Federal CIO says FedRAMP to be mandatory

Steve VanRoekel said that, if agencies use NIST guidelines, FedRAMP and monitoring when moving to the cloud, they can be a lot more secure than they are today

This article has been updated to correct the description of FedRAMP in relation to individual agencies' IT security control requirements.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Program will eventually be a mandatory path as federal agencies move to the cloud, federal CIO Steve VanRoekel told a government and industry audience at the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus. And FedRAMP will help make agencies more secure in the cloud than they are today.

“FedRAMP in the very near future is really a starting point,” Van Roekel said during a speech at the NIST Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop IV in Gaithersburg, Md, Nov. 2.  “We envision FedRAMP as a living initiative,” VanRoekel said in the second speech he has given since taking the reins of the federal CIO office.

NIST released the public draft of The U.S. Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap at the forum, which will be held Nov. 2-3 at the NIST campus and at the Crowne Plaza Rockville on Nov. 4.


Related story:

NIST goes public with cloud computing tech roadmap


FedRAMP is a risk management program aimed at improving the security accreditation process by using an approach that can be vetted and reused across the government. However, FedRAMP does not alleviate agencies from IT security control requirements or associated assessment and authorization responsiblities.

“In the early stage FedRAMP will authorize a lot of commodity IT-type solutions, known entities,” VanRoekel said. FedRAMP will continue to be modified as the government moves further into considerations around security. The Technology Roadmap is a great way to kick off conversation around these issues, he said.

The FedRamp guidance memo is in final review at the White House and Office of Management and Budget, and will be completed soon. Once finalized, OMB will establish a common baseline from which agencies can work.

FedRAMP will not only help agencies avoid duplicate procurement costs, VanRoekel said, but it will help agencies move to cloud computing more quickly and into more agile types of environments.

VanRoekel noted that he’s been impressed with the Homeland Security Department’s establishment of a standardized method to monitor the cybersecurity posture of agencies, saying it set an example for what the government is doing with FedRAMP.

FedRAMP was discussed in relation to the four areas the federal government is focusing on with regard to the future of the cloud: agencies, procurement, international concerns and cybersecurity.

The government wants to make sure that agencies have the right tools to migrate to the cloud, VanRoekel said. The Federal CIO Council is working on a white paper that brings issues such as the Freedom of Information Act, e-discovery and privacy into the conversation, he said. There also needs to be a focus on ensuring everyone is brought to the table: CIOs, legal and procurement departments. and program managers.

The federal government is examining international issues, such as compliance, jurisdictions and services-level agreements. The United States needs to strike a balance between trade, cybersecurity implications and innovation, he said.

The federal government should not be held back by considerations of trade and security, VanRoekel noted.

As far as cybersecurity, if agencies move to the cloud using NIST guidelines together with FedRAMP and monitoring, government systems can be a lot more secure than they are today, VanRoekel said.

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort.

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