DHS official: Cloud fuels progress

Shutterstock image: the data cloud connecting a number of global services.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to be a technology leader in the federal government, and the cloud is a key to doing that, CTO Michael Hermus said.

"DHS needs to be a tech company with guns and security, just like Southwest Airlines calls itself a software company with planes," he said during a keynote speech at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center's Federal Cloud Computing Summit on July 26.

Hermus said cloud technology "represents endless opportunity" for DHS and other federal agencies by shifting the focus from maintaining IT infrastructure to providing mission-oriented services.

Cloud, agile methodology and open-source development are propelling DHS toward its goal of being an IT model for the federal government, he added. The changes associated with those technologies, however, also bring challenges for which there are no easy solutions.

Hermus, who came to DHS from the private sector just over a year ago, said there is no "private-sector pixie dust" that can be sprinkled on federal IT to solve tough issues, although the outside perspective can be helpful.

For new technologies, federal agencies must focus on a given program's value, not on eliminating the risks in implementing it, he said. It is impossible to ferret out all the uncertainty while planning those projects, and relying on static requirements is not the answer, he added.

An upcoming Office of Management and Budget memo on the Data Center Optimization Initiative is expected to resolve some of that uncertainty. The memo will help agencies move ahead with cloud technology and some of the efforts it enables, such as data center consolidation and shared services.

During a panel discussion at the cloud summit, Dominic Sale, deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration's Office of Information, Integrity and Access, said the memo could be released any day.

It will bring data center guidance in line with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act by requiring agencies to develop annual data center consolidation plans and stressing an approach that favors cloud technology and shared services. GSA's Office of Government-wide Policy will be involved in data center and shared-services management.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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