Smartphones are great for many things—finding directions to a new restaurant, checking email, and now detecting the threat of deadly chemical agents such as anthrax, sarin or mustard gas. This is great news for soldiers facing the real threat of contact with these chemicals while deployed. Welcome to the weekly news kick off. Enjoy these highlights.
Handheld Devices Improve Bio and Chemical Threat Detection
Army researchers are working to bring chemical and biological detection down to size, with small, 3D-printed devices that can quickly detect the presence of harmful agents and report those results up the chain of command, Defense Systems reports. One device is called the VOCkit system, and the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. Is developing it. It uses a postage stamp-sized colorimetric detection assay printed with a grid of several dozen indicator chemicals with the ability to identify threats such as anthrax, sarin or mustard gas. The system can then transmit the results via soldiers’ Nett Warrior smartphones.
What’s the Next Big Tech Trend? One Federal Agency Thinks it Can Predict the Answer
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a group created to coordinate research for the intelligence community, has designed an application to identify technology that isn’t well-known today, but might be in three to five years, the Washington Post reports. Called “Foresight and Understanding from Scientific Exposition,” or FUSE, it scans large volumes of academic journals, patents and other formal scientific documents for hints of emerging technologies. Government scientists could eventually use the analytic system to prioritize research and development.
Big Health Data Project on New Chief Data Scientist’s Agenda
FedScoop reports that according to the White House, DJ Patil, in his new job as the federal chief data scientist, will work on a new White House project to use big data to improve patient care. The Precision Medicine Initiative is an effort to test and eventually use “precision medicine” — that is, treatment plans that factor in differences from patient to patient — to help treat cancer and other diseases.
Agencies Adding 72,000 Employees in 2015
Federal Times reports that federal agencies bouncing back from sequestration cuts and years of hiring freezes are hiring more than 72,000 federal employees in 2015, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget. The non-postal federal workforce will grow from about 2.03 million federal employees to more than 2.1 million in fiscal 2015, as agencies look to fill gaps in their workforces and recover from previous losses, according to OMB.
GAO Says Pentagon Must Improve in Accounting for Database Costs
The Defense Department needs to do better in accounting for the costs of keeping a vast database of contracting information up to date, according to a Government Accountability Office report. The database, known as the Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker–Enterprise Suite, contains information on nearly 1 million contractor personnel who have worked with DOD, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, FCW reports.