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FCC honored again for cloud embrace

Shutterstock image (by ra2studio): young businessman looking at a cloud concept wall.

The Federal Communications Commission's tech policy moves may be sparking controversy, but the agency's own IT operations continue to draw praise from both the public and private sectors. 

The FCC was selected on May 1 as one of the 2017 CIO 100 -- CIO.com's award program honoring organizations for their business and technology innovation. Most winners are large companies, but roughly 10 percent of this year's group are public-sector organizations. (Other public-sector winners include NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the City of Boston, the County of Los Angeles and Arlington Public Schools.) 

The FCC, which also was one of the 2015 CIO 100, is the only two-time government honoree -- a distinction that FCC CIO David Bray attributed to the teamwork that's taken hold among the IT staff as they've aggressively embraced the cloud.

"It's truly a team honor," Bray told FCW. There was significant resistance from career IT staff when he first came to the agency and began pushing to move legacy systems to the cloud, he noted, but now "we really do gel as a team." And while the 2015 honor was for the FCC's initial cloud-migration project, this year's award recognizes the agency's sustained and successful shift.

"We don't have anything at all on-prem at this point, " Bray said. Looking toward " an eighth year of no budget increase, we're showing we can still do things."

Those efforts have been recognized within the federal IT community as well -- Bray, Senior Adviser Tony Summerlin both won FCW's Federal 100 award in 2015,

and two FCC IT projects were finalists for last year's GCN dig IT Awards. The General Services Administration recently stood up a Federal Cloud Center of Excellence, and recruited Bray to chair it, hoping other agencies can learn from the FCC's experience.

"We showed that we could fund additional IT on a flat budget," Bray said of his team. "Now the push is to demonstrate that other agencies can do that too." If the government put a man on the moon in less than nine years, he noted, "surely we can get 75 percent of systems to the cloud in 2.5 years!"

The working group, he said, is trying to tackle the biggest barriers to cloud adoption: procurement, workforce education, standardized offerings and security concerns.

Many of the cloud-security fears are unfounded, Bray noted, but there is still room for improvement. If multiple agencies are buying the same software-as-a-service solution, he said, ideally there would be a system where "DHS scans it once, and then is responsible for continuing to scan it. Agencies shouldn't DIY their cloud security."

Similarly, he said, cloud procurement should be better centralized. More contract vehicles are available now than when the FCC embarked on its migration, but Bray said the prices different agencies pay for the same cloud service can still vary by a factor of 10.

The group is making good progress, Bray said, and plans to put out a playbook this summer. Recommendations also will be delivered to the Office of Management and Budget, and could inform future governmentwide cloud policies. 

There's a real sense of urgency to get other agencies both comfortable and empowered to move most services to the cloud, Bray added. Thanks to his team's efforts over the past few years, the FCC can now "deliver things faster, more effective, more resilient," he said. Every agency needs to be able to "transform government at the speed necessary to keep up with the changing world."

Posted by Troy K. Schneider on May 02, 2017 at 6:46 PM


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