The Technology Modernization Fund Board, an assembly of seven federal information technology stakeholders tasked with leading government IT modernization efforts, convened for the first time earlier this month, Nextgov reported. The group is responsible for distributing as much as $500 million in federal funds to private firms interested in helping the federal government bolster its digital infrastructure.
"It's an honor to be with committed chief information officers and technology leaders across federal agencies as we move our government into the 21st century," federal CIO Suzette Kent, the chair of the TMF board, said.
Kent and her colleagues were granted his authority in December when President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, according to Congressional records. In addition to establishing military spending levels, the law greenlit a two-year federal IT modernization program to draw financing from a working capital fund to be overseen by the TMF board. While Congress has yet to officially fund the IT modernization initiative, the TMF board is moving forward with its work, for which the Trump administration has requested $210 million for the fiscal year 2018.
The group devoted its inaugural meeting to establishing the guiding principles behind the federal IT modernization funding strategy. With these core concepts in place, the TMF board will not begin evaluating proposals from the private sector proposals designed to address critical gaps in federal IT infrastructure. What might those be?
Roadblocks to federal technological progress
Last year, the office of the federal CIO issued a report addressed to President Trump that covered the numerous upgrades needed to bring the backend systems supporting government operations up to modern standards, beginning with total network consolidation and modernization. This overarching objective includes more detailed aims such as securing "high-risk, high-value assets," improving secure internet connections and streamlining service acquisition and management activities. This larger goal also entails developing a secure cloud migration system under the National Cybersecurity Protection System. An estimated 47 percent of government agencies are currently using the cloud, according to researchers at Gartner. The office of the CIO hopes to accelerate cloud adoption by addressing the security concerns that accompany the transformative technology.
The agency's report also promoted the big-bucket objective of facilitating data sharing across the federal government's traditionally siloed IT teams. Again, the cloud sits at the center of this aim, with Kent and her staff advocating for the implementation of public cloud-based services. The office of the CIO suggests the adoption of cloud email platforms and collaboration tools capable of helping federal workers connect more easily. Of course, these prospective solutions would be subject to strict data security controls.
"The TMF board is distributing as much as $500 million in federal funds to private firms interested in helping the federal government bolster its digital infrastructure."
The third and final recommended action mentioned in the report to the president concerns sourcing. Despite the previous administration's focus on IT modernization, only a portion of federal stakeholders actually embraced formalized IT improvement efforts centered on bleeding-edge solutions of all kinds. Why? Sourcing. Many agencies have not been able to gather the required resources and connect with the right external partners. The office of the CIO encouraged federal IT stakeholders to embrace more scaled-down sourcing workflows.
Hard work ahead
With these aims on the table, the TMF board and the third-parties it partners with have considerable work ahead of them. Not only are the proposed solutions laid out in the report from the office of the CIO ambitious, they involve meaningfully addressing data security on a federal level, something government IT teams across all departments and agencies have had trouble with, Wired reported.
"There's a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to the government sector overall," Alex Heid, the chief research security officer at Security Scorecard, told the magazine. "They'll implement a technology when it's very new and then it'll just sit there and age. This creates a mix of emerging technologies, which might be misconfigured, or not everything is known about them yet, with legacy technologies that have known vulnerabilities and exploitable conditions."
Heid's organization recently evaluated data security practices for 18 U.S. industries and the government placed 16th, just ahead of telecommunications and education. The TMF board will have to take this into account when working with external resources and ensure they can implement IT infrastructure that not only makes an impact but is also relatively easy to maintain and update as time goes by.
Of course, IT leaders in the commercial sector can sympathize with the challenge facing the TMF board and the office of the CIO, as many are beginning to embark on IT modernization journeys themselves, most of which feature similar pitfalls. Organizations on this uphill climb that are facing technological difficulties similar to those the federal government is staring down should consider partnering with the Inventu Corporation.
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