woman with connected laptop and phone (SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com)


On the verge of true federal IT modernization

After the flurry of cyber and modernization-related policy talk earlier this year, it feels like we’ve entered a holding pattern. With Congress more heavily focused on other issues, movement on IT priorities has slowed, particularly as we wait for the Senate to decide the fate of the Modernizing Government Technology Act. 

Yet despite the quiet, the stars are aligning. There is no doubt in my mind that improving federal IT is a bi-partisan issue, and I strongly believe our leaders will ensure that IT modernization remains a top priority through the end of 2017.

For the remainder of the year we must laser-focus on areas that will push the IT modernization movement forward, especially cloud, biometrics and mobility.

‘Cloud first’ should be seen as an achievable standard

Agencies should focus on replacing existing technology with low-cost alternatives, like open-source and cloud resources. A recent Forrester Research report detailed that despite a decrease in the federal IT budget, cloud spending is expected to reach $2.1 billion in 2018, a 2.6 percent increase from 2017.

For years, the government has been pursuing a cloud-first policy that requires agencies to use cloud-based technology in an effort to cut waste and deliver constituent services faster. More recently, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program is making it easier for agencies to make the move and get more reliable, secure, resilient IT infrastructures for less.

To further improve and accelerate the move to cloud, FedRAMP announced its new FedRAMP Tailored baseline, which would be used to rapidly authorize low-risk services like collaboration tools and project management. According to the information provided after the most recent comment period, the new changes make personally identifiable information only necessary at login, outline a continuous monitoring policy and provide baseline information on how cloud-service providers can attest to each control and the scope of which types of software-as-a-service applications can be considered low risk.

It’s understandable that much of the hesitation inside the government to migrate to the cloud comes from security concerns. However, solutions like FedRAMP Tailored and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework help to eliminate the one-size-fits-all approach to compliance and put agencies in a better position to effectively react to and prevent threats, enabling a more secure migration to the cloud.

Agencies must recognize the benefits of biometrics

As we develop a more connected government, the cybersecurity threats become bigger and more difficult to thwart. From the recent discussion around the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system to the General Services Administration and Department of Homeland Security exploring the future capabilities of the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, the federal government is determined to securely embrace the digital revolution.

However, agencies on the front lines face even greater risks, battling thousands of threats on a daily basis. To properly fight back, all agencies should turn to biometrics.

While biometric use in cellphones and tablets is a more recent development, the federal government has used biometric systems for over a decade and is leading the charge in improving these technologies. Whether it’s securing borders or identifying employees, biometric technologies have developed into a powerful tool for verification. Now it is used not just to secure physical entities but also as a tool for controlling access to data.

As we look to the future of biometrics, it is imperative that the government and private sector share information to ensure the technology continues to mature. Existing biometrics applications are evolving, with customer feedback driving improvement.

We must push for mobility

According to a recent Dell EMC survey, 93 percent of federal IT executives believe that mobility is one of the most important attributes of a "future-ready" agency.  But, the federal mobility trend is two tiered -- agencies must spread mobility not only federal employees through bring-your-own-device policies, but also to citizens looking for mobile-friendly services.

Over the last few years, both the FBI and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have launched successful mobile-first programs that provide employees with the technology they are accustomed to using. And employees weren’t the only ones that benefited -- the policy helped the EEOC’s bottom line, reducing mobile device costs by 20 percent.

Agencies are looking for ways to better connect with their consumers, the American citizens.  As technology becomes integrated into citizens' day-to-day lives, they expect government to provide services through accessible and convenient tools.

The path forward for IT modernization

Whether through cloud computing or mobility management, IT modernization is changing the way government agencies function, achieve mission goals and interact with each other, the private sector and citizens.

As the federal government works through its cyber and IT modernization challenges, it must take advantage of the efficiencies offered by cloud, biometrics and mobility. The key to agencies' success depends on embracing agility, innovation and new technologies that deliver  the type of services citizens have come to expect from the private sector. 

About the Author

John Batzer is technical director at KeyLogic Systems.

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