Federal Cloud in FY15: Old Roadblocks, 3 New Opportunities

Photo of Chris Wiedemannby Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

The Government Accountability Office Here is A Snapshot of Cloud in FY15(GAO) recently released a report tracking the progress of seven agencies’ in achieving their cloud computing implementation goals; unfortunately parts of it made for quite a nostalgic reading. The report profiled seven agencies – including HHS, Treasury, and USDA – and noted while each of these agencies increased their cloud spending between FY12 and FY14, the grand total of agency-reported cloud investments was only $529 million (averaging 2% of evaluated IT budgets). In other words, despite the 25 Point Plan instituting a Cloud First policy in 2011, federal agencies appear to have made very little progress in meeting their cloud goals; some reasons cited for slow adoption sound awfully familiar as well – with security concerns and cultural resistance to cloud computing coming up yet again.

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IT Dashboard Problems Surface

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

One of the great tools we in the vendor community have is the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) IT Dashboard, which is a fantastic resource that provides us an additional layer of detail regarding agency’s IT budgets. The Dashboard was created as a way to display the Exhibit 300s that make up some of the key IT investments in the federal space, as well as providing us additional visibility on progress toward meeting OMB initiatives like the 2012 Digital Government Strategy. OMB has also used it to highlight at-risk government IT investments, of which there are quite a few.

Unfortunately, however, the IT Dashboard seems to go for months without being updated, and the lack of updates has now caught the eye of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO found that over the last few years the IT Dashboard has been updated only 33% of the time instead of every month, which seems to be somewhat in opposition to the mission of transparency that was championed by the Obama Administration when the President first came in to office. As a result, vendors are on the outside looking in and aren’t able to quickly respond to these troubled programs, as they could do if the government was more transparent.

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Security Clearance Process Undergoing Review, Be Aware Opportunities Will Be Coming

Rick Antonucci_65x85By Rick Antonucci, Analyst

Due to the tragic Navy Yard Shooting in September, as well as the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the DOD has been reviewing the process by which security clearances are awarded. More recently, a GAO report  revealed that thousands of government employees and contractors with delinquent tax debt hold security clearances. Over half are federal employees and owe approximately $85M in unpaid taxes. Consequently, a new program currently under development which allows for continuous checks of cleared personnel. The concept demo will run from April to December 2014 and will scan about 100,000 currently cleared personnel. IT vendors focusing on data analytics, databases, and identity and access management tools will have a play in the upcoming system.  

The GAO reported that part of the problem with the current process is inconsistent quality metrics throughout the clearance process and this has allowed people, such as Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, to slip through the cracks. The GAO estimates that 87% of about 3,500 investigative reports that DOD adjudicators used to make clearance eligibility decisions were missing information. Right now there isn’t an automated, routine, way to identify anomalies in a clearance record.

Monitor closely the pilot effort that will be running next year and make sure to speak with the actual users of the clearance process, as well as those who are heading up the program, to make sure that you can raise awareness of your solution at both ends. And lastly, though it has been said before, don’t ask what the pain points are; know what they are and come prepared with a solution that will demonstrate your solution’s value. This is still a nebulous program in its beginning stages but be aware that there will be opportunities coming down the pike to support this overhaul of the security clearance process.

Federal Opportunity Alert: BI & Reporting Needs at OMB & GSA

photo_Chris Wiedemann_65X85- one postby Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

If you’ve been following the progress of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), you might have seen a recent GAO report that contained some mixed messages about the program’s progress.

First, the good news: according to the report, agencies have already closed around 420 data centers, with another 968 planned for closure by December 2015. This will put the government 285 closures short of the original target for consolidation set by OMB – still, when compared to other large initiatives in federal IT, FDCCI looks more or less on schedule.

However, significant obstacles to tracking FDCCI progress still remain. Most notably, OMB and the GSA Program Management Office have not been tracking actual cost savings caused by data center closures, which calls into question their ability to demonstrate $3 billion in savings by 2015 – another key milestone of the original data center consolidation mandate. In fact, the latest memo on the topic did not mention a cost savings goal, which further reflects the difficulty of quantifying FDCCI savings. This could open the door for business intelligence vendors, particularly those with tools that can analyze and report on large amounts of data. If you have the tools to help GSA and OMB demonstrate cost savings through FDCCI, you’re likely to find a receptive audience right now.

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