Cloud legislation gets new life behind CDM success

Federal chief information officer Tony Scott, a growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and industry associations are warming to the idea of new legislation to make it easier for agencies to buy cloud services.

The Professional Services Council and the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) created working groups to explore the assorted challenges agencies face, and there is an ongoing series of meetings and discussions about the topics within the government.

Rich Beutel is the driving force behind this effort after several of the cloud provisions didn’t make it into the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) last year.

Beutel, the lead House staff member for FITARA, left the Hill after the 113th session ended in December, and now is trying to create momentum for the legislation from the outside.

“This is a good bill and I think there is a lot of interest in getting stuff done,” he said.

“The bill includes a new model for buying cloud, the requirement to create standards for data flow and interoperability, and a lot more.”

Beutel said the two provisions gaining both interest and concern are focused on accessing cloud services.

He said industry and law enforcement officials are interested in new rights the law would give inspector generals or other auditors to retrieve data from commercial cloud service providers.

“Law enforcement has a legitimate equity in doing their job,” Beutel said. “This provision will get some Hill support, but the bigger question will be how best to balance privacy and legitimate law enforcement needs to go after bad guys in the cloud.”

The second provision would create a working capital fund for the General Services Administration to pay for cloud transition costs for agencies.

Beutel said it’s modeled after a similar fund the Homeland Security Department is using to implement the continuous diagnostic and mitigation (CDM) program.

“If you go back to OMB’s 25-point IT reform plan, one of the key obstacles or impediments to fulfillment of cloud first was how we buy and fund these services. It’s hard to expedite government adoption of cloud when there is a fundamental problem with the appropriations process and the development of technology writ large. We are too often using today’s resources to buy yesterday’s technology,” he said. “The best way to solve this is to create a revolving fund or working capital fund. This kind of idea would be used to fund major technology transitions. We know it works and there is support within OMB for doing this kind of thing if you consider CDM.”

Beutel said GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Acquisition Service Fund, which has more than $1 billion in reserve, would be a perfect candidate to fund this effort.

He said the House put this concept in the original version of FITARA, and it gained a lot of support from industry.

“It was carried it all the way through and it passed the House, but the appropriators had concerns before CDM got off the ground that a revolving capital fund would give agencies too much discretion to spend money,” he said. “In the end, we had to strip it out. What has changed is the appropriators seem to have seen light with CDM. Now there is precedent for doing something very similar for cloud.”

Beutel said he’s hopeful to find broader support on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate this time around.

He said he’s been meeting with staff members on both sides of Congress, and with OMB about the idea of moving legislation to make cloud adoption easier.

This post is part of Jason Miller’s Inside the Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jason’s Notebook.