secretary Mark Esper over the weekend refuted allegations that the White House pressured him to conduct a review of the Pentagon's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract. Esper said he “never felt pressure from the White House” and decided to launch the review on his own after he “heard a lot from members on both sides of the aisle” about the $10 billion commercial cloud contract. Esper's comments come as Amazon, after losing out on the JEDI contract, has filed a lawsuit alleging that President Trump influenced Esper’s review and the department’s award to Microsoft. JEDI is currently held up in court with AWS’s protest, and as of last week, the Pentagon was barred from entering any new work under the larger contract. Billy Mitchell has more from Esper.

A Message From AWS Educate

With over 1,500 institutions and hundreds of thousands of students who use AWS Educate, we wanted to take you on a trip around the world and highlight how students are learning and innovating with the cloud. Learn more.

AI needs social intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a great tool. But it's not yet a good teammate. It can’t fundamentally understand humans — their beliefs, intentions and restrictions. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants to change this. The agency recently kicked off a new research project called Artificial Social Intelligence for Successful Teams (ASIST), which holds the goal of figuring out how to imbue machines with social intelligence. Researchers admit the project is “very ambitious” — what they call a “DARPA-hard problem,” meaning it might take years to solve if it proves to be solvable at all. Tajha Chappellet-Lanier on DARPA's search for AI teammates.

Senate looks to study facial recognition

A pair of Senate lawmakers wants to quash federal use of facial recognition until Congress properly figures out how to regulate the technology. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced the Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act last week. It would also create a congressional commission to study facial recognition and give suggestions to Congress on how to regulate it. “Facial recognition is a powerful and rapidly evolving technology, but without proper oversight, it poses a serious risk to privacy and safety,” Booker said in a statement. “To protect consumer privacy and safety, Congress must work to set the rules of the road for responsible uses of this technology by the federal government.” Tajha has this one too.

Margaret Weichert to depart OMB in March

Margaret Weichert, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management, announced she will leave government in March to return to the private sector. She said she plans to join Accenture as a managing director in their commercial practice. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve as the Deputy Director for Management,” Weichert said in a statement. “I’m extremely proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside a talented group of Federal employees to modernize and streamline our Government... I’ve valued the opportunity to work with talented public servants, who are dedicated to improving how we deliver mission outcomes, improve service, and strengthen stewardship of taxpayer dollars.” More on Weichert's departure.


How proactive data backup strategies reduce ransomware risks for agencies

The acceleration of ransomware threats on government agencies is adding new urgency to modernize backup and recovery capabilities. Though data recovery can be complex, to strengthen agency networks IT executives can take advantage of modern enterprise data systems that align with the NIST Risk Management Framework, according to a new report. Read more.

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