Federal CIO: It’s Time for Those Digital Transformations to Scale Up

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In 2020, agencies will likely expand some of their new pilots and projects into enterprisewide solutions.

The United States’ chief information officer expects federal agencies to scale up their promising IT modernization pilots and projects in 2020 and reap agencywide benefits from the investments made and groundwork laid in 2019.

“It’s been a fantastic year, but we have a lot of exciting things going forward,” CIO Suzette Kent said at an event hosted by ATARC in Washington Wednesday.

In October, the CIO offered a light look into the administration’s 2020 modernization agenda, but she offered more details on how the foundations that have previously been paved are coming into fruition. She said next year a lot of the projects that were only recently developed could be expanded out to catalyze organization-wide solutions. For example, the CIO noted that she spent time Tuesday morning at the Commerce Department to make awards for the Census’ Opportunity Project, which enables innovators to use data and deliver cutting-edge solutions to address federal and national challenges. 

“What was exciting about that is that it went from idea to multiple digital products and solutions delivered and in action, in a short period of time,” Kent said. “And what we will be able to do is scale those next year—go from a pilot and an idea to a broader scale.”

As insiders “build on the momentum of the President’s Management Agenda,” the CIO said there are two key topics where there’s “no question” of importance and focus in 2020. “That is building our cyber supremacy, and continuing to invest in the workforce,” Kent said. “You are going to see lots of programs in those areas.” 

In terms of bolstering the federal workforce, efforts around automation will continue to blossom and scale next year. As the government increasingly moves into new automation areas, she said officials are deliberately “choosing the use cases and the applications that augment and empower” the federal workforce and its mission.

On the cyber landscape, there are also plans to boost information sharing across agencies and the advancements of tools. She also anticipates that many will see the completion of some of the “foundational activities” that agency personnel have been embarking on over the last several years, so that they can move forward on their modernization journeys. 

“Whether it’s zero trust, whether it’s advanced identity, whether it’s our maturity around how we balance certain things as a service or other things that we manage internally—those are going to be focuses on the agenda,” she said. Kent added that the administration will be hyper-focused on fidelity in the supply chain next year, as well as boosting private partnerships to “leverage the broader community to bring in creative ideas.”

In 2019, the White House launched the first federal cyber reskilling academy, a government-led trial run to supply federal workers with non-technical backgrounds hands-on training in cyber defense analysis. There were some hiccups along the way, including finding the barriers the newly-trained employees hit when trying to transition into cyber roles at other agencies. Still, Kent said next year the government will move forward with “scaling and continuing” those reskilling efforts. 

“And that’s an important statement about the investment in the talent and building on the continuous learning environments,” she said.

Kent also teased that a 2020 action plan for the Federal Data Strategy will be made available soon. Users might notice that it “feels different,” she said, and it’ll include dates, action steps and insights on how success will be measured in the new year. 

“I would also ask you to stay tuned as we move into the beginning of the year and we recast some of the set objectives of the [President’s Management Agenda]. Expect a lot of the same things, but raising the bar and making more steps forward in the areas where much has been accomplished,” she said. “Great results have been delivered and now we are prepared to do the next things.”