CIO Council

State of federal IT report charts needs in cyber, workforce

Tony Scott  (Photo: VMware) 

A new report from the CIO Council charts some of the IT acquisition and cybersecurity reforms during the tenure of federal CIO Tony Scott.

A new report from the Federal CIO Council and the General Services Administration takes a sweeping view of the challenges facing the federal IT community.

Cybersecurity, workforce and acquisition issues pervade the entire publication, coming up over and over again in the report's interviews with 45 agency CIOs.

Overall, the report said the federal government has made "significant progress" improving federal IT across the government, but that improvement has to keep moving.

The report lists federal IT successes, such as now-ex Federal CIO Tony Scott's cybersecurity sprint opened in the wake of the massive Office of Personnel Management data breach, but it also lists some issues that persist.

The report said acquisition still isn't fast enough to keep ahead of evolving cyber threats. It said "a number of CIOs" interviewed said the lengthy complex federal acquisition environment is simply too inflexible and sluggish to keep pace with the threat.

It also said complex contracts with security companies for cybersecurity products and services "may make it difficult for agencies to switch to a different provider."

Agencies could benefit from more agile response capabilities, as well as allowing open source review of federal source code, it said.

Cyber workforce is another troublesome issue, according to the report. CIOs said although they could find qualified candidates, the federal hiring process was too cumbersome, federal hiring websites too wonky, and private sector pay lured them away.

Although the report said the use of shared services across government may have turned a corner with the advent of GSA's Unified Shared Services Management in 2015, some challenges remained.

Those include effective and efficient scaling of those services among agencies, as well as consistency of performance. "Strong agency performance in providing a specific service to its own bureaus does not automatically make that agency a good candidate to provide that service across government," it said.

Multiple CIOs described challenges with relying on partners in the acquisition community who lack the background in modern IT necessary to evaluate vendors' ability to perform the services required by agencies. Recent efforts could help address this, such as category managers for IT categories, continued growth of specialized IT acquisition cadres and the U.S. Digital Service and 18F's focus on hiring acquisition staff with more IT expertise.

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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