Opening new doors

Be nimble. Be quick. Be flexible, adaptable, teachable, adroit. In other words, you must be prepared for change because things change.

These are watchwords for any successful business today, especially when it comes to making strategic decisions that involve information technology — and what strategic decisions today don’t? The operational realities when you start a project can, and probably will, be very different from those that will apply when it is ready for launch.

Barack Obama and his high-tech evangelists — chief information officer Vivek Kundra and chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra — are now trying to sell that nimbleness idea to government agencies. Good luck with that, Jack, you’re probably saying. Government processes — from policy prescriptions to contracting procedures — are so entrenched in the old, by-the-book ways of doing business that agencies will never be able to invent a new candlestick, much less jump over one.

Their motto might as well be, “There’s a reason we can’t do that (and I’ll think of it in a minute).”

But Kundra and Chopra want to turn this bureaucratic mind-set on its head. They are touting a number of new forces that have emerged from the entrepreneurial world, have gradually crept into mainstream business applications and are now knocking on government’s door: Web 2.0, open-source software, social networking, mobile and ubiquitous computing, blogging, cloud computing, virtualization.

In this week’s cover story, contributing writer Brian Robinson examines the open-source movement and its growing, if still somewhat grudging, acceptance in the government space. If nothing else, his reporting shows that the government mind-set cannot be stereotyped as one, monolithic ogre of passive resistance. In fact, a number of agencies – defense and intelligence units tops among them – are fully embracing the open-source model for the very reason that less enlightened technology managers cite as its drawback: enhanced security.

The phenomenon that makes open source applicable to better security – more eyes on software’s inner workings reveal vulnerabilities that evil-doers will surely find eventually – gets further inspection from columnist Mark Drapeau. He argues that information sharing has become a top priority for national security operations to perform effectively. It’s as much a cultural shift as a technology shift.

No one says this will be easy – or simple. As staff writer Ben Bain reports in his story on sensitive but unclassified information, making mission-critical security information available to those who need it, at whatever level of government they operate, requires a delicate and complicated balance of access and control. Here again, though, emerging technologies offer part of the solution, which means that everyone in the chain of command simply has to remain open to the possibilities.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group