GAO incorporates new technologies into strategic plan

Virtualization, quantum computing among the emerging factors

Advances in technology and the wide-ranging effects of networks and virtualization are among the national trends that will influence federal programs in the next five years, the Government Accountability Office reported in its recently released Strategic Plan 2010-2015. These trends will have a direct effect on the near-term work of GAO, the audit and investigative arm of Congress, GAO officials said.

The velocity of change in information technology makes IT one of the most dynamic sectors in which GAO assessments of government performance will be crucial, the plan said. Key developments in IT that will have a bearing on government include quantum computing, cloud computing, virtualization technology and health IT. Among the specific tasks for GAO in the technology area are:

  • Reviewing the effectiveness of computer and network security at federal agencies to better protect government and personal information.
  • Assessing the government’s planning, implementation and use of IT.
  • Evaluating the management and results of federal investments in science and technology.

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GAO said “traditional processes and systems are giving way to ones that are more collaborative, networked and virtual,” a trend that includes the increasing use of wireless devices, decreasing costs of computing and more powerful computers, and growing penetration of high-speed Internet access. Such breakthroughs in technology will lead to higher expectations of government performance and results from citizens.

“The growth in technology has the potential to affect not only how people work and learn but how they think and what they expect from their government,” GAO said.

Government also will face “increasingly complex, international and multidisciplinary challenges” stemming from decentralized and technology-enabled networks and groups — including security threats arising from cyberattacks and electronic warfare, according to GAO.

As the federal workforce becomes more mobile and geographically distributed, government will have to acquire technologies to improve collaboration among employees in agencies and across the government, the plan said.

As a result, GAO will have to focus more intensely on assessing federal efforts to promote affordable access to broadband Internet services; reviewing the management of government telecommunications and interconnected systems and agencies’ ability to provide secure, fast Internet connections; evaluating the Homeland Security Department’s effort to enhance the resiliency of critical national networks and systems; and analyzing efforts to improve the federal workforce infrastructure.

GAO’s Strategic Plan for the next five years “helps ensure that GAO is in tune with Congress’ priorities and is able to respond appropriately,” said GAO head and Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

About the Author

Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.

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