Modernizing Federal IT — The Path Forward

Posted by Kay Ely
on May 25, 2018

By Kay Ely, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category

IT modernization is one of the biggest challenges facing the federal government today — it’s a complex issue with a lot of moving parts. Fortunately, with the IT Modernization Report, Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act and its Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), and the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) and Cross-Agency Priority Goals, the stars are really aligned with support and tools to get the job done.

We’ve been talking about modernization for a long time and now, with all of this support and leadership, we’re in the best position I’ve ever seen to take on this challenge.

Here’s my take on what all of this means for agency partners.

IT Modernization Resources

Developed in response to Executive Order 13800, the Federal IT Modernization Report outlines an agile process to help the government harness American innovation to deliver better services to its citizens.

Additionally, the MGT Act authorizes agencies to tackle IT system modernization and establish working capital funds. GSA is also responsible for administering the TMF as part of the MGT Act through a project management office we’ve established. These funds are designed to:

  • improve, retire, or replace existing IT systems to enhance cybersecurity and to improve efficiency and effectiveness;
  • transition legacy IT systems to cloud computing and other innovative platforms and technologies;
  • assist and support efforts to provide adequate, risk-based, and cost-effective IT capabilities that address evolving threats to information security; and
  • reimburse amounts transferred to the agency from the TMF with the approval of each agency’s Chief Information Officer.

Further, the PMA lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the federal government across many fronts. One of the key drivers of transformation is updating and modernizing our legacy IT systems and networks. Helping the federal government adopt and acquire commercially available modern IT products and services is an important priority for GSA, and agencies rely on us to help them get there.

Cross-Agency Priority Goals

Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals drive PMA implementation and tackle critical governmentwide challenges that cut across agencies.

ITC is directly supporting the following CAP Goals:

  • IT Modernization
  • Sharing Quality Services
  • Category Management
  • Federal IT Spending Transparency
  • Improvement Management of Major Acquisitions
  • Security Clearance, Suitability and Credentialing Reform

These goals drive what we do as the government’s acquisition experts, so we’re developing and refining acquisition solutions to address these areas.

Supporting IT Modernization

GSA is supporting governmentwide modernization in four ways.

  1. In partnership with the White House’s Office of American Innovation, GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) team is standing up IT Modernization Centers of Excellence.
  2. We are tasked, in whole or in part, with half of the 50 key initiatives identified in the IT Modernization Report.
  3. We are well positioned to support the operation and administration of the recently approved Technology Modernization Fund.
  4. We are making it easier to navigate the systems we use to serve our agency customers and help them with their IT acquisitions.

GSA is committed to leading the way to help modernize IT across government. We’ve created a multi-pronged strategy to enhance mission effectiveness and reduce cyber risks through a series of complementary activities between now and 2022.

Mission effectiveness activities include modernizing the IT stack by retiring legacy systems and embracing cloud through implementing cost-effective, cloud-based, commercial IT solutions.

Activities around reducing cyber risks include; managing asset security by implementing capabilities that provide observational, analytical, and diagnostic data of an agency’s cybersecurity; and protecting networks and data by implementing advanced protection capabilities. Another is helping government limit “personnel access” by implementing credential and access management (ICAM) capabilities that ensure users only have access to the resources necessary for their job function. Additional activities are outlined within the Modernizing IT CAP Goal action plan.

What Success Looks Like

To succeed, agencies should work toward several key milestones this fiscal year:

  • using new opportunities to drive foundational technology changes that will improve critical citizen services and increase efficiency by modernizing their networks as they shift to our Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.
  • submitting their EIS Agency Transition Plans (ATPs) to OMB this fiscal year.
  • using the TMF and working capital funds to support their modernization plans.

GSA Resources

We have several resources that agencies can use to help them acquire and adopt modern IT products and services.

For example, GSA is home to the Technology Transformation Services (TTS), 18F, and the Centers of Excellence that can help implement modernization. We work with OMB and agencies to create acquisition solutions that support modernization efforts, many of which are Best-in-Class (BIC) solutions that produce 10-15 percent savings, so agencies can divert money into their working capital funds.

Some of GSA’s BIC solutions for IT modernization include:

We recognize that modernizing federal IT won’t be easy; it will take working together, sharing best practices, and using resources available to achieve the goals that the PMA has set.

Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, from The Hill to the White House, have shown their support for modernizing the federal government, and I am confident that together we can collectively seize this unprecedented opportunity to make real and lasting improvements to federal IT.

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