News and notes from FOSE

Erie Meyer_FOSE 2014

The White House's Erie Meyer advised FOSE attendees to overcome resistance to open source by showing their agencies how it works.

BYOD coming soon to NASA

NASA's bring-your-own-device policy is expected to be approved within weeks, said John Sprague, the agency's enterprise applications service executive.

Although NASA is a relative latecomer to the BYOD scene, other agencies with stringent security protocols, such as the Defense Department, have not yet taken the leap.

Sprague said many NASA employees were already bringing their personal mobile devices to work, which created a need for officials to codify proper use.

"There was no previous BYOD policy," Sprague said. "There are telework agreements and things like that, but nothing that really touched on people bringing in their devices. People were just doing it."

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Plus: GCN, FCW's sister publication covering technology, tools and tactics for public sector IT, is covering FOSE in even greater detail. Get all the GCN coverage here.

Show, don't tell

Open source is no longer the novelty it was just a few years ago in government, but that doesn't mean agencies have shed all their doubts and hesitations. The solution, according to advocates at one FOSE session, is to just do it.

An Interior Department employee asked the panelists, "What do you do when your agency is just hell bent on using [commercial off-the-shelf] software?" He said his superiors seem hostile to the very idea of open-source solutions, even after he and his team produced a cost/benefit analysis comparing in-house development to COTS integration.

"Forget the cost/benefit analysis," said panelist Erie Meyer, an aide to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. "The only way to move these conversations forward is to build what you're talking about."

Matthew Burton, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau former deputy CIO, agreed. "Mock something up," he said. "Pull up PowerPoint, and draw some boxes." People don't understand, really understand, a project until they see it. "And they don't need to see something fully functional," he added.

The panelists agreed that there are still fear, uncertainty and doubt about open-source solutions, but "sometimes these people don't disagree with you," Meyer said. "They literally have no idea what you're talking about."

Donilon: Snowden leaks costly

The leaking of classified material by former federal contractor Edward Snowden caused considerable damage to the image -- and bottom lines -- of U.S. tech firms overseas, said former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

Snowden's leaks disrupted the international business of several tech giants, with the Brazilian government saying it would no longer use Microsoft Outlook and IBM announcing $1.2 billion in data centers, most of them overseas, in the name of security assurance. Donilon, who was President Barack Obama's national security adviser from 2010 to 2013, said he is concerned about that kind of economic fallout.

"These firms, by the way…win around the world because it's the best technology," he said. "And now you have other people coming in and making the argument that in fact you have to be careful using U.S. technology."

Donilon said Snowden's disclosures, which included the revelation that NSA collects bulk phone records of U.S. citizens, also made tech firms more skittish about working with the government. "There's a long history of cooperation between the government and U.S. companies, so there's been damage there," he added.

In a wide-ranging discussion moderated by 1105 Media's Nick Wakeman, Donilon pointed the finger at China as a prime source of "cyber-enabled economic theft," which he called a critical threat to the United States. "You can't really have a $500 billion economic relationship and have this kind of theft going on," he said. "And the rules of the road need to change with respect to that."

The government and the private sector are getting better at sharing information on cyber threats, "but a lot more progress needs to be made," Donilon said, and best practices should be "used more evenly across the landscape."

New SEWP on the way

SEWP V, the next iteration of NASA's Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement contract, awaits authorization by the Office of Management and Budget, NASA Program Manager Joanne Woytek told an audience at FOSE.

She said the authorization will come this summer. SEWP IV expires Oct. 31, with SEWP V due to kick in the next day.

NASA's governmentwide acquisition contract processes about 25,000 orders per year and bills about $2.5 billion annually, she added.

She said the contract has undergone a paradigm shift in the past three years as its staff grew from 15 to 50 and it rose from being an under-the-radar IT products source to providing a model for other government agencies seeking to optimize their acquisition strategies.

NIST framework paying dividends

The White House is seeing payoff in the form of more secure supply chains because some financial-sector firms are implementing President Barack Obama's 2013 cybersecurity executive order, a top aide said.

"One of the areas that we've seen companies already really start to use the [cybersecurity] framework is in vendor management," said Ari Schwartz, a cybersecurity adviser on the National Security Council. The companies have mostly been in the financial sector, he added.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released an initial framework for implementing the executive order in February. The document is a voluntary guideline by which operators of critical infrastructure, for example, can assess their cybersecurity posture and set goals for improving it.

"The key to the cybersecurity framework is it allows a baseline across different sectors," Schwartz said. "So if you can start to audit different sectors using the same framework, you can come up with a kind of baseline that works and that gives information to the CIO and gives information to boards."

He said a new marketplace was sprouting up for products that incorporate cybersecurity standards delineated by the NIST framework.

"I wouldn't say that we have seen it widespread yet, but we have heard…anecdotally that some sectors have really taken this on as an important goal," Schwartz said in reply to a question from FCW.

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