OMB: The IT management lights are on

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The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the Office of Management and Budget is housed.

White House IT management officials say they're making sure IT policies and mandates from the last few years sink into federal agencies as the new administration maps out its own priorities.

The calm from the Office of Management and Budget on IT policy issues 70 days into the new administration shouldn't be taken as a sign of inaction, said OMB officials, just that the agency is busy making sure effective IT management continues.

"The lights are on. We're working," federal Chief Enterprise Architect Scott Bernard said during an April 4 panel at the GITEC conference in Annapolis, Md.

Tech policy and governance, Bernard said, is "cyclical," and runs on mandates such as FISMA, FITARA and other initiatives that have been implemented in the last few years.

Efforts to get a better handle on federal IT, such as TechStat, have been providing better data on how and where to modernize federal IT, he said. OMB's update of its A-130 circular in 2016 provides an overarching framework for federal information policy, he added, and has helped build IT harmony at federal agencies.

That work, he said, is continuing as the new administration moves ahead. However, when asked by the audience for speculation on a key part of IT modernization -- legislation that would provide an IT modernization fund to replace the legacy IT systems that riddle the federal government -- Bernard and fellow OMB panelists demurred. "Watch the news," he said.

OMB's March release of its annual Federal Information Security Modernization Act report "gives agencies the megaphone they need to make the case for their cybersecurity programs," said Joshua Moses, OMB's director of federal cybersecurity performance.

The FISMA report sums up the observations and audits of inspectors general across the federal government and other agency data. The latest edition showed an apparently improving outlook for agencies' implementation of information security measures, including the use of dual-factor authentication for employee logins, the adoption of the Einstein 3A security screen by agencies and the identification and protection of high-value assets.

Moses noted those improvements also, particularly in implementation of PIV cards for identification. In July 2015, he said, only 27 agencies had "strong PIV card" access. Now over 40 agencies now have it. The implementation has moved from large CFO Act agencies to "the smallest of the small," he said.

OMB is also advancing a digital workforce training programs begun in the last administration. Traci Walker, director of the acquisition community of practice at OMB's Digital Service, said her office is about to publicly release Digital IT Acquisition Professional Training content.

The training and certification program for contracting officers is currently in its second pilot, said Walker, who plans to put the content online in May for agencies and contractors to access.

That program, launched in the Obama administration, looks to create a growing community of contracting personnel who understand digital acquisition techniques and how to apply them to federal acquisition.

That ability, said Walker, is critical to developing efficient effective federal IT systems quickly. The need is so great for those kinds of people, she said, "we can't scale" DITAP fast enough.

By making the content open source, Walker said, OMB will allow agencies and contractors to "create your own" rather than wait in line for a single source through the DITAP process.

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, tele.com 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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