Government’s answer to cybersecurity is the most simple and most complicated

Lloyd McCoy Jr.cybersecurity, information sharingBy Lloyd McCoy, DOD manager

The key to tackling cybersecurity threats in government is a simple lesson most of us learned in preschool: how to share.

Information sharing among federal departments could be the answer to combating cyberattacks. But the big question is whether the Department of Defense and other agencies can share enough.

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3 types of technology to sell to USAID right now

By Kevin Shaker, senior analyst

Many in the contracting community might be worried that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is lacking sales opportunities as it continues to face budget cuts. But this could also spell opportunity as the agency looks at new ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

This means that in addition to utilizing shared services, USAID has been increasingly buying automation technologies and higher caliber virtualized hardware. USAID also has a slightly higher level of development, modernization and enhancement dollars compared to the rest of the civilian average of around 20 percent, which helps fund its data infrastructure. If you are aware of the current trends and drivers within the organization you may find it less daunting. Here are three of the organization’s top IT priorities:

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How government is trying to get a more complete picture

By Mark Wisinger, senior analyst

It’s no secret there’s a vast amount of legacy systems still supporting government customers. Everyone has been talking about interoperability in government for years, but it remains a significant challenge as even more systems being used by agencies age past their initial life expectancy.

But despite the roadblocks, government agencies are working on different ways to enhance information sharing and incentivize interoperability, including using open APIs and architecture.

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Big Data Opportunities in the Pipeline at DHS & DOJ

Tomas OKeefe_65x85Tomas O’Keefe, Consultant, Market Intelligence

At last Big data on blackboardweek’s AFCEA Homeland Security conference, information sharing and cybersecurity were some hot topics that seemed to take center stage. These are critical elements of the homeland security enterprise, tied to protecting information and ensuring it gets delivered to the right analyst, at the right time. A topic that wasn’t discussed as much, but continues to play a vital role in the federal IT landscape, is big data. I’d like to share some insights on where DHS and DOJ are looking to expand their big data capabilities, based on the sessions I attended.

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3 Big Opportunities in the FY15 Budget

Stephanie Headshot 65x85by Stephanie Meloni, Senior Analyst

With the unveiling of FY15 Budget requests this week, the news has been inundated with ominous (though not surprising) stories surrounding further reductions of forces within the DOD, terminations of modernization programs/acquisitions, retirement of aircraft, etc. The overall message is that DOD has been forced to stretch their resources in an increasingly complex threat environment.

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Which Agencies are Spending Big on Big Data?

Mohamad Elbarasse_headshot_7-23-2013_For WordPressby Mohamad ElbarasseAnalyst

As agencies take on a more data-centric focus to achieving their missions, it would appear as though FY 2014 is the year of big data and a slew of agencies have funded initiatives in play that will set the bar for what analytics can bring to the table. Agencies like DHS with tons of data are investing big to get it all under control. These investments coupled with the White House’s Open Data Policy, which dictates that agencies should be collecting or creating information in a manner that “supports the downstream information processing and dissemination activities,” signal a paradigm shift from hypothesis-driven to data-driven decision making and discovery at a federal level.

The National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and the US Geological Survey at the Department of Interior received $200 million for research and development in the field of big data. These initiatives run the gamut from NIH’s 1000 Genomes Project that brings together the power of big data with Amazon Web Services cloud to make 200 terabytes of data on human genetic variation available to the public to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) XDATA program. The XDATA program will address challenges, such as developing scalable algorithms for processing imperfect data in distributed data stores. DARPA plans to invest $25 million a year through 2016 in XDATA.

According to Simon Szykman, dataCIO at the Department of Commerce, information sharing should be agencies’ first priority. Speaking at an AFFIRM & GITEC event in September, Szykman stated that one of the easiest ways to make big data investments more cost effective in the long run is by thinking about information sharing early on. That means that agencies are going to need help managing, standardizing, and ensuring the interoperability of their data. Vendors with products positioned to help with those tasks should gear their messaging towards addressing those needs and emphasizing long run efficiencies. Szykman went on to say that the purpose of opening up government data is not just to increase transparency, but to allow others to find value in the data. “We haven’t cornered the market on good ideas,” said Szykman, as he further elaborated that the biggest benefits of an open data policy are the things we can’t imagine today, but that can come about by making more data available to more people.  Szykman oversees Commerce’s $2.5 billion IT budget and the agency is slated to spend over $300 million on General Purpose Data and Statistics in FY2014.

Ken Rogers, Chief Technology Strategist at the Department of State, also spoke at the event and said that “Data is the primary sustainable asset in an organization.” Therefore, the proper maintenance, security, and analysis of that data are paramount to the success of the organization. Along with data management, data integration, and information sharing requirements, agencies will be in dire need of data security solutions to protect the integrity of their data. Expect to see more agencies taking on a data-centric outlook and be sure to emphasize that getting big data right the first time around can lead to some big savings down the road.

What you need to know about the new Defense Health Agency

Lloyd McCoy_65x85by Lloyd McCoy Jr., Consultant

We are one week away from the largest reorganization of military health in the Defense Department’s history – the formation of the Defense Health Agency (DHA). The new agency promises to be more than just a rearranging of desk chairs as it will change how the Defense Department handles procurement, oversight, and implementation of all facets of military health, including IT acquisitions. As Rick pointed out in his article on the DHA back in August, cost savings played a big part in this move for the Defense Department. And as we’ve highlighted before, shared services is a major aspect of the federal government’s campaign to drive down IT spending and DHA reflects this strategy.

DHA is expected to lower costs by merging services. Starting October 1, DHA will bring under one common roof, facilities planning (no pun intended), medical logistics, health IT, as well as Tricare and pharmacy services. By October 1, 2015, when DHA becomes fully operational, it will have oversight over public health, medical acquisition, budget and resource management, medical education and training, and medical research and development. The services will keep their respective medical commands, each headed up by their particular surgeon general.

If you cover Military Health Systems (MHS) and are familiar with the organizational landscape, you’ll note that many of the personnel won’t change. The senior leaders of the new DHA are as follows:

  • Director, Lieutenant General Douglas Robb, second in command over the TRICARE Management Activity will become the first Director of DHA
  • Deputy Director, Allen Middleton, who now oversees the budget will serve as his deputy
  • Chief Information Officer, Dave Bowen will stay on as the CIO
  • Acting Director Business Support Directorate: Colonel Darrell Landreaux
  • Director, National Capital Region (NCR) Medical Directorate: Rear Admiral Raquel Bono
  • Acting Director, Education and Training Directorate: Rear Admiral William Roberts
  • Acting Director, Research and Development Directorate: Major General Joseph Caravalho

In the months ahead DHA will face significant challenges right out of the gate and will be looking to industry for assistance. For example, the agency will be looking to COTS solutions for its upcoming integrated electronic health record, which is designed to both simplify healthcare for military personnel moving to civilian life and fuse legacy systems into one modernized system that will bring about a lifetime electronic health record. Moreover, with DOD facing mounting personnel costs, particularly in the area of healthcare, Pentagon leaders will be looking for solutions within DHA that will help realize cost efficiencies.

Finally, there are big changes ahead in military health IT, but you will be well-positioned if you have low cost solutions that cater to their priorities, namely in the areas of standardization, shared services, information sharing, and data analytics.

DOJ’s Technology Needs –Analytics, Information Sharing, Big Data, and More

photo_Tomas-O'Keefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

The Department of Justice’s response to the Boston Marathon bombings was notable for how quickly the Department and its components, particularly the FBI, identified, tracked, and apprehended the suspects. One of the ways the FBI was able to quickly identify suspects is due to advanced analytics, but another important element was citizen engagement, as the Department used crowd-sourcing for images people took during the marathon to aid in the investigation. The Department also requested information on journalists’ phone calls and issued requests to Google, Facebook, and the like for information to aid in the investigation. With all of this one thing is certain – the Department wrestled with Big Data. Big Data isn’t new to anyone in government or in the IT industry, but it isn’t going away either. Government will continue to need industry’s assistance in incorporating new technological tools to analyze ever-growing data sets and become more efficient and effective.

DOJ will continue to look to industry for advances in analytics technology that will synthesize video, image, audio, and other types of data together to protect the American people. The need to share information across DOJ and into other federal agencies will only grow, particularly as DOJ coordinates disaster response with the Department of Homeland Security. DOJ has a further challenge in that it must also share information with state and local law enforcement agencies. In the past several years, government has been adopting common information sharing standards to ensure that all these agencies can effectively communicate with each other. All of this information sharing is also occurring in an environment where cyber intrusions and attacks are increasingly common, and government cannot afford to let criminals and foreign actors access this information. Government will need cutting edge solutions from industry to ensure the safety of both the information it’s sharing and the American people.

The question for industry is who to talk to within DOJ, and who has the money in an environment where budgets are continuing to decrease and programs and contracts are potentially being cut. To learn more register for immixGroup’s upcoming Market Intelligence Webinar on the Department of Justice on Thursday, June 20 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

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