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Posted: 9/15/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Donald Trump might quip that there are two kinds of insider threats – the Edward Snowden kind and the Hillary Clinton kind.  But our nation's cyber security's no laughing matter.  According to a new MeriTalk study Inside Job, 45 percent of Federal agencies detected insider threats and 29 percent lost data to insider threats in the last year.  What's perhaps more alarming, in many cases Feds don't know what they don't know – 45 percent can't tell if a document has been inappropriately shared and 34 percent can't tell what data has been lost.  So, it may be worse than we think...
Cyber Central
If you're interested in dialing in on insider threat, the Cyber Sprint, CDM, and cyber threat intelligence – you should register for the Cyber Security Brainstorm on September 23rd at the Newseum. 
We'll lead off with a keynote from Allison Tsiumis, cyber intelligence section chief, FBI.  Then the program is the who's who of cyber gladiators in D.C. – from Jeff Eisensmith, CISO at DHS; Renee Tarun, deputy chief of the cyber taskforce at NSA; to Emery Csulak, CIOs at HHS CMS; to Steven McIntosh and Stephen Smith, the insider threat leads at DIA and State respectively.  Stay with us for lunch to see NIST's Dr. Ron Ross moderate an industry panel with Cloudera, Dell, and Palo Alto Networks.  We'll also hear from Cisco, Fortinet, IBM, and Tenable. Like I said it's cyber central...
But Wait, There's More...
NIST's Cloud Cyber Security Working Group's collocating its meeting at the Cyber Brainstorm.  And, it's a cyber-action-packed afternoon.  It kicks off with a keynote from Chris Inglis, former deputy director at NSA.  Next up, Dr. Michaela Iorga moderates a star-studded panel on the Internet of Everything.  And, who better to participate than the man who invented the internet?  No, not Al Gore. This session features Vint Cerf – as well as David Bray CIO at FCC and Daryll Peek of DHS.
You're Fired
So, let's go back to the Republican frontrunner for the dismount.  According to the recent MeriTalk Go Big Security study, our Fed Cyber warriors tell us cyber threats live on government networks 16 days before they're detected.  And, nine out of 10 defenders say they can't tell a complete story of their cyber security position with the data they have today – so 76 percent say their cyber teams operate reactively rather than proactively.  The net, we need better cyber data and situational awareness to improve Uncle Sam's cyber outcomes.
It's unlikely the Donald will put in a cameo at the Brainstorm on the 23rd. That's one less threat to worry about...

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Posted: 9/3/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Price Shopping Federal Cloud

Money talks – and BS walks. We’re about to separate the men from the boys in Federal cloud. Yes, we’re rolling into busy season – when agencies use it or lose it. Will Feds drop cash on cloud or binge on boxes as usual? The answer floats on procurements’ ability to make sense of cloud pricing – and craft cloud RFQs. That’s why we developed the Gov Cloud Shopper. It’s free to use. It provides point-and-click access to pricing from FedRAMP Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) – AWS, CenturyLink, IBM, Microsoft Azure, and VMware. We use our algorithm to allow you to break CSPs out by price point and line them up based on common specs.


Let’s Go Shopping:
For example, how much will CSPs charge per year to host a medium-sized development and production website with 5,000 pages and 50,000 page views per day? Time to part the clouds – here you go:

AWS – $41,343.84
Azure – $44,868.96
CenturyLink – $31,180.03
IBM – $42,441.96
VMware – $38,220.14

To be clear, the pricing in the estimator tool comes directly from the publicly available price lists of the respective CSPs. We have reached out to all FedRAMP-compliant CSPs requesting pricing information. We have pricing for five CSPs. A series of others are in the process of providing their price catalogues. This is an open invitation for all CSPs to participate and provide feedback. 

More detail here. Why can’t you see prices from other FedRAMP’d CSPs? How can you buy their solutions if you can’t understand the pricing? Good questions. As I mentioned, we’re working with a series of additional CSPs to add their pricing. Watch this space.



How Does the Shopper Work?
Another good question – you can go check out the
Shopper yourself. But, if you want a guided tour, we’re hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, September 16 at 1 p.m. EDT with Maria Roat, CTO at Department of Transportation. Register today – space online is limited. 

Here’s the 411 on the Webinar:

Want a readahead on the
webinar? The Gov Cloud Shopper does much more than rack and stack FedRAMP CSPs by price.

Okay, so you’re interested in buying cloud at Federal year end, but you’re confused about your options – how much do clouds cost, what do you get for your money, and how do you get a quote from a GWAC? Join this free webinar to get a look under the hood at vendors’ cloud pricing. Learn how to easily generate and submit a cloud RFQ. Get a handle on how to easily change your specs to see the impact on what you pay. Three steps to cloud procurement heaven:

1. Get an Inclusive Estimate:  It seems every vendor is offering cloud services – how do you work out which ones have enough FedRAMP so you don’t make the wrong choice? Now, let’s get real, what’s the real cost of establishing a cloud service – not just the cloud service cost – but also the one-time set up and ongoing professional services cost?

You’d like to stack up FedRAMP-compliant CSPs against one another – you want a price/value run off for your business. 

Welcome to the
Gov Cloud Shopper
. MeriTalk developed the Shopper in collaboration with DHS, GSA, and Interior. This easy-to-use tool allows you to search FedRAMP-compliant CSPs to understand your total cloud cost – and also to see how the vendors’ price points stack up. The Shopper engine puts you in the driver’s seat.

To restate, the pricing in the estimator tool comes directly from the publicly available price lists of the respective CSPs. We have reached out to all FedRAMP-compliant CSPs requesting pricing information. We have pricing for five CSPs. A series of others are in the process of providing their price catalogue. This is an open invitation for all CSPs to participate and provide feedback.

2. Generate an RFQ to Get GWAC Bids:  And, armed with the
Shopper’s estimates, you can proceed to use the Requirements Designer to build your RFQ – and submit it to a GWAC for a bid. We’ll connect you with NASA, GSA, DHS, and other GWAC offices. When you submit your RFQ, you get a copy of your specs sent to your email as well as the GWAC office. But why not have the GWACs compete for your business? Yes, you can submit the same RFQ to multiple GWACs to see who gives you the best deal. 

3. Change Your Specs to See Impact on Price:  Here’s the final twist. The
Shopper’s Requirements Designer allows you to submit multiple RFQs, so you can change your specs and see how that changes your price. What’s the difference between a 99 percent uptime SLA and a 99.99 percent uptime SLA? The Gov Cloud Shopper’s
easy to use – it bridges between IT and procurement. 

Register for the
webinar today.  The MeriTalk Gov Cloud Shopper brings the cloud down to earth. Do you want more transparency in FedRAMP cloud pricing – and help shopping for cloud solutions?  

Opt in today to keep stirring IT up.


Posted: 8/13/2015 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Never let a good crisis go to waste.  The OPM breach – and the subsequent Cyber Sprint – may be just the jolt we need to euthanize our geriatric Fed IT.  According to Tony Scott and GAO at this week's FITARA Forum, we spend more than 80 percent of the $80 billion IT budget on operations and maintenance for legacy systems.  You see with the Cyber Sprint we've been looking hard at how to secure our systems.  And, the simple truth of the matter is – it's impossible.  It's impossible to apply two-factor authentication to systems and applications built in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and naughties.

Cash for Clunkers...

Here's an opportunity for real leadership – to move away from advocating for incremental change, like Cloud First, Mobile First, FDCCI, HSPD-12, TIC, etc.  These approaches have clearly failed us.  Now's the time for a moon shot in government IT – a digital Interstate Highway program.  I'm going to call this .usa 2020 – the idea to completely replace our aging Federal IT infrastructure by 2020.  You see, IT is the highway artery system that connects America today.  I'm proposing that we take inspiration from the OPM disaster – and the next cyber disaster lurking oh so inevitably around the next corner – to undertake a mainstream modernization of the Federal government's IT infrastructure and applications.  It's not about transformation, it's about death and rebirth.

To be clear, this is not simply about moving to the cloud.  It's about really reinventing government IT.  It's not just that our Federal IT systems are decrepit and insecure – it's about the fact they're dysfunctional.  How can it be that the top five addresses in America received 4,900 tax refunds in 2014?  How did a single address in Lithuania get 699 tax refunds?  How can we have 777 supply chain systems in the Federal government?

.usa 2020

Instead of constantly patching and trying to make do, what if we built a completely new government IT infrastructure?  What if we designed new applications to support a 21st century America?  Let me be clear, I'm talking about getting rid of the rusting hulk of our existing IT systems.  Will it cost a lot of money?  Yes.  But, will it have a massive multiplier effect on our economy – hell yes.  Think about the economic boost that America would realize by investing in a whole new U.S. government tech system.

We'd truly see the best and brightest attracted to D.C. to engineer tomorrow's society.  Could we develop a secure government that resistant to cyber attacks and provides a model for industry and the world?  Yes we could.  Could we develop an agile government – that pivots to support new mission requirements?  I'm going to say yes.  Could we develop a more customer-centric and accountable government – a government where citizens get the benefits that they actually deserve and agencies are held accountable to real metrics?  I'm going to say yes and yes.

But, let's go further.  Let's consider the long-term impact on our economic performance.  A better, more efficient government means a better and more efficient U.S. economy.  An economy that flourishes, innovates, and provides engaging, good-paying jobs.  FITARA's a great platform on which to ignite this change.

Does America care about Federal IT?  Only when its Snowden or OPM or  Let's use this crisis to get out of crisis mode.  

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Posted: 8/4/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Agency CIOs QB Fed IT or do they?  That's FITARA's goal to improve Fed IT performance by ensuring CIOs are the only QB on the Fed IT field.  So, isn't it ironic that, like the Redskins, DC's IT franchise is plagued by ownership and QB problems? 

As we kick off the Redskins' season on August 13th, FITARA has it's own season opener on August 15th, the first deadline for agencies to submit their self-assessment baselines.  MeriTalk released a new FITARA study this week, and we're hosting our own FITARA gridiron with OMB on August 11th at the Newseum, the FITARA Forum.  Here's your chance to hear from FITARA coach Congressman Gerry Connolly, as well as to watch Tony Scott, OMB's FITARA implementation leads, GAO's Dave Powner, Rich Beutel, and a Federal CIO all-pro team take the field.



Super Bowl Shoo-in?

Overall, the study shows Feds are upbeat about the 2016 Fed IT season.  Eighty-four percent think FITARA will put power to CIOs elbows and improve Fed IT efficiency.  All good. But,  like Congressman Connolly and his fellow Hill coaches, you want answers to the tough FITARA questions how, how much, and when? 

First, how?  Forty-four percent of Feds point to FITARA's ability to reduce the number of duplicate systems, 41 percent point to better investment decisions. 

Second, how much? Feds believe FITARA can block $12 billion in waste. 

Lastly, Feds expect a quick turnaround 20 percent expect to see FITARA impact IT efficiency within six months and an additional 38 percent expect to see real improvement within two years. 

More than half assert that FITARA will increase the value of OMB's IT dashboard.  Interestingly, just six percent think it'll increase CIO turnover although I beg to differ here.

Fantasy Football?

But sadly it's not a clear running lane into the end zone.  Only 18 percent of Fed IT execs assert their agencies will definitely meet the August 15 deadline and only 19 percent feel good about their agencies' ability to meet the next deadline on December 31st.  While 60 percent are satisfied with OMB's guidance, 28 percent aren't familiar with OMB's FITARA guidance.

Tom Brady and FITARA?

Another burning question can we rely on the data agencies provide in their FITARA reports?  We're along way from Deflate-gate. That said, OMB's working hard to ensure agencies are playing by the rules.  That's why they're reaching out to get the word out about FITARA.  Here's your chance to get a seat on the 50 yard-line.  Join us for the All-Star game on August 11th at the Newseum to check out FITARA's heavy hitters.  Are you excited for FITARA football season?


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Posted: 7/23/2015 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Asked about the best way to deal with the Y2K problem, an IT consultant quipped, let’s find the fella that fixed Y1K – and get him back on the job.  It wasn’t Methuselah magic that mended the millennium madness, it was good old fashioned auditing and a commitment to Enterprise Architecture.  After Y2K, IT, like a reformed drinker, took the pledge to skip the bottle and hit the EA gym.  15 years later, seems our heroes back on a high stool.    


As 1999 became so last millennium, EA fell from grace.  It became a confusing resource draw – and failed to clearly communicate its value to the business side.  OMB and GAO provided plenty of guidance, methods, and surveys – but folks stopped paying attention.  When was the last time you saw EA on a conference agenda?  So, is EA dead – and if so, should anybody mourn his passing?

EA, CDO, FDCCI, and More…?

Yes, the taxpayer will cry.  We certainly can’t afford to have EA slop off into oblivion.  Consider Uncle Sam’s ballooning data center volumes – from 732 in 2010 to more than 10,000 in 2015.  Consider the open data opportunity – and the emerging role of the CDO.  Consider shared services in the cloud.  You quickly come face to face with the IT sphinx.  You can’t manage what you can’t see – and it’s impossible to count if definitions change.  What is shared services if not a map back to Mark Forman’s FEA? 


So, if EA makes so much sense, why isn’t it happening?  Two primary challenges.  By definition, EA is holistic – it cuts across agency boundaries, that means breaking budgetary rice bowls.  Agencies, politicians, and contractors don’t want to surrender control.  Second, everybody wants results now – appointees typically serve two years.  Few are interested in taking the long, strategic view – that may put feathers in somebody else’s cap.     


How do we breathe new life into the dark science?  FITARA presents just the tonic.  Join us on August 11th at the Newseum in D.C. for the FITARA Forum. Tony Scott, OMB’s FITARA leads, CIOs, and GAO. Register today here.  We can't afford to wait another 1,000 years to get agencies current on EA.

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Posted: 7/15/2015 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



If you thought Fed CIOs’ dance cards were full with the cyber cha-cha, cloud can-can, and data center duck walk – it’s time to make room for some new moves.  Here comes the FITARA Fandango.  And, the first FITARA deadline for agencies to submit their self-assessments to OMB is August 15.  It’s getting CIOs’ toes tapping inside and outside the Beltway.


That’s why the digital DJs at MeriTalk and OMB are throwing a hot new dance party – the FITARA Forum – at the Newseum on August 11.


So, who’s playing and what’s in the mix for the FITARA Forum?  Fed IT jam master, Tony Scott, will open us up with the morning keynote.  He’ll underscore why FITARA’s important, review OMB's implementation plans, and break down target metrics for success.

Next up, it’s OMB’s FITARA dynamic duo – Jamie Berryhill and Ben Sweezy – hosting an interactive FITARA studio.  The fellas will dive deeper into the guidance framework.  Here’s your chance to learn the moves, pose your questions to OMB’s dance instructors, and take a waltz with your peers.

And, it wouldn’t be a FITARA Fandango, without Fed CIOs – both in the audience and on the stage.  The Forum hosts a Fed CIO panel – great opportunity to hear from the folks sporting the dancing shoes. 

We’ll round out the half-day dance off with an expert panel.  Rich Beutel, principal FITARA author during his tenure at OGR, and Dave Powner, IT lead at GAO.  From author to auditor – the gents will provide insight on FITARA audit plans as well as thoughts on upcoming hearings.

FITARA Factoids

And, to help frame the Forum, MeriTalk’s releasing a new study on August 10, FITARA From the Frontlines.  It quantifies how Fed IT execs are up to get down on FITARA – awareness, compliance probability, and perspectives.

Deadline, leadership meeting, new research – FITARA’s Fed IT’s new groove.  Have you tried the FITARA Fandango?  Have you got a ticket for the party?      


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Posted: 6/29/2015 - 14 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



I'm all for shaking up Fed IT. So, when Dan Tangherlini launched 18F, GSA's internal innovation hub, he grabbed my attention.  More than a year later, seemed like a good time to check in on GSA's geek squad.  The question, is the 18F experiment working – Fairytale or Frankenstein?  I decided to ask around – talking to Feds and directly with 18F.

Tech Timeline?

Here’s 18F’s history – from the horse’s mouth.  The Presidential Innovation Fellows – PIFs –started in 2012 – under Federal CTO, Todd Park.  The goal, to bring a bunch of high-tech smarties into government and embed them with agencies for six to 12 months to tackle tech troubles – and amp up innovation.  The initial cadre was 18.  The second round of PIFs arrived mid 2013 – and the group grew to 40.  Today, there are almost 100 at 18F. 

The program’s seed funding came from GSA’s revolving capital fund.  18F will pay back that investment by selling fee-for-service projects to agencies.  As the program matures, 18F explained its focus on making a lasting difference – getting roots and giving wings to engagements.  PIFs are hanging in D.C. longer – the 12-month term limits are history.  18F explained that a year just wasn't enough to really make a difference. 

Tech Triumphs?

When I asked about successes, 18F pointed to  It’s a pretty cool site that tells you in real time how many folks are visiting Federal websites – no lightning bolt, the weather service is consistently top of the pops.  Cool, but not exactly transformational tech stuff that enhances fundamental government efficiency.  18F noted that Philadelphia’s showing some brotherly love -- utilizing the code to provide web visit transparency to its citizens. 

Outside of that traffic-tracking site, 18F didn't have too many more triumphs to trumpet.  The spokesperson pointed to the growth of the size of 18F as a metric for success.  Is bigger better?

I did speak with some other Feds, who pointed to the work/dashboard page on 18F’s site.  Interesting, but difficult to map from here to groundbreaking innovation. 

Tech Terrors?

However, the 411 on 18F is mixed.  While Ex 18Fers sing the program’s praises, a series of Fed IT execs grumble the glossy sheen doesn’t reflect reality.  They say 18F’s running amok.  Agency "sponsors" don't know where to find their PIFs or quite what they do.  Folks tell of an arrogant DNA – characterizing 18F consultants as patronizing and demeaning.  "Seems they think they're smarter and treat us like we have no idea what we're doing."  "What have they actually accomplished, beyond the website tracking thing?” 

Folks also have questions about the cyber consideration – "if we didn't have to follow the rules, we could all move a lot faster too." “Prototypes built in minutes don't cut it when our bacon's on the line.” 

I put these observations directly to 18F – they seemed aghast.  They feel they’re super accountable.  They note every agency has a 30-day-out clause.  All work is structured in iterative cycles.  So, if you don’t like 18F, here’s your chance to 86 them.  18F noted that agile is a leap of faith for anybody that hasn’t done it before – there’s comfort in a laying out a traditional waterfall timeline if it’s what you know.  In fairness to 18F, based on GAO reports, waterfall has left much of Fed IT under water to date.

Responding to the arrogance accusation, 18F says they’re not trying to play “hero ball.”  “We're not here to tell folks that they are doing it wrong – we want to be sensitive.”

Industry has real questions too.  Companies feel 18F’s competing with the private sector – leveraging an unfair advantage to shill for work inside the government. 


Tech Tension?

Ironically, former 18Fers do a much better job telling the 18F story than today’s team.  18F is committed to new ways of doing things – agile, minimal viable product, open source, tech sprints, etc.  Former 18Fers say that if agencies won’t embrace these principles, 18F simply won’t work with them.  That might explain the perception of arrogance.  

As I said, it’s a pretty confusing situation.  First off, if I might be so bold, 18F could use some real PR support.  That said, the tension over 18F seems to be a quarrel between the past and the future of Fed IT.  Is 18F perfect?  Likely not, but they're surfacing new ideas – which has to be a good thing.  The tension between traditional IT and smarty pants consultants is shake things up – and ultimately that’s good for Fed IT efficiency.  We clearly need increased accountability and transparency in the equation – how and where is 18F delivering value – how much and at what cost?  Is there an expiration date on the experiment?

It’s impossible to talk with everybody who’s had experience with GSA’s geek squad – so please write in with your feedback.

Until we hear more from you – it’s WT18F?  TBD…


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Posted: 6/18/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”  Today, that wildfire is the OPM breach.  Yesterday it was IRS. The day before that, it was Snowden.

Tomorrow, it’ll spark up somewhere else. 

Federal cyber pros are sounding the alarm.  They are spending too much time fighting cyber fires.  The old approaches and point products aren’t working – agencies need real change and a holistic approach to fight today’s threats, as well as new challenges smoldering for tomorrow.

Fanning the Flames

According to recent research, 93 percent of Federal executives indicate cyber defenses need significant improvement, but only 56 percent are assessing their networks daily to analyze and address security risks.

Einstein doesn’t look so smart right now – understand the intrusion detection system held the door open at OPM.  CDM wasn’t enough.  Fire likes oxygen – how do agencies choke the flames?

Dousing the Fire

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and most cyber pros agree that an effective cyber posture is a combination of people, processes, and tools.  

Many are turning to the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity as a comprehensive strategy to prevent the fire drills.  The framework was developed in a year-long, collaborative process between industry, academia, and government stakeholders.  It’s designed to work in any enterprise – public or private. 

Want to learn more about the NIST Framework?  Check out the abridged version.  This Framework assessment tool helps agencies determine your cyber security capabilities and set goals for your future defense.  NIST suggests organizations use the Framework to:

  • Conduct a basic review of cyber security practices
  • Establish or improve a cyber security program
  • Communicate cyber security requirements to stakeholders
  • Identify new or revised references for solutions

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Don’t forget to test your smoke alarms.  And if they go off, don’t ignore them.  This said, alarms and point products won’t keep you safe, and won’t keep you off the front page of the Washington Post.  Check out the Framework to jump start your comprehensive, integrated cyber defense.  Smokey's smiling.

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Posted: 6/14/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Not sure if he's a coffee or tea drinker, but I do know Tony Scott's joining us for breakfast this Wednesday at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm at the Newseum.  The Federal CIO will set the table for the half-day cloud chow down with his morning keynote address. 

If you’ve got an appetite for cloud, Wednesday's Brainstorm's a tapas feast – nine tasty tongue tempters and untethered by 2:00 p.m. to trounce the traffic.  With 600 govies registered, you'd better arrive early to get a seat at the table.

Here's the menu:

1st Course(s) – your pick.  It's FedRAMP Fast Forward for industry.  Working session on how to increase FedRAMP efficiency.  Or, for the govies, join us for the Data Center Exchange FITARA implementation planning breakfast with Ben Rhodeside, tech lead from Congressman Connolly's office, and Ben Sweezy from OMB.

2nd Course – Yours truly – preview of the new Gov Cloud Shopper functionality

3rd Course – Tony Scott.  What's new in Federal cloud – with a side of FITARA implementation planning

4th Course – Building the Cloud Business Model:  ITA/Commerce, EPA, FCC, and USDA

5th Course – Trusting the Cloud:  GSA, NIST, and Air Force

6th Course – Hybrid Future:  Army, IRS, and ITC

7th Course – Anil Karmel from C2 Labs and the NIST Cloud Security Working Group

8th Course – Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group – industry perspectives

Dessert – NIST Cloud Security Working Group meeting – featuring a keynote from Jim Reavis from the Cloud Security Alliance

We're embracing a progressive theme for the party – the Cloud Caucus Don't Be a Box Hugger report provides our backdrop.  MeriTalk's also releasing new research on DoD's Cloud Deployment plans.

Breakfast with Tony Scott and all of Uncle Sam's best cloud chefs.  Make your reservation now.  See you Wednesday – I'd arrive hungry and early.

Opt in today to keep stirring IT up.

Posted: 6/3/2015 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Action packed this week.  FedRAMP mass confusion.  Capitol opportunity to get serious about FITARA. 

FedRAMP Fiasco?

NextGov reports GSA's making FedRAMP optional.  FedScoop reports on OMB's draft policy revisions – unclear as yet what this means for FedRAMP.

But back to GSA's comments – two factors here.  First, the FedRAMP PMO says it's drowning in rubbish submissions from CSPs.  Babysitting poor submission's sucking up PMO bandwidth and choking off the supply of certified CSPs.  But, if CSPs don't need to get FedRAMP to win deals, merely to say they're in process, there'll be a whole lot more incomplete and poor submissions on the way to the FedRAMP PMO.  Second, what smart CSP's going to spend the $4-5 million – not to mention the anguish of the exercise – to go through the FedRAMP process, if it's not required?  One additional thought.  GSA says it's concerned about limiting competition.  Doesn't FedRAMP limit competition by design?

Think GSA needs to reconsider its position.  It's not just the vendor community – the Hill and GAO sitting up and paying attention.

Guessing the FedRAMP Fast Forward meeting at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm's going to be a humdinger.

FITARA Forward?

Heads up, there's a little publicized Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee hearing on the implementation plan for FITARA at 2:00 p.m. EST on June 10th.  Witnesses Tony Scott, OMB; Dave Powner, GAO; and Richard Spires, former DHS CIO – and long-time FITARA champion.

We're all curious to see how this plays out.  The fact that appropriators no funded Digital Services, makes you think the Hill's serious about putting some muscle behind FITARA.  Some see Digital Services as an end around some CIO shops.  Here's a wish for the hearing – hoping that we institute a FITARA scorecard.  KPIs:

-Cost savings

-Percentage of projects delivered on time

-Focus on incremental approach – percentage of projects scheduled for delivery within six months

-Percentage of IT contracts signed off on by the CIO

-Data center efficiency metrics

FedRAMP Fix?

Now for the dismount – let’s finish as we began with FedRAMP.  It’s ironic that almost a year to the day, after VanRoekle’s June 4 mandatory FedRAMP-compliance deadline came and went – like Obama’s line in the sand in Syria – even GSA is questioning the program’s raison d'être and fundamental viability.  The statistics say it all – this time last year, there were 16 FedRAMP ATO’d CSP offerings – from 13 vendors.  Today, there are 36 – from 29 vendors.  Of those ATO’d CSP offerings, 17 came through the FedRAMP PMO and JAB process – 16 from agency the FedRAMP process.  A year ago, there were 11 CSPs in the GSA JAB pipeline.  Of those CSPs in the pipeline, four ade it through the process in the last year.  The remaining seven are still in the pipeline.  No matter where the ATOs came from, a total of 36 certified CSP offerings – from 29 vendors – is not nearly enough after more than three years.

The FedRAMP Fast Forward group met on Wednesday to talk about FedRAMP fixes.  It’s too early to turn in the papers, but here’s a look over the shoulder at some early suggestions.

Build a capacity and through-put model for the FedRAMP PMO and JAB process based on today's resources.  Publish specific metrics on how many CSPs the FedRAMP PMO and JAB   can process in a year.  At each phase of the process, state the FedRAMP PMO and JAB SLAs to CSPs from submission to response.  This will take the magic out of the machine and allow us to measure performance and allocate resources appropriately.  I hear your cries. What if the CSP submissions are rubbish – how’s the FedRAMP PMO supposed to meet its SLAs?  Try this on for size – if the submission is materially deficient – and we need to quantify that – then the CSP is disallowed from resubmitting for one year.  Tough love – and lawyers will get involved.  But we need some more fiber in this diet.

Watch this space for more recommendations from the FedRAMP Fast Forward.

Hope to see you at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm on June 17th. 


Never a dull moment in Fed IT.  Let's hope the FITARA implementation plan is FedRAMP compliant – something has to be...

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Posted: 5/28/2015 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Forget tuning in for the Indianapolis 500 this weekend.  All eyes trained on the Great FedRAMP CSP Acquisition 500 right now.  Smaller companies that pioneered the FedRAMP approval process are selling quicker than Express Lane traffic on the Beltway.  EMC's eating VirtuStream.  CSC acquired Autonomic Resources.  QTS quaffed Carpathia.  And, we've only in the first lap.  We're going to see a lot more of the FedRAMP frontrunners lapped up as the IT industry giants realize they need FedRAMP – but flinch from the traffic, complexity, and cost of the certification process.  What's the future of Clear Government, CTC, EconSys, SecureKey, Vazata, and more?

Running Into Traffic

The Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group annual report, Don't Be a Boxhugger tells us, as of May 2015, just 35 products were certified as FedRAMP compliant, with another 40 at one stage or another in the review process, and many, many more waiting to engage in certification.  According to CSPs, the average cost to complete FedRAMP certification is between $4 million and $5 million.  It takes around 18 months to get through the process.  In April 2014, 24 CSPs were awaiting certification. One year later, 16 of those same CSPs were still in the pipeline awaiting approval according to the FedRAMP OnRAMP. Each FedRAMP certification submission typically entail 1,000 pages of technical and legal documentation.  It's the importance of the certification to Federal agency buyers and the complexity of the process that's fueling the FedRAMP CSP buying race.

Inside Lane?

As more of the bigs jump into FedRAMP, it's going to change the feel of FedRAMP.  Today, it's a cottage industry, that trades on relationships.  Companies in the pipeline are more concerned about managing relationships with the FedRAMP PMO – so they can cash in on their certifications.  Many of those companies are less concerned about how FedRAMP works as an operating model, the costs associated with maintaining their ATOs, and broader government-wide adoption rates.  Too many that have made it through the process see the program's complexity as an effective barrier to entry that wards off competition on the track. 

Oil on the Track?

A host of questions hang over scalability of the FedRAMP process – how can the program office manage the deluge of new CSPs that want to get through the process?  We understand that the FedRAMP PMO currently spends as much time and money maintaining ATOs for the handful of CSPs already through the process – which means the program cannot scale. 

Further, word is CSPs are running into challenges with the alternative agency route to FedRAMP certifications – as those agencies are bristling at the cost associated with managing those certifications.  How can the FedRAMP PMO manage the volume without adequate funding?  If there aren't enough cloud options, how's the government supposed to move to the cloud?  The requirement to move to FedRAMP Rev 4 raises additional questions for industry and government alike.

FedRAMP Fast Forward

Industry wants a front seat in FedRAMP.  That's why MeriTalk, working collaboratively with the FedRAMP PMO at GSA, is hosting a new industry working group.  FedRAMP Fast Forward provides a venue to support, inform, and accelerate FedRAMP and broader cloud adoption across government.  The group's structured in three workstreams:

1. Technical Standards and Process

2. Rules, Policy, Interagency Collaboration, and Communications

3. Training, Education, and Transparency

Interested in learning more?  Download the working notes from the kick-off meeting or drop a line to  The group will host a breakfast meeting at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm on June 17th. 

And speaking of traffic, the Brainstorm features a morning keynote by Tony Scott, NIST Cloud Cyber Security Working Group session. Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group panel, as well as the FedRAMP Fast Forward session – so it's going to be bumper to bumper at the Brainstorm.   

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Posted: 5/21/2015 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



One of the three White House IT priorities called out in the 2016 budget request, Digital Services may be the first IT casualty of partisan politics.  A series of agencies have reported that their 2016 budget pass backs include a big goose egg in funding for Digital Services.  We've asked the question of OMB – seems that's the case. The next question – what's the future for Digital Services with no funding?

Whistling Dixie

It's no surprise that Republicans don't like the idea of the Federal government getting into the state and local business – providing services directly to citizens and growing the Federal budget footprint.  Let's face it, the launch of was certainly diseased. 

Each cabinet-level agency was directed by OMB to ask for $9 million for Digital Services.  These agencies built out plans for how to implement those Digital Services.  Right now, they're wondering if that whole effort was a huge waste of time and money.

Self Service

If Digital Services faces a dollar drought, what's the path forward?  Will OMB find additional funding from another budget bucket?  Should agencies focus on self-funding models – perhaps charging America a fee-for-service model?  Will this drive a series of no-cost contracts?  Dozens of questions out here on the digital frontier.  Here's hoping Digital Services makes it out of the neonatal intensive-care unit. 

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Posted: 5/14/2015 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Chances of snow – remote.  But, this week was Cloud Christmas for agencies focused on IT transformation.  Like a silicon Santa, Congressman Gerry Connolly unwrapped the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group annual report, “Don’t Be a Box Hugger,” on the Hill on Monday.  Based on interviews with CIOs and CFOs, Box Hugger divides agencies into a naughty/nice list of sorts.  Pioneers – the early adopters who blazed the trail to the cloud.  Fence sitters – who have dipped a toe into the cloud, but aren’t ready to make a mainstream transition.  And, Box huggers – the anti-cloud crowd, clinging to their own hardware, software and rising cloud anxieties. 






The report provides a sanity check on what’s really happening in Federal cloud – and regrettably, what’s not.  Importantly, it offers a rationale to explain the movement or lack thereof, in the marketplace, and makes recommendations on the path forward.  Three big takeaways:

  • Tell the Truth:  OMB should set and enforce deadlines as well as increase transparency on the government’s actual cloud spend
  • Change the Game:  Provide additional funding for FedRAMP, streamline acquisition and budgeting, provide incentives and reward success, while nurturing public-private collaboration
  • Think Bigger:  Uncle Sam has already picked the low-hanging cloud fruit, so now it’s time for agencies to identify how the bigger, more challenging cloud solutions can help save money, speed development, improve services, and increase mission effectiveness

And, if you want more data and analysis, Katell Thieleman, Gartner’s Federal lead, took the podium after Gerry Connolly.  Playing Santa’s helper, she shot down five myths of federal cloud, a foretaste of what you could read in her new report on cloud in Federal IT – a lot of parallel themes.  That and “Box Hugger” are two must-read resources for folks serious about change – you’ll see these reports referenced all around the Beltway.

But Wait, There’s More

We’ve only unwrapped the first gift. The elves at MeriTalk have been busy – we rolled out three significant new initiatives this week to improve the cloud forecast.  If you don’t have time to read the book, you can watch the movie .

Government Cloud Shopper

Developed with the government – big thanks to Greg Capella at DHS, the team at GSA cloud, and many more – GCS is a free tool that takes the mystery out of cloud acquisition.  This menu-driven “build a bear” for cloud provides cloud migration cost estimates based on FedRAMP-compliant CSP prices, professional services costs, and migration set-up expenses.  That’s the full cost picture, not just the cloud services cost.  It then allows agencies to go to the next level – design requirements – and submit them to the cloud GWAC procurement shop of their choice – GSA, NASA SEWP, DHS, Interior, etc.  Change your requirements to see the cost difference between 99 percent and 99.99 percent uptime.  What’s the difference between a naughty and nice cloud?  Let us show you.

FedRAMP Fast Forward

As goes FedRAMP, so goes government cloud.  It’s a consistent, central theme in Box Hugger.  You’ll read the report, so I won’t get into detail here.  That said, unless FedRAMP accelerates, there’s significant concern that it will collapse under its own weight.  This isn’t just a government problem – industry gets it too.  Especially the CSPs and 3PAOs that have invested millions in the certification process.  That explains the launch of the new FedRAMP Fast Forward industry working group, comprised of FedRAMP CSPs and 3PAOs.  Look for bright ideas – and collaboration with government – on how to enhance the value and efficiency of the FedRAMP process and reduce the costs of achieving and maintaining certifications.   Second meeting at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm on June 17th.

FedRAMP 411

Is FedRAMP at the top of your Cloud Christmas list?  Then subscribe to the new FedRAMP 411 news source.  All the breaking news, profiles of agency successes, and updates from the program offices.  That plus status on all FedRAMP CSPs and 3PAOs.  If it’s FedRAMP, it’s on FedRAMP 411.

Second Christmas?

And, as if this week’s not enough, mark your calendar for a second helping of Cloud Christmas on June 17th at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm. First up, FedRAMP Fast Forward breakfast meeting. Then, Tony Scott kicks us off with the morning keynote. Then NIST Cloud Cyber Security Working Group.  The Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group is hosting an industry panel.  And, of course, a star-studded program of Federal cloud practitioners sharing their agencies’ experiences in the cloud.

There’s a jingle in the air this Spring – it’s a Merry Cloud Christmas in May.

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Posted: 4/30/2015 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Considering we're getting down to the dog days of the administration – and CIOs are jumping overboard quicker than you can say FITARA – these are surprisingly heady times in government IT.  We've got a new tech-savvy leader on the Hill in Congressman Will Hurd (R-Tx).  We've got a new world-class Federal CIO with operational oil under his fingernails in Tony Scott.  And, Amazon's recent earnings just proved that cloud is not only viable and sustainable – it's profitable. 

Hurd on the Hill – Getting Down to Business

So, what can we expect for the balance of 2015 – and over the horizon in 2016?  In a word, pragmatism.  That and a real focus on how to actually produce meaningful movement forward.  Don't think Tony Scott's going to try to leap any buildings in a single bound – but rather nurture the Fed IT workforce and look to stay the course of cloud transformation with a strong eye on cyber security.  Now, everybody's watching for the IT hearing schedule on the Hill and listening hard to the auditors at GAO – we all want to know how and what we'll measure.  It's not about forcing change, it's about common-sense IT transformation that really moves the ball forward in delivering quantitative improvements in IT efficiency.

Scott in the Spotlight – Focus on Getting IT Done

Want to hear Tony Scott's vision for the road ahead?  You can join us at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm on June 17th to listen to the man in the driver's seat talk about Cloud, Cyber Security, the workforce – all against the backdrop of FITARA implementation plans that Tony released yesterday.  What a great opportunity to tie everything together in the context of this new CIO empowerment law.  Congratulations to OMB for meeting a deadline – evidence of the dawning of a new era.

Cloud Caucus Report – Don't Be a Box Hugger

All this, and the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group meeting on May 11th on the Hill.  We'll hear from Congressman Hurd's partner in progress, Congressman Gerry Connolly – and who knows, perhaps Hurd too?  CCCAG will roll out its Federal CIO and CFO study – Don't Be a Box Hugger – the first comprehensive review of the state of cloud in Federal IT.  Katell Thieleman, Gartner's Federal fashionista, will step up to the podium to provide that critical analyst insight – and, we understand, offer tidbits from her new government cloud study.  That's must see IT.

Catch Up Over a Cocktail

Too much to take in via the written word?  Then join us next week, Thursday, May 7th, at the State Theatre in Falls Church, to discuss what's shakin' and the path ahead as O'Keeffe & Company and 300Brand celebrate 18 years serving the government IT community.  Register here.  Rumor has it, we'll see celebrity appearances from Richard Spires and other Federal IT aristocracy. 

More as this exciting story unfolds.  Look forward to seeing you at the Cloud Brainstorm, on the Hill, and at the State Theatre.  Don't they say that Spring is a time for revitalization?  It is in Federal IT.  

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Posted: 4/23/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



What'll it be – Cup of IT, beer, or shirley temple?  MeriTalk's sister organizations, O'Keeffe & Company and 300Brand, are celebrating 18 years in business.  Our theme, the 18th amendment, prohibition.  Join us to wind the clock back to 1933, when Congress passed the 21st amendment repealing prohibition.

We invite you to help us celebrate our 18th anniversary and the repeal of the 18th amendment at the State Theatre in Falls Church.  The party will feature live Irish music from my good friends at Brendan's Voyage.  Everybody's welcome.

18 years serving our community.  What better way to say thank you to our community for your confidence than throw a party where everybody's invited?  Cheers to 18 years.  

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Posted: 4/15/2015 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Thinking about inking?  Quick march to the parlor.  Last week, the Army relaxed its restrictions on tattoos.  Used to be you couldn't have more than four tats below the knee or elbow – and no body art could be bigger than a soldier’s hand.

Thinking I'm going to get all Andy Rooney about tattoos?  Au contraire.  I say do as you will – it's your body.

My question, where will we get the extra ink?  I'd like to make a constructive suggestion.  Maybe we should consider the exclamation point.  I don't know if you've noticed it, but people can't seem to resist spilling them into their emails, texts, greetings cards, and even shopping lists.  Remember to buy peanut butter!  My follow up question – why?  Perhaps people should consider if the phrase or observation is really worthy of an exclamation point?  You see, exclamation points are like expletives and shouting – if you use them all the time, then they lose their impact.  Where's an exclamation mark really warranted?  The second coming of Christ!  Oh my God!  And, that Steve O'Keeffe's a real *******!

I'd say the same for awesome.  Consider, does it really inspire awe?  If not, you might try nice – fewer letters.

If we recycled the ink that doesn't go into exclamation points and awesomes, we'll surely have plenty in the barrel for tattoos.

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Posted: 4/9/2015 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Atkins Diet. Metabolism Miracle.  Fen Phen.  The 25-Point Plan.  There’s no shortage of gorgeous slim-and-trim gimmicks.  GAO tells us that IT cholesterol is rising – Uncle Sam now spends 80 percent of the $86.4 billion on legacy IT.  Yesterday’s blubber’s chocking today’s innovation.  So, what’s next?  Legacy liposuction, software spanx, perhaps a binary bypass?  Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get clean and sober about fixing Fed IT.  Five practical, actionable steps that will make a real difference.

1. Put the Pie Down
If you want to lose weight, the first step is to stop pushing pies into your pie hole.  The same is true for trimming Fed IT.  We need to find a way to starve out the massive legacy investments so we can transition to more economic, lower-calorie alternatives – cloud or other. It’s binary – if we change nothing, nothing will change.

2. Do What Athletes Do
The world’s most efficient IT organizations embrace the CMM software development maturity model and ITIL to align IT investments with desired business outcomes.  Ironically, these two pole-star standards for IT excellence were pioneered in government.  But for some reason, agencies aren’t required to use these frameworks to improve their IT capabilities.  Why not?

3. Change the Company You Keep

Making a change isn’t easy.  As I’ve wrestled with smoking over the years, I’ve had to stop hanging out with friends that smoke.  More important than FITARA, CIOs need hire-and-fire authority for all IT personnel – and they need to be allowed to reward super performers.  There’s a precedent:, Agencies can do this today for cyber security pros.  Why not spread it across IT? 

4. Multi-Year Money
It’s impossible to change your diet and exercise regimen if you’re living hand to mouth. You can’t prioritize available funds to drive to positive new outcomes – that’s why a lot of street people shuffle to the Golden Arches. That’s true for Fed IT.  We look for real, meaningful change, but only provide our IT execs with one-year money.  We need to give agencies the ability to access multi-year appropriations to fund significant modernization initiatives.  The CDM revolving capital fund provides a precedent.  Why not apply it more broadly?

5. Data Diet Plan and Version Control

You are what you eat – and our government ingests and runs on data.  And, let’s be honest, our data’s all over the place. This drives up storage cost, it inflates application and professional services expenses, and it balloons our cyber attack-surface vulnerabilities.  It’s time for agencies to get data centric – define data models across the enterprise and map to those models at the onset of each new engagement.  This discipline will drive huge savings.  And, as portion control’s critical to a healthy diet, version control is central to IT wellness.  Too many agencies realize false savings by running out-of-data operating systems – XP anybody?  Agencies need to stay within one or two versions of the current code.  Currency and consistency boost capabilities, as well as cut cholesterol and cyber liability. 

Five not 25 steps.  Only one mention of cloud.  Not that taxing.  Who’s up for changing our IT diet?

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Posted: 3/31/2015 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



It’s not the circus. Is that what you thought? Apologies to Cecil B. DeMille.

Cyber’s all the rage. Feds can’t get enough. It touches everything – data, networks, mobile, data centers. Feds are throwing money at security.

Is it enough? Don’t think so. But don’t take my word. Take it from someone who was on the frontlines.

The Ringleader

Robert Mueller led the FBI following 9/11 and cultivated its counterintelligence service so it could aid in combating terrorism. The former Top Cop modernized the agency from a domestic crime-fighting force to what it is today: “ intelligence-driven and a threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.”

Mueller will be the main attraction at the upcoming Symantec Symposium, where cyber experts will discuss insider threats, mitigating risk, managing information, and information access.

Those are big topics, but Mueller’s the man in the know so it will be a great show.

Under the Big Top

No lions, tigers, or elephants at the Symposium, but there will be a full house.

Nearly 2,000 Feds have registered for the Symposium because… it’s the Greatest Show on Earth. But you knew that.

So get your ticket here.

Marquee Talent

Mueller isn’t the only attraction.

Symantec has secured lots of top-flight talent for its Symposium. Assistant U.S. Attorney General for National Security John Carlin, and Lt. Gen. James McLaughlin, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command are two names of note on the marquee.

These two are seriously tapped in to the nation’s cyber security challenges, which is why the room will be full.

Follow Symantec’s Twitter feed here for updates on the Symposium.

You can also go here for information and here to register.

See you there. I’ll bring the popcorn.

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Posted: 3/26/2015 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



Once in a while, it’s good to revisit and reconsider from a distance.  It’s just over two years since then-unknown Alexandria-based cyber security company, Mandiant vaulted into the media spotlight.  Remember?  Mandiant released a report detailing a slew of cyber attacks perpetrated by the Chinese military.  More than sweeping accusations, Mandiant identified specific Red Army IP and physical facility addresses in a bold tell-all counter attack on a sophisticated and persistent Chinese cyber offensive on U.S. targets. 

It was a cyber shot heard around the world.  To be sure, Mandiant shocked the world when it released the report.  Many sources inside the Federal government expressed distress and disappointment – their concern, that Mandiant had tipped the U.S. intelligence community’s hand.  The rationale, better not to let our adversaries know we were tracking them.  Removing the blind signaled to the Chinese hackers that they should simply change their addresses and methodologies. 

Did anybody see the movie Imitation Games?

Here’s a question – was our government complicit in the Mandiant report?  Was this an early jab in a cyber sparing match between the U.S. and China?  In May 2014 – one year and three months after the Mandiant release, our government took the unprecedented step of identifying and bringing charges against a series of Chinese cyber attackers by name.  Perhaps the Mandiant report was a proxy offensive designed to put the Chinese on notice? 

After all, how did a small firm like Mandiant lay hand on such detailed information?  How did it have the nerve to release such a controversial report – which could have capsized the firm by invoking the ire of Uncle Sam? 

Let’s say the Federal government did want to leak the report through a proxy – who better than a small firm?  Using a major contractor would have been a far more transparent proxy.  Further, working through a large organization would have been more complex, taken much longer, and amped up the risk of a leak. 

It’s doubtful we’ll ever know for sure, but as Alan Turing would tell us, simple things are rarely simple in cyber space.

Do you think Mandiant was pushed?

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Posted: 3/12/2015 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]



How did a wannabee Scott Fitzgerald in college become a middle-aged man fascinated by government audits?  Now that's a question I frequently ask my reflection in the mirror while shaving.  But, fascinated I am.

As if it's not enough to ingest GAO APBs, I recently found myself fascinated by a new analysis of the last 31 years of GAO audits.  That's 1.3 million pages and more than 40,000 recommendations.  I tip my hat to the digital detectives at Deloitte, who conducted text analytics against GAO reports dating back to 1983 – an audit of the auditors.  This is an astute piece of work – and if Deloitte's goal was to grab GAO's attention, then the green light is on.

Top Five in Focus:

The report considers seven questions.  I'll drill down on five:

1. Are GAO Recommendations Effective in Driving Change?

Yes.  Agencies completed 81 percent of GAO's recommendations between 1983 and 2008.  Unfortunately, it can take a while – as much as four years in some cases.  The report suggests prioritizing recommendations and setting associated deadlines. 

2. Where do Agencies Fail?

Feds have issues where data's part of the problem – doesn't bode well for the Data Act or new CDO spots.  We run into problems when inter-agency or inter-discipline coordination is required – troubling in a collaboration economy.  Healthcare and transportation recommendations are common stumbling blocks – what ails  Ironically, agencies frequently hit the wall when reports call out high-ranking officials or Congress – seems leadership's more comfortable pointing the finger than getting the finger.

3. Where do Agencies Succeed?

Seems agencies do well implementing IT recommendations – IT has two in the top four most likely to succeed spots.  Agencies have successfully implemented 94 percent of GAO IT security recommendations – and 87 percent of overall IT improvement asks.

4. Does Nagging Help?

No, no, no, no, no.  Repeated GAO reports on hard problems don't improve outcomes.  Seems the toughest problems really require Congressional intervention.

5. Has GAO Changed Its Focus Over Time?

Not much.  GAO consistently focused on the same topics in the '80s and '90s.  The exception, IT has replaced Natural Resources and Environment oversight since the turn of the century.  Watch this space.

Nick Carraway, Gatsby, and the CIO

Let's try to bring it together for the dismount.  While the areas of focus haven't changed much, GAO has amped up its volume in the top five areas of oversight – from 5,112 recommendations in the '80s to 10,682 in the '00s.  That growth tracks with the increase in partisan rancor in Congress, and suggests that perhaps Congress is using GAO as a soft power tool to spur change it can't legislate.  The big takeaway for CIOs, weighed down with their new FITARA armor – look for the volume and frequency of GAO IT recommendations to get more intense.  That even before IT's recent debut on GAO's 30 High-Risk Watch List.

Okay, but here are the difficult questions from Nick Carraway – if GAO's recommendations are super effective, and Deloitte says that they are, why is Fed IT still in such a mess?  Have we succeeded our way on to the High-Risk Watch List?  Without commitments to change and effective leadership from OMB – improving IT outcomes is as futile as pursuing Daisy Buchanan.  Let's hope it ends better for Mr. CIO than for Mr. Gatsby.  We beat on boats against the current...

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