The American Technology Council, which President Donald Trump established this spring by executive order, has four years to rebuild the federal government’s information technology structure.
A massive reboot of both hardware and software will be necessary to bring government computers up to modern standards. The effort will force many government agencies to shift years of floppy disk and other outdated storage technologies to current cloud storage systems, and to adopt big data and machine learning solutions.
The ATC is comprised of cabinet members and top officials of related agencies. Both the executive order and the ATC it created terminate on Jan. 20, 2021.
The ATC, which is headed by Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner, met last month to set an agenda for collaborating with industry leaders to forge a new technology plan.
The ATC’s goal is to promote the secure, efficient and economical use of information technology to achieve its mission. Toward that end, the federal government must transform and modernize its information technology operations and the systems it uses to deliver digital services, according to the executive order.
Council members will coordinate advice to the president on technology policies and processes. The council is tasked with coordinating the vision, strategy and direction for the federal government’s IT reboot.
Two major impediments could hinder full achievement of the president’s IT goals, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“First is the sheer complexity of the federal government’s IT assets, systems and management,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The second is the compartmentalized culture of many or most federal departments and agencies.”
Is an IT Reboot Needed?
An IT reboot is not necessary, suggested King, who favors expanding what the Obama administration started instead. The previous administration’s accomplishments include appointing the first U.S. chief technology officer, and bringing greater order and innovation to federal agencies’ IT efforts.
Consideration of those ongoing efforts was “curiously absent during the ATC meeting,” said King.
“Rebooting, or starting all over again, rather than building on that solid, existing foundation, is likely to waste time and money,” he warned
There is a clear need for the ATC initiatives, according to Brian Chappell, senior director at BeyondTrust, who cited a recent survey of federal IT managers.
An overwhelming majority of federal IT managers (81 percent) said that the federal government’s aging IT infrastructure had a significant impact on their agencies’ cybersecurity risk, Chappell told the E-Commerce Times.
“It is statistics like this that make initiatives like the American Technology Council essential in starting the drive toward not only modernizing the federal government and the services it provides, but also — and more importantly — improving the safety of U.S. citizens and government staff using those services.”
Deja Vu All Over Again
Budget concerns are a major barrier to system modernization, said Tami Gallegos, federal manager at BeyondTrust.
Eighty-one percent of survey participants mentioned budget as a major roadblock, she pointed out.
Sixty-nine percent of the respondents expressed concern about losing information during the conversion, which would have a negative impact on their ability to achieve their missions.
“This is a very complex proposition that will require talent and expertise across several technology cycles to get the job done,” Gallegos told the E-Commerce Times.
Enterprise-focused IT vendors, including those involved with the ATC, should be able to offer valuable solutions to many of the federal government’s IT infrastructure problems, said Pund-IT’s King. However, it will take more than a few months to develop, design and deploy replacements for such massively complex systems.
“A notable shift in the political landscape due to the 2018 mid-terms and the 2020 election could result in a new Congress and/or a new president starting the process all over again,” he said.
Repeal and Replace Gov IT?
Information technology dynamics have changed dramatically in the last few years, according to Craig McCullough, vice president of U.S. federal sales at Commvault. The need to introduce new applications more quickly and in dramatically larger volumes has altered the interaction between IT operations and the organizations that they support.
Hybrid cloud, virtualization, big data analytics and machine learning have provided new options to deliver those applications and derive new value from the information they produce.
“If you are willing to consider doing things in a different manner, the results can be remarkable,” McCullough told the E-Commerce Times, “so a reboot in how the federal government does infrastructure technology is a necessity.”
Modernizing the current IT infrastructure and shedding legacy architectures will require a much more data-centric philosophy, he noted. It will be…