It’s Not Enough to be First, You Have to be Smart – Cloud Smart

Over the past year, there has been a shift in the way government approaches the cloud. No longer are agencies asked to go "cloud first," they are now urged to be "cloud smart." This change is not just a matter of semantics; it is a different way of thinking. Rather than choosing a cloud solution to meet mandates, agencies are examining whether the cloud is the right platform for the application or system in question. Cloud Smart also means picking the right kind of cloud - public, private, or hybrid/multi cloud to meet user, administration, and security needs.

One way to be Cloud Smart is to follow FedRAMP guidance. While this program is not without its challenges (including the speed at which technologies get approval), it is still a valuable tool to ensure that industry standards and security protocols are met. Participation in the program is growing with 150 participating agencies and over 130 FedRAMP-authorized cloud service offerings.

While guidance around how to proceed to the cloud is evolving (along with the cloud technology), agencies are pushing forward and finding their smart path to cloud and, more importantly, creating new ways to interact with their constituents. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Production and Conservation division made the shift to a commercial platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for Farmers.gov. This site "allows farmers, ranchers, foresters and agriculture producers to register their businesses electronically and gain personalized access to the services they need to manage their operations." By using cloud technologies, USDA found they could save their developers time, enabling them to focus on configuring, rather than coding.

There are several events that feature examples of these cloud successes and discuss how to overcome technical, policy, and cultural barriers to smart cloud adoption.

  • DC CloudWeek (June 3-7, 2019; Washington, DC) -- This SXSW-style citywide festival brings together thousands of government and tech leaders from around the nation to share how the cloud is transforming government, academia, nonprofits, and the private sector. It includes dozens of community conferences, events, and parties.
  • AWS Public Sector Summit (June 11-12, 2019; Washington, DC) -- This event brings together innovators who are changing the world with cloud computing to share their successes and lessons learned to guide wider cloud adoption in government. The conference aims to send attendees back to their office with new strategies and techniques for kicking off new projects, maximizing budgets, and achieving mission goals.
  • ATARC Federal Cloud and Infrastructure Summit (June 25, 2019; Washington, DC) -- This educational, one-day symposium will examine the cloud tools and techniques being used by the Federal Government to provide agencies with greater efficiency and cost savings. The morning session will feature speakers and panels with government thought leaders, while the afternoon includes the MITRE-ATARC Cloud Collaboration Symposium, where government, academic, and industry subject matter experts will examine cloud and data center challenge topics.
  • 2019 Cyber Security Brainstorm "Cyber Strong: Cyber's New Frontier" (August 8, 2019; Washington, DC) -- This half-day program will discuss integrating cloud and other next-gen technologies, strategies for building cyber strength, and preparing the workforce for these technological changes.
  • KubeCon | CloudNativeCon (November 18-21, 2019; San Diego, CA) -- The Cloud Native Computing Foundation's flagship conference gathers adopters and technologists from leading open source and cloud native communities to further the education and advancement of cloud

Let us know your go-to events for cloud information with details in the comments.

Behind the Curtain: GEOINT 2019

The GEOINT Symposium is the nation's largest gathering of geospatial intelligence stakeholders from across industry, academia, and government. Hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), the event has become the gathering place for 4,000+ members of the worldwide geospatial community.

Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) was recognized as a discipline in the mid 1990s when the imagery and mapping disciplines were combined into a single DoD agency that was later re-named the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The combination proved that together, these two technologies provided an incredible opportunity for new intelligence and analysis. The term "GEOINT" was coined by the honorable James Clapper and a community of mapping and imagery intelligence analysts began to grow.

The first GEOINT Symposium was held in a hotel meeting room with the expectation of 100 attendees, but even that first event drew many more to the standing room-only sessions. Since then, the Symposium has grown year after year to become the flagship event for networking and professional development among the defense and intelligence communities and others who use geospatial technology including first responders, law enforcement, and beyond. Continue reading

The Next Step in Data Center Consolidation

Data center consolidation has been a mandated goal in the federal government for a number of years. The introduction of cloud, virtualization, and shared services means the government can run more efficiently with less hardware that no longer requires huge, physical servers to sit in buildings. Many of which were built for the sole purpose of housing servers. Consolidation saves money on technology, the support of that technology and also reduces agency real estate footprints and needs. While agencies have made some strides, the OMB sees the progress to date as going after low hanging fruit and is now challenging agencies to think bigger.

According to a drafted policy issued in November, OMB stated, "Agencies have seen little real savings from the consolidation of non-tiered facilities, small server closets, telecom closets, individual print and file servers, and single computers acting as servers." The push now should be in moving to the cloud and shared services, and looking to commercial third parties to host government data.

More than moving servers and workloads, data center consolidation relies on changing the way agencies manage data. The Data Accountability and Transparency Act was enacted to make information on government spending more transparent. Doing so requires agencies to agree to and implement data standards so that information can be shared across government and openly with the public. This implementation of standards has been a stumbling block for compliance. Continue reading

Behind the Curtain: National Contract Management Association

As we've written here, the contracting and procurement market is at an interesting crossroads. The current workforce is aging and retiring making it difficult to find and train incoming talent. Additionally, new technologies such as AI and blockchain are being introduced and changing daily workflow. Now more than ever, the contracting community needs ways to keep the workforce trained on tried and true processes of this profession as well as get up to speed on emerging technologies and tactics. Luckily, an organization exists to do just this.

The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2019 but with the industry pressures detailed above they have no plans of slowing down. The group brought in a new CEO in 2018 to lead their growth and support for members. Kraig Conrad comes to NCMA with 20 years of association leadership and experience helping organizations evolve to meet changing member and market needs. Kraig took some time to share how NCMA is ramping up efforts to support contract professionals through their events and training. Continue reading

FITARA 6.0: The Case of the Falling Scores

As summer vacation is in full swing across the country, we're sure many of you are missing tracking the grades of your students (insert sarcasm font here). We wanted to fill that void with a look at where agencies stand on their FITARA report cards. We've written here before about the progress, and lack of progress, agencies are making regarding modernizing IT infrastructure and services. The sixth report card on FITARA compliance was issued in May so we wanted to revisit the topic.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) was enacted in December 2014 and agencies are evaluated on their progress against the Act's goals about twice a year. The latest report found that despite a renewed focus on modernization from both the executive and legislative branch, agencies are actually backsliding in terms of grades.

Part of the challenge agencies had with this reporting period was the addition of a new category to track progress on the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. This "failure" should perhaps have been graded on a curve since MGT has only been in place since December 2017, meaning many agencies have not yet had a chance to have their proposals funded, much less started work.

But even discounting the MGT "learning curve," agency scores show that there is a real struggle across the board in meeting FITARA goals around: Continue reading