FCW Insider: Nov. 26

Top stories, quick hits and more from FCW's reporters and editors.

The May 2020 deadline to transition agency telecommunications contracts to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Services vehicle is looking like a heavy lift, and an extension seems likely, especially with executive changes at the top of the General Services Administration office leading EIS. Experts tell Mark Rockwell that the topic of the looming EIS deadline is likely to come up at this week’s CIO Council meeting.

Can cloud take on some of the computational and data processing work for scientific research that was once handled by supercomputers? The National Science Foundation is looking for projects to demonstrate how cloud can be effective supporting science and engineering research. Matt Leonard has more.

Multiple lines of research show how federal agencies are missing the mark on cybersecurity. One of the key factors is visibility, according to John Hays of Merlin International. With visibility into networks, he argues in an FCW commentary, CISOs will be able to make smart risk-based decisions about where to implement resources.

Quick Hits

*** The federal government's data center consolidation policy is coming in for a refresh. Recent legislation requires a two-year extension of the Data Center Optimization Initiative, and federal CIO Suzette Kent is putting out updated guidance for comment. The updated policy recognizes that, by and large, the policy has been successful in going after the "low-hanging fruit" and the time has come for some budget controls to incentivize agencies to look to the cloud, shared services and third party co-location when it comes to application and data hosting. The proposed revision includes a freeze on the development of new data centers and the expansion of existing data centers, except where approval from the Office of Management and Budget is obtained. To get that approval, agencies will have to submit written justification for the new or expanded data centers, and explain why managed services or some other cloud-based solution does not meet the use case.

The new policy also focuses on a definition of data centers as large hosting facilities. "Agencies have seen little real savings from the consolidation of non-tiered facilities, small server closets, telecom closets, individual print and file servers and single computers acting as servers," the document notes. "Optimizing and consolidating these spaces not designed to be data centers generally incurs large costs for agencies, with little or no benefit from efficiencies gained."

Comments on the new policy are due by Dec. 26, per a notice in today's Federal Register.

*** Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the presumptive chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on "Meet the Press" Nov. 25 that with just two years in the majority, "we don't have to hit the ground as Democrats running, we have to hit the ground flying."

However, Cummings said not to expect a flurry of subpoenas on day one of the Democratic control of the House of Representatives. "We're going to do it very carefully and make sure that it's done with integrity," he said.

Cummings also said he was going to continue the practice, started recently under Republican leadership, of not permitting the ranking member of the committee to issue subpoenas.

Cummings said that one area of investigative activity will likely involve "the emoluments clause and wondering whether the president is acting in his best interest or those of the American people." That could include probes into the revenues from President Donald Trump's hotels, and in particular purchases and membership fees from foreign governments and dignitaries.

"Now as far as President Trump and his administration, again, the American people have said to us, they want robust, transparent investigations with integrity," Cummings said. "So I haven't figured out exactly what order they're in, because they're all important. But I guarantee you, we will look at it quite a bit."

*** Across the dial on "Face the Nation," Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the outgoing Oversight chairman, affirmed his plans to look into use of personal email by Ivanka Trump in the course of her government duties, and possible violations of the Federal and Presidential Records Acts.

"I've already talked to Mr. Cummings," Gowdy said. "We've already written a letter to the White House. Congress has a responsibility to make sure that the records and the Presidential Records Act is complied with. And that is true no matter-- no matter who the person is, whether it's Secretary [Hillary] Clinton or whether it's Tom Perez or whether it's Ivanka Trump."

Gowdy's letter of Nov. 20 seeks information on whether Ivanka Trump's emails were forwarded to government systems in accordance with records laws and regulations, and whether any sensitive or classified materials were involved.

*** Federal employees could have better access to performance guidance, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, put together at the behest of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), looked at responses to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to a group of questions on performance management. GAO found that feds typically took a dim view of how strong performers were rewarded and how poor performers were disciplined or required to improve. The report recommends that the Office of Personnel Management take the lead in posting centralized training and communications information to support performance management improvement. Resources exist, auditors found, but it often not accessible or shared across agencies with managers and employees.

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