This is the In Depth show blog. Here you can listen to our interviews, find more information about the guests on the show each day, as well as links to other stories and resources we discuss.
The administration’s cloud-first initiative will move into overdrive in 2014, with more vendors meeting FedRAMP certification standards…and smaller budgets pushing agencies to save money in the cloud. That means the next step in cloud deployment…managing in the cloud. Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government, in his Top 3 for 2014, explains what that concept means and why it’s important.
1. Managing in the Cloud. Now that the Cloud First policy and FedRAMP are maturing, agencies are likely to look at new opportunities to leverage cloud computing a wider range of IT needs, from application development and service provision. Expect a wider discussion around standardization as open cloud technologies advance.
2. IT Reform. With significant attention in light of high-profile technology implementations, as well as legislative focus from the House and Senate on IT management and acquisition, various government and industry players will identify potential paths forward. The key will be to ensure that any initiative address systemic challenges in managing complex technology projects, which involve multiple elements if performance is to improve.
3. Security Beyond FISMA. OMB’s policy encourages agencies to move to Continuous Diagnostics and Monitoring, along with the DHS CDM contract. Combined with the government adoption of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, we’ll see a convergence that will make 2014 a year of significant change in federal cybersecurity.
Convictions for corruption and executives that behave like mobsters unfortunately are parts of real headlines in contracting at the Navy Department. The “Fat Leonard” scandal has sucked in officials at various levels…and from various offices…of the department. Dan Gordon, associate dean for government procurement law studies at George Washington University Law School and former administrator of Federal Procurement Policy, says determining whether this scandal is the tip of the iceberg or unique will be a key to satisfying Congress about how clean the contracting process is.
1. Money. How much will the federal government spend on procurement in 2014? Although final FY 2013 figures aren’t available yet, and may not be available when/if you interview me, as of today, it looks like there may have been a drop of at least 10 percent (more than $50 billion) between 2012 and 2013 — and if 2014 were to continue at the lower level, or drop further, that would have major implications.
2. Corruption. 2014 may be a key year in terms of shaping public perception about whether the corruption scandals, such as the Navy’s recent ones, are symptomanic of wider problems, or instead examples of how tough our system is in cracking down on the few rotten apples out there.
3. Transparency. Will the U.S. government finally come up with a way to find out how much it is paying for commodity products? Whether under blanket purchase agreements, the Federal Supply Schedule, or otherwise, the federal government buys tens of billions of dollars of commodities each year — office supplies, furniture, IT hardware and software. Yet there is still no way for one agency to know how much another agency is paying for the very same commodity from the same vendor.
Headquarters at the Department of Defense will get smaller. The National Defense Authorization Act lays out the parameters for civilian cuts at the top of the agency. Cuts are coming to the uniformed ranks too. Retired Navy Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, lists the shrinking all-volunteer force on his Top 3 for 2014, and he says it’s easy to boil his concerns down.
1. Shrinking All-volunteer Force. Our first concern is rushing to make the AVF too small because of short-term budget targets and thereby adding great risk to our nation’s security posture. The nation is facing a perfect storm — the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan, a slowly recovering economy and budget battles that include just a two-year fix to sequestration. The combination of these three may create the environment to cut the military force too far and too deep. Already, some leaders say we can do this because of our technology edge, but technology can only go so far. Our concern is that no one is saying our Nation and the world will be less dangerous in the future; therefore, we will need an appropriate uniformed force to meet the threat.
2. Taking Sacrifice and Service for Granted. Taking the sacrifice and service (and retention) of our AVF for granted and equating it to civilian careers. Sustaining the AVF cannot be done on “the cheap” and equating the benefit package to those in the civilian workplace fails to understand the very nature of career service in uniform. We’ve seen the service and sacrifices that our men and women in uniform and families have had to endure over the past 12 years and they are far from civilian-like. Congress stepped up to the plate with significant improvements over the same period; many to overcome the dismal recruiting, retention, and readiness problems the services were experiencing in the late ’90s. Unfortunately, the Pentagon has forgotten that timeframe and the current rhetoric has emboldened the Congress to consider making drastic changes to the military benefits, compensation and retirement system in the name of fiscal responsibility without fully understanding the unintended consequences of their actions and the immediate impact to morale and subsequent impact to retention.
3. Mental Health Support. Continued progress in support for military personnel and their families (and other caregivers) in the mental health area to include PTSD, TBI and depression. The consequences of war will require a reciprocal commitment by our nation for years to come to help facilitate the reintegration of combat veterans back into society. This progress will benefit from Public and Private partnerships.
Congress has some quick deadlines to meet when it comes back on Monday. It needs to figure out budget appropriations for your agency and negotiate a deal on the debt ceiling. But it has a lot more on its plate than those two issues and there are only 29 work weeks to do it all.
1. The 2014 DoD Authorization Act: A Prelude for Managing the Rest of the Federal Government.
2. After Further Review: Look for Security Clearance Reform in 2014.
3. Latitude or Legislation: The Senate’s Role in the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The ghost of 2013 is still haunting your agency. Last year brought a series of events you might want to forget, but they’re going to shape how your agency runs in 2014 and beyond.
A group of senators is already looking at changes to the budget deal that lowered increases to military retiree pensions in the future. A group of experienced military budget experts from both parties will report to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on potential reforms to the Pentagon’s compensation system. Dov Zakheim, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Assistant Secretary of Defense/Comptroller, in his Top 3 for 2014, says looking at military compensation will happen in 2014 but actually doing something might be harder.
1. Retirement and Compensation. There will be a major push to modernize the retirement and compensation systems. The budget deal has already addressed these issues in a minor way, but the long term challenge remains. The Commission on Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization is due to report in May, and it is to be expected that its report will prompt discussions on both Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.
2. Iran. The question of Iran will be in the forefront once the six months of the current interim agreement are reached. There will be renewed questions about the likelihood of an American military strike.
3. China and Japan. Tensions between China and Japan could continue, raising questions about the pace, and efficacy, of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia.
Also on the Show: