Enhanced cybersecurity a top reason for agencies embracing emerging tech, study says

A GDIT report found that a majority of federal respondents were embracing emerging technologies, in part, because of cybersecurity benefits.

A GDIT report found that a majority of federal respondents were embracing emerging technologies, in part, because of cybersecurity benefits. Steven Puetzer / Getty Images

General Dynamics Information Technology’s survey of 425 federal employees found that 65% of federal agencies were “moderately to extremely ready to embrace emerging technologies.”

Almost two-thirds of federal agencies are looking to use emerging technologies to modernize their operations, with enhanced cybersecurity capabilities being one of the leading reasons for the current and future adoption of these next-generation tools, according to the results of a survey of government employees released by General Dynamics Information Technology — or GDIT — on Tuesday.

The inaugural study from the Falls Church, Va.-based IT contractor surveyed 425 federal government employees — 150 at defense agencies, 200 at civilian agencies, and 75 at intelligence and homeland security agencies — who are “involved in either the selection or management of firms that provide enterprise IT or digital modernization services.”

GDIT’s study found that 65% of respondents reported that their agencies were “moderately to extremely ready to embrace emerging technologies,” with stronger cybersecurity protocols being cited as one of the leading reasons officials said they were looking to implement more high-tech tools moving forward. 

“Government agencies are collecting more and more data, which means they have to provide the right level of security to protect the data they're actually collecting and using,” Michael Cole, GDIT's chief technology officer for the Federal Civilian Division, said during a media roundtable on Tuesday.

Approximately one-third of the survey’s respondents said that enhanced security and increased productivity were the “biggest motivations to adopt emerging technologies.”

When it comes to the technologies that agencies have either already adopted or are currently adopting, 49% of overall respondents said their organizations have purchased cybersecurity-focused services and products. 

Defense agencies, in particular, were more likely to view emerging technologies as a key component of meeting their security objectives, with 43% of officials surveyed across relevant Defense Department components citing “increased cybersecurity as a top motivation” for embracing next-generation tools. 

Cloud computing services are also receiving greater attention from federal agencies, according to the survey, with 48% of respondents saying they have “mostly adopted or are currently implementing” these types of technologies. 

GDIT noted that agencies’ efforts to implement cyber-focused emerging technologies are correlated, in part, with more rigorous policies surrounding the federal government’s cyber practices — such as President Joe Biden’s May 2021 executive order that directed relevant agencies to develop plans for implementing zero trust security frameworks across their organizations. 

“The high adoption of cloud and cybersecurity across all agency types signifies a universal requirement for secure, scalable and accessible digital infrastructure, but are also driven by government policies requiring agencies to evaluate the cloud for their future investments and implement zero trust architectures to enhance security,” the report said.

Overall, the survey found that agencies are readying “to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence, data analytics and generative AI across all agency types” over the next 12 to 24 months. 

GDIT said that the growing embrace of emerging technologies on the part of federal agencies indicates “an impending shift towards more intelligent, predictive and personalized solutions” across the federal government.