Many Feds Still Uneasy About Cloud Use


A new report found that 44 percent of polled government tech gurus remain “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” turning IT services and applications over to cloud service providers.

Nearly half of government IT leaders and key technology decision-makers are still “uncomfortable” turning over IT to the cloud, according to a report issued May 11 by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and the Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus

Provocatively titled “Don’t Be a Box Hugger,” the report is clearly intended to raise eyebrows. It claims that 44 percent of feds remain “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” turning IT services and applications over to cloud service providers.

The report classifies cloud adopters in three basic categories: "Pioneers," "Fence Sitters" and "Box Huggers."

The Pioneers -- exemplified by agencies such as NASA, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department -- are the head of the class. The Fence Sitters have spent some money on cloud but aren’t ready to make cloud mainstream. The Box Huggers want their own hardware and software and are “anti-cloud.”

If this report were to issue grades in modern tech evolution, Box Huggers would get an F. Unfortunately, most of the imagined federal class would lie closer to the Box Huggers on a cloud computing bell curve than they would toward the top, That’s a scary proposition for a budgetary-stagnant government that wants to spend more on cloud to save more later on IT. In other words, four years after the cloud-first policy, there are still more Box Huggers than Pioneers. You know what Homer Simpson would say

Consider the Obama administration’s IT goals. The administration plans to allocate $7.34 billion -- or about 8.5 percent of the $86.4 billion budgeted for federal IT in fiscal 2016 -- for provisioned services like cloud computing.

Those numbers, as the report points out, don’t mesh with those reported on the Office of Management Budget’s Federal IT Dashboard. The dashboard estimates current federal cloud spending at only about $2.1 billion. Even in Washington, $4 billion is a lot of cash. For those numbers to be so far apart clearly means something is amiss.

The report also points out that security is still the top concern among tech professionals in government. Only 20 percent surveyed felt security offered by cloud service providers was “sufficient,” although one has to wonder about that number a little.

To be legally used by government agencies, cloud service providers must meet standards under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. Are the surveyed tech gurus here saying standards under FedRAMP aren’t stringent enough? That’s quite a statement, if true, considering the Defense Department is using FedRAMP as a baseline to secure its data in the cloud.

Can the government adopt cloud computing in secure fashion and accurately report how much of its IT spending is going toward the cloud?

The report claims it's possible, suggesting OMB should “set and enforce deadlines as well as increase transparency on actual cloud spend.” It also calls for additional funding to the FedRAMP office and increased public-private collaboration that could help government get beyond removing the low-hanging fruit with cloud.

(Image via Stokkete/