The 'Fix FedRAMP' crowd agitates for change

An industry advocacy group released a six-point plan asking for improvements to help promote speed and transparency in the government process for vetting cloud service providers.

Shutterstock image: Cloud concept.

At a Capitol Hill cloud computing event packed with vendors who had soured on the government's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, one congressman asked the question that was on everyone's mind.

"Why is it so effed up?" asked Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).

The turnout, at an event hosted by the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group, was predominantly representatives of industry, many distressed by long wait times and prohibitive costs to get Authorities to Operate for cloud systems.

Meritalk’s Steve O’Keeffe, introducing a position paper on industry-suggested improvements, said that just two years ago it took roughly nine months and $250,000 for a cloud service provider to obtain an ATO. Today, he said, those figures are closer to 2 years and $5 million.

“Forget small business,” remarked one audience member.

The raucous tone was perhaps in part due to the absence anyone from the FedRAMP program office at the event.

O'Keeffe criticized the FedRAMP office for what he called a "mysterious refusal" to offer official input on the months-long formation of the "Fix FedRAMP" plan. He also claimed that the General Services Administration-based team had recently presented a "FedRAMP 2.0" plan to lawmakers that drew heavily from his group's recommendations.

The General Services Administration, on behalf of the FedRAMP office, declined to comment. 

At an event late last month, FedRAMP Director Matt Goodrich noted that the ATO process had gotten bogged down, and promised a forthcoming redesign that would speed the process back up to six months.And the more-recent event wasn’t entirely doom and gloom.

International Trade Administration CIO Joe Paiva, for example, noted he cut IT spending by 15 percent at his agency over two years.

“I could not have done that without FedRAMP,” Paiva said. “There is incredible value in FedRAMP.”

The fixes offered by the industry groups plan ran the gamut.

The plan called for clearer valuations of the three different types of ATO (from the Joint Authorization Board, individual agencies or CSP packages), so ATOs can be more effectively leveraged for reuse across agencies. Harmonizing standards was another crucial ask.

The plan also seeks greater transparency, including information on how Defense Department cloud security standards map to the forthcoming FedRAMP High standards.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) agreed that improvements were needed, but said he wasn’t sure Congress had a legislative role to play in crafting a FedRAMP fix. He called on agencies to open up and work together, and borrowed a line from GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to declare,  "Let’s make IT great again!"

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