Federal CIO: Agencies, Industry ‘Vehemently Agree’ Tech Transformation Must ‘Move Faster’

The cloud needs to be viewed as the “center of gravity” in efforts to modernize systems, increase automation, step up transition timelines and bring the workforce up speed at the pace of technology, Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent told the Carahsoft-ATARC Federal Cloud Marketplace Forum in Washington this morning.

Kent said of the representatives from federal agencies and industry partners in the room, “One thing that we vehemently agree on is that we have to move faster.”

“What we’re doing every day is using technology to better serve mission,” she said, calling the cloud “some of the most transformative work that’s happening in government — we have the opportunity to use technology to change how we serve citizens.”

The IT modernization goals include better enabling mission, safeguarding systems that store sensitive data, using data better, ensuring agencies have the workforce training they need, and building upon relationships to further objectives. Cloud strategy is intensely focused “on removing barriers heard from feds and vendors,” Kent noted, as capability is built in the change from a “perimeter-based model to data-centric.”

As more efficient ways have evolved to factor the cloud into daily operations, agencies have had to adjust to cloud-based acquisition models — an opportunity “to ask new questions and change business processes.”

Kent embraced “creative,” differing ways in which agencies have approached cloud integration under the same set of objectives — underscoring the benefit of transformation that’s “outcome-driven, not process constrained.” She singled out several agencies, including GSA, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency as ones who have “all leveraged cloud to hit their data-center targets.” The Small Business Administration has excelled at utilizing tools available through existing vendors to operate more efficiently with the capabilities they had, she added, while the Department of Education leveraged the transformation process to rethink their end-to-end process and embrace automation.

Cybersecurity goals are “a critical part of our journey,” Kent stressed, and specific programs focusing on tech education for the workforce must be an “intentional part of our project, not a byproduct… but embedded in the transformation.” A “critical focus” of the CIO council has been using the transformation “as a mechanism to keep skills current.”

Challenges in cloud transformation include clarity among agencies about directives and long-term vision, as well as trying to do more and explore additional opportunities with existing tools.

“We don’t want to miss the opportunity for improved services and efficiencies,” Kent said.

Bringing the workforce up to cloud speed also can’t just focus on an agency’s IT team, she added. “It’s exciting to deploy new capabilities, but only if people can use them.”

To help the “entire organization move at the pace of tech capabilities,” Kent said, one must recognize there are “sometimes silos between organizations that we need to break down as part of this process.”

Changing the operational environment — not only in the cloud, but with other advances including interconnected devices — includes assessing how results are monitored and reported, how information is applied to continuous improvement and acceleration, and how automation occurs.

Kent emphasized that the “private sector has much to share” to help “ensure best practices are part of our conversation in government.”

“There is a lot of progress being made,” she said, as “everything we are doing is focused on mission enablement.”

“We have to move faster – than you for continuing to move with urgency,” Kent told the government and industry partners.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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