COMMENTARY

No need to rush the transition to the cloud

The conversation about cloud computing in government has taken a new direction, courtesy of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2012.

In the past several years, technology experts in government and industry have debated whether commercial cloud computing services are secure enough to meet the needs of federal agencies. Some people have argued that agencies would be better off developing their own cloud offerings and sacrificing some cost-efficiency for the sake of better security.

But lawmakers disagree. As part of the Defense Authorization bill, they are directing the Defense Department to make the leap from department-owned operations to commercially available cloud computing services “that provide a better capability at a lower cost with the same or greater degree of security.” You can expect similar directives for civilian agencies.

As a result, acquisition policy is likely to become the most pressing topic of conversation as federal officials seek to become better-versed in the particularities of cloud procurements.

Security is the overriding concern. Federal officials want to ensure that government data is stored and managed in compliance with existing security requirements. The policies are well-known; the question is how to translate them into clear and enforceable contract language.

Case in point: Officials at the General Services Administration ran into problems with their e-mail-as-a-service procurement when they tried to limit where government data could reside. Several bidders lodged a protest, which the Government Accountability Office upheld. In their decision, GAO auditors said GSA’s security concerns were legitimate but concluded that the provisions were ambiguously worded. The solicitation has been reworked, with awards expected in the spring.

Ambiguous security provisions could lead to protests in some cases and lousy security in others. Procurement officials should not let the Obama administration’s cloud-first policy rush them into deals that they might later regret.

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications: civic.com, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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