House committee wants answers on cloud progress

Committe on Oversight and Government Reform seeks progress report from GSA

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is examining the benefits and challenges of a governmentwide transition to cloud computing. The committee wants information about government progress from the General Services Administration by June 18.

As the initiative is taken up by federal agencies, the committee wants to ensure that adequate safeguards are established to ensure a smooth transition, committee representatives said in a release issued today.

Committee members acknowledge that several committees and working groups have been created to expedite the federal government’s implementation of cloud computing services, including the Cloud Computing Executive Steering Committee, which is headed by Casey Coleman, GSA's chief information officer.

As a result, House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Government Management, Organization and Procurement Subcommittee Chairwoman Diane Watson (D-Calif.) sent a letter on June 8 to Coleman regarding the governmentwide transition to the cloud. The lawmakers requested that Coleman deliver the requested information to the committee by Friday, June 18.

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"While there are compelling arguments for the federal government to utilize cloud computing, the technology is still a relatively new concept. As such, there are a number of questions and concerns about the federal government’s use of cloud computing,” the letter states. "The committee is examining these issues and intends to hold a hearing on the potential benefits and risks of moving federal IT into the cloud."

The government defines cloud computing as an on-demand model for network access, allowing users to tap into a shared pool of configurable computing resources, such as applications, networks, servers, storage and services, that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service-provider interaction.

The Obama administration created the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative in September 2009, with a goal of modernizing the federal government’s $76 billion worth of information technology systems.

The committee leaders are concerned that there are no clear policies and procedures in place for cloud computing; that standards have not yet been developed for security, interoperability or data portability; and that a finalized plan for the governmentwide implementation of cloud computing is not readily available.

Last month, a Cloud Computing Initiative vision and strategy document was made public, but it was unclear whether this plan for the governmentwide implementation of cloud computing was the final plan. The lawmakers are also asking for clarification on this matter.

A recent GSA Inspector General Semiannual Report to Congress highlighted significant schedule delays and cost overruns, frequent redesigns, and prolonged development times for GSA systems.

In light of the report, committee members asked Coleman if any cost estimates, including projected spending and savings, were available for the FCCI and whether GSA has developed any plans to address the unique challenges of cloud computing procurement.

They also asked for a list of which agencies currently use or plan to use cloud computing technologies and services and if any standards for security, interoperability and data portability have been drafted.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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