The Show Must Go On. How State and Local Governments are Powering Through Budget Shortfalls

Though the word may be overused, state and local governments are indeed facing unprecedented challenges. Forced to move operations online in response to their own stay-at-home orders, state and local agencies have spent the last year retooling how they serve citizens. They have been paying for necessary technology upgrades and other new equipment while revenues from taxes have dropped considerably. Even with these financial challenges, state CIOs are committed to continuing with their innovation and modernization efforts.

A study from the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) showed that priorities for state and local CIOs stayed consistent over the last year, with cybersecurity and enhancing digital citizen service being the top two. Of course, these two areas saw critical investments in 2020 just to keep the business of government running. In 2021, the solutions put in place will be revisited, evaluated for efficiency, and operationalized to support agencies moving forward.

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Tanks, Planes, Ships, and Data: Activating the DOD’s Data Strategy

The battles of tomorrow will likely not be fought on the ground, they will take place in cyberspace as nation-states and rogue actors alike look to interrupt the everyday functions of a country via high-tech attacks. Recently we saw the Russian hack of software, designed (ironically) to help organizations monitor network problems and anomalies, which has the government and private companies scrambling to determine what data was compromised. With cyberspace being the new battlefield, data and data management have quickly become a strategic asset in the DoD arsenal.

Last fall, the DOD released the Department's Data Strategy. An overarching guidance on how they will manage, secure, and use data. This document supports the DOD's transition to "a data-centric organization that uses data at speed and scale for operational advantage and increased efficiency." The Data Strategy includes 7 goals, nicknamed VAULTIS, to becoming data-centric:

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Formalizing the Future of Cloud in Government

In one of its first acts, the 117th Congress passed the FedRAMP Authorization Act. This bill codifies the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and, in the process, speeds up the time it takes for cloud solutions to be implemented in the Federal government. Currently, cloud solutions must frequently gain separate authority to operate statuses for each agency where they are used. This bill looks to have the General Services Administration (GSA) automate processes to promote reciprocity for security validations from one agency to another.

This bill was passed at a critical time for cloud adoption within government as agencies continue to accelerate their digital plans to meet the needs of a remote workforce. While the way has been cleared for "emergency" use of cloud to keep the business of government running, laws and policy like this Act ensure that there is long term support for the move to cloud services.

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Finding Business Continuity in the Cloud

More than finding cost efficiencies with cloud, government has realized its adoption is critical to business continuity. With mandatory telework as a result of COVID-19, organizations that have been proactive in their move to cloud found themselves able to quickly adapt and continue business as usual in very unusual times. Organizations that did not prioritize cloud found themselves scrambling to give employees access to the technology they needed to do their work.

Luckily, policies including the Cloud Smart mandate helped put more people in the first category than the second. A study completed in March (before pandemic telework began) found that 71% of federal respondents agreed that Cloud Smart was driving cloud adoption. In addition to Cloud Smart, the FedRAMP program also helped drive cloud adoption leading up to and during the pandemic. In 2020 alone FedRAMP added 200 authorized products and are on track to authorize over 60 cloud service offerings. The program has also achieved over 1,850 reuses of cloud products.

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For Government, It’s Already 2021

With many people in a rush to put 2020 behind us, those of us in the government market can safely say we're operating like it's 2021 (not as fun as partying like it's 1999, but anything beats 2020, right?). While the rush to meet the deadline for federal government fiscal year (GFY) spending on September 30 may have felt oddly comforting in its familiarity, there are many changes happening in government acquisition and procurement to make processes more responsive to today's workforce and technology needs.

The use of automation is expanding beyond using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to handle rote, repetitive tasks. RPA has been incredibly beneficial for freeing up the time of acquisition professionals to focus on innately human activities, rather than administrative tasks. Now, acquisition groups are going a step further and introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve processes by tapping into all of the data available in acquisition systems. For example, GSA uses an AI-enabled bot to "track, find and change Section 508 disability clauses in contracts." This helps ensure compliance, feeding updated clauses to humans for final review.

In September, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued Directive 5000.01, an update to the 5000 series instructions that focuses on the roles and responsibilities for its acquisition process in an effort to simplify the buying process. The end goal of this simplification is to get technology in the hands of the warfighter faster. Continue reading