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Obama Talks Federal IT on ‘Daily Show”

By Frank Konkel // July 27, 2015

President Barack Obama, left, talks with Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" during a taping on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
President Barack Obama, left, talks with Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" during a taping on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. // Evan Vucci/AP

Some of the most memorable sound bites from President Barack Obama’s appearance on "The Daily Show” last week centered on government technology and the IT challenges faced by federal agencies.

Obama broached on the wave of Silicon Valley tech talent invading government, challenges in IT procurement and how better IT can lead to better customer service between the government’s 2 million employees and its 300 million-plus citizens.

The whole extended interview is worth a view, but below are the best Obama remarks on tech.

Responding to a question from "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart on shortfalls in delivery at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Obama said:

"Government works better now than it probably ever has given what we ask it to do. Across agencies, there have been all kinds of reforms and improvements and people there work hard and care about stuff deeply. What is true is if you have a government built on 1930s models and it’s not updated for decades, then there’s gonna be a gap in terms of what it is doing now relative to what some other folks do.”

Obama continued, calling out IT as perhaps the government’s biggest challenge in...

What Happens if There’s a Massive Data Breach in the Cloud?

By Frank Konkel // July 24, 2015

wk1003mike/Shutterstock.com

Government IT systems have taken a beating lately, with the recent Office of Personnel Management’s breach exposing some 21-plus million federal employee records being just the cherry on top of what’s been a cybersecurity sundae from hell for most agencies.

But coincidentally, none of these breaches involved cloud systems.

Federal cloud security standards, governed by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management program, have been hugely successful thus far in ensuring cloud service providers that serve government customers aren’t bringing knives to gun fights.

It should be noted that while the Obama administration intends to spend some $7.5 billion on provisioned services like cloud computing next year, it still spends tens of billions more on legacy data centers, which store most of the data the government collects.

That’s true in the private sector as well.

High-profile hacks of Sony, U.S. health insurer Anthem and Target all hit those companies’ internal data centers, and perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Statistics vary, but it’s likely that less than 10 percent of all data held by private sector companies worldwide is stored in the cloud, so most of what’s vulnerable is sitting on premises somewhere...

In Tech Innovation, Don’t Forget about Governance

By Frank Konkel // July 22, 2015

PathDoc/Shutterstock.com

In love, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

In IT, you often don’t know what you got ‘til your supposedly secured systems get owned and your data is all over the Internet. Or in enemy hands.

Just ask the Office of Personnel Management and the 21-plus million federal employees compromised by the headline-stealing hack of the year. Of course, OPM has plenty of company in other federal agencies getting hacked, and none of this really surprises government watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office. Many agencies routinely fail information security audits because they don’t follow the law, best practices in basic cybersecurity hygiene, and often because they don’t know what they have.

This haphazard approach to inventoried IT assets carries across technology enterprises. Maria Roat, chief technology officer at the Transportation Department, called governance one of the biggest challenges she’s faced since she began last year. Prior to taking the CTO position at DOT, Roat had worked hard to streamline cloud computing across government as the director of FedRAMP, the government’s way to require standardized and repeatable cloud computing standards.

Upon beginning at DOT, Roat told an audience at a...

Pentagon’s $11 Billion Health Records Deal to be Awarded by Month's End

By Frank Konkel // July 17, 2015

Frontpage/Shutterstock.com

All signs point to the Defense Department awarding its multibillion Defense Healthcare Management System contract by the end of July.

The Pentagon’s public notice for the contract, which was first released almost 18 months ago, was closed for discussion July 14, one month after DOD’s Office of Inspector General announced it would be looking into DHMSM’s acquisition strategy. Bloomberg also reported a DOD spokeswoman confirmed an award would be made by July 31.

The 10-year contract is one of the largest in recent memory for DOD and is expected to have a total lifecycle value of $11 billion. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest tech integrators and electronic health records developers have teamed up to compete.

In February, the Pentagon narrowed the field to three teams: Computer Sciences Corp., partnered with HP and EHR developer Allscripts; Leidos and Accenture Federal; and IBM and Epic Systems. The only open-source offering by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which partnered with Google, General Dynamics Information Technology, DSS Inc. and MedSphere, was ruled out.

(Image via Frontpage/ Shutterstock.com)

FCC Wants to Operate 100 Percent in the Cloud by the End of 2017

By Frank Konkel // July 15, 2015

everything possible/Shutterstock.com

Cloud computing is perhaps the most disruptive technology to hit the federal government since computers became a thing, and the Obama administration’s allocation of $7.5 billion for provisioned services in the coming fiscal year reflects its importance.

Yet, most federal agencies are far from maximizing the potential of the cloud to realize enormous efficiency gains and cost reductions. The Defense Department, for example, routinely makes headlines for its methodical, slow approach to cloud its officials believe are justified by security concerns. Most civilian agencies are in a similar position, testing the waters with pilot programs before making a serious move.

As Stan Kaczmarczyk, director of cloud computing services at the General Services Administration, put it recently, “The low-hanging fruit of storage, Web hosting and virtual machines for email has gotten traction in cloud, but we’re still waiting for that nirvana.” The nirvana, in this case, is where an agency’s sensitive information remains stored internally and most everything else is outsourced to the public cloud.

Few agencies in any government sector have approached cloud computing with as aggressive a plan as the Federal Communications Commission. For many years, the agency was behind the technological curve, relying on...