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Tech + Tequila: Come See How the Government is Using Drones for Good

By Frank Konkel // February 17, 2017

Nati Harnik/AP File Photo

Drones represent one of the most promising emerging technologies of the 21st century, and the federal government is primed to take advantage of the assortment of unmanned aerial systems entering this growing market.

Yet, it might surprise many to learn that drones are already being used for more than military reconnaissance and strikes in wartime popularized in nightly news and TV dramas. While military applications are certainly driving an important segment of the drone market, civilian agencies and academic institutions are working to shape new policies and develop innovative ways to use them.

On Thursday, we at Nextgov will kick off our second season of Tech + Tequila events with a thorough look at how federal agencies are using drones now, and how they’re planning to use them in the future. In addition, we’ll talk about the changing policy landscape shaping how the country handles an influx of unmanned aerial vehicles.

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In our case studies session, Mark Bathrick, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Aviation Services, will discuss how the department uses drones to tabulate wildlife and safely explore terrain too...

How a Flooded Data Center Sparked a Cloud Migration Effort

By Frank Konkel // February 16, 2017

Scanrail1/Shutterstock.com

Cinderella’s '80s power ballad “You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” hints at love lost and found, but for federal agencies and their vast IT inventories, they often just don’t know what they've got.

That’s according to Maria Roat, who became the chief information officer at the Small Business Administration in late 2016 and found a CFO Act agency with a host of IT issues.

“The week before I arrived [in October], there was water coming in on the floor,” Roat stated Thursday at the ATARC Federal Cloud and Data Summit in Washington. Roat had decided to tour a data center in SBA’s Beltway headquarters after a stormy evening.

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“It was not a good position to be in,” Roat said. “I took a hard look and asked my team, ‘what’s in there?’”

Roat said her IT staff, which includes 61 federal employees in her office and 110 outside it, brought her “four different lists of stuff in there.”

At that moment, Roat began piloting the agency toward cloud computing and a more modern infrastructure...

Botched VA Contract Shows How Not to Do a Cloud Broker Program

By Frank Konkel // February 1, 2017

ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

A Veterans Affairs Department inspector general’s report on how the agency blew $5 million on a botched cloud broker program should be mandatory reading for any tech-focused program manager or executive.

Released Tuesday, the audit offers a guide of what not to do when it comes to implementing a cloud brokerage service. It depicts a trail of missed program management practices, bypassed testing and an improper funding model that left VA spending millions on something with “limited brokerage functionality.”

In other words, VA spent more than $5 million on two task orders for its 3X Cloud Expansion/Production Environment that had zero return on investment.

“Ultimately, any potential benefit to veterans and taxpayers could not be realized,” the audit states.

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For starters, a definition: A cloud broker “manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers,” according to the IG. The federal government’s default definition for cloud computing was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Cloud brokers are gaining in popularity because the market for cloud services in government is...

Nextgov Event: FITARA in Year Two

By Frank Konkel // December 13, 2016

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. // Susan Walsh/AP

Since enacted two years ago, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act has had a dramatic impact on how agencies build, buy and maintain technology and systems.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, Nextgov and Government Executive will convene a forum of experts to discuss FITARA’s successes thus far, ongoing challenges and hurdles to come. The event will be hosted at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

We’ll have a sit-down chat with two instrumental oversight figures in FITARA: Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., one of the founding fathers of FITARA, and Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro, whose agency has provided vital reporting data to Congress on the state of IT in government.

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We’ll host a C-suite chat with Transportation Department Chief Information Officer Richard McKinney and its budget director, Laura Ziff. They’ll discuss how FITARA has enhanced their relationship and the bottom line on IT purchases at DOT.

In another panel, we’ll discuss the FITARA scorecard grades released by Congress last week that saw progress, but no agencies earning "A" grades. Panelists include Environmental Protection Agency CIO Ann Dunkin (confirmed...

Come Talk About Encryption and Internet of Things Dec. 8

By Frank Konkel // December 6, 2016

jamesteohart/Shutterstock.com

We at Nextgov will host our final Tech + Tequila of the year on Dec. 8, and our subject matter this time around is likely to get lots of play in 2017.

The theme is “In Tech We Trust,” and we’ll host two distinct panels on the internet things and encryption.

FBI Director James Comey has repeatedly stated the nation has to have a conversation on encryption “before something terrible happens,” although his point of view starkly differs from privacy champions and leading tech companies that view encryption as a necessary freedom and business differentiator.

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The events after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, when Apple refused to comply with an FBI order to unlock an encrypted iPhone, set up a conversation likely to occur next year once the new president-elect is inaugurated.

Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy for the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Eric Mill, senior adviser on technology policy and strategy for the General Services Administration, will unpack this issue with moderator Joe Marks, Nextgov's senior correspondent.

In our second panel, “IoT: Billion-Toaster Botnets and Big Opportunities,” we’ll discuss...

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