Labor's modernization effort hinges on Congress

capitol dome and bills

The Labor Department wants to add improved mobile computing and data sharing capabilities to its IT roster in the coming year, but the fate of the initiatives lie with Congress, where funding could remain up in the air for months.

Earlier this year, the department celebrated moving email for its 17,000 employees to the cloud and migrating much of its network capability to the ByteGrid data center in Silver Spring, Md.

But DOL's latest modernization initiative -- the Digital Government Integrated Platform -- is now out of the department's hands, Deputy CIO Dawn Leaf told FCW.

The effort is part of the Labor Department's IT modernization plan included in in the president's fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

There is no word, though, on whether the DGIP initiative will be in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies spending bill. No draft of the bill is available and no markup has been scheduled.

The platform would be used by all agencies at Labor to build and deploy mobile computing and data sharing applications.

"We talked to all of our agencies during the budget planning process and asked them what part of the Digital Government Integrated Platform they would be able to use in FY15 versus FY16," Leaf said. "Pretty much, they're all on board, so we know there's a lot of commonality and support at that level."

Significant effort went into putting together the platform piece and looking to leverage it at the department level, according to Leaf. She and her colleagues looked at estimated costs, based on bottom-up and top-down estimates, and researched examples where other agencies, outside of DOL, implemented the same capabilities.

"Bottom line, using the platform would save us about 50 percent, than if the agencies went out and built it and bought it individually," Leaf said.

The main source of savings is expected to be in cutting the cost of systems integration.

"When you're buying hardware and software services, the most expensive piece is integrating them," Leaf said. "Sometimes people think because you're using cloud that it's simpler, but it's not really. Your external cloud provider will have requirements, all of your suppliers will have requirements and you'll have to integrate them."

By defining the platform once, rather than nine times, DOL expects it will save on those integration costs.

And, now that the initial design stage of the platform is complete, the hardest part might be over -- assuming funding is made available.

"Once you get past initial design stage, it's really very much about level of effort," Leaf said. "You can execute more quickly depending on how you are funded."

Working has already begun on requirements for a target architecture for the platform – it's a shovel-ready project, so to speak -- so if the program is included in the Labor-HHS spending bill, the department says it is ready to go.

Getting the DGIP off the ground and running is a building block in the department's IT modernization initiative. Leaf and her team are hoping that the funding proposed for fiscal 2015 will put the framework in place, and if agencies have particular programs and want funding to pursue certain areas, then they can build it out as required.

"You can do the design, but then to actually implement it for 17,000 people, it's funding dependent," Leaf said.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.


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