Top 10 Reporter’s Notebook stories of 2018

Government reorganization and cybersecurity incidents attracted the most attention across the federal IT market last year. So it’s no surprise these stories make up seven of the top 10 Reporter’s Notebook stories of 2018.

Now in its seventh year, my Reporter’s Notebook continues to evolve into my weekly download of important analysis and people news across the IT and acquisition communities.

As I’ve said from the beginning, this is neither a column nor commentary — it’s news tidbits, strongly sourced buzz and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

As always, I encourage you to submit ideas, suggestions, and, of course, news to me at jpmiller@federalnewsnetwork.com. Here are the 10 most viewed Reporter’s Notebook stories of 2018 in order:

1. “70,000 contractors must get notarized letters in next 60 days to continue working for government”

This story as well as No. 10 are among the most interesting stories of the year because of the continued problems the General Services Administration has with the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) website. This was the third incident in five years, meanwhile SAM.gov is one of 10 portals GSA has been trying to modernize and consolidate for almost a decade. So that and the critical nature of the portal, put it at the top of modernization priorities list.

Sonny Perdue
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

2.  “USDA to block 400 websites after IG finds employees looking at porn”

Any headline with “porn” seems to do well, but this story was much bigger than just another unfortunate example of a bad apple spoiling the bunch. This story was another in a series showing the upheaval among IT executives at the Agriculture Department in the summer of 2017.

3.  “Secretary’s ‘OneUSDA’ vision rings hollow to some in light of new telework policy”

This was the first of many reorganization stories we worked on last year. Without a doubt, the Trump administration’s reorganization efforts caused a lot of angst across the federal community. USDA was out in front in making changes, especially to telework policies. The departments of Education, Health and Human Services and several others have begun to retreat or are considering moving away from broad telework policies.

4.  “OPM kicks off ‘break up’ effort by naming interagency team”

What’s funny about this story is that it was almost an after-thought. But it goes to show you the anxiety the administration’s reorganization efforts are creating with the federal workforce. The popularity of the story also shows there is a deep desire for information on the reorg efforts. A lesson the administration may choose to learn for 2019 is that transparency isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

5. “7 years after cloud-first policy, agencies turns up speed to adoption”

This story was actually published in December 2016 — the seventh anniversary — but remained popular among readers in 2018. Many believe 2019 finally is the year for cloud computing, not just acceptance, but large scale movement. OMB released its updated cloud policy in September, and reported in December that almost 70 percent of all federal email is in the cloud, up from 40 percent almost 10 months ago. Federal CIO Suzette Kent said 13 agencies have at least 95 percent of their email in the cloud and six are at least half way there. She said two are still in the planning phase, and they will be spending a lot of time with OMB over the next year. A big shout out goes to Bloomberg Government for providing me with the data that really brought the story together.

6. “Feds may seek new jobs thanks to growing telework policy changes”

Similar to why the USDA story did so well, federal employees are alarmed about what many consider abrupt changes to agency telework policies. Our survey from July demonstrated that, with more than 60 percent of the 395 respondents saying they were concerned or somewhat concerned about changes to their agency’s telework policies. It will be interesting to see what lawmakers do in 2019, particularly in the House to reaffirm the importance of telework across government.

Mick Mulvaney
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney

7. “OMB shows its IT policy hand in 2019 budget request”

Most employees and contractors know any president’s budget is dead on arrival when it goes to Congress. But it’s that reason the policy changes OMB highlights matter so much. If you go back and look at what OMB planned for 2018, we now see much of it came to fruition around federal IT, including the implementation of the Technology Modernization Fund and the continued use of Technology Business Modernization (TBM) standards.

8. “For first time, OMB can paint the governmentwide cyber risk picture”

Of all the cybersecurity stories last year, this one, at least from a policy perspective, was most significant for multiple reasons. At the top of that list was the way OMB wrote the report, not just highlighting problems, but also the solutions they plan to implement. The report also brings in data from almost every federal agency, large, small and micro, for the first time. If you only read one OMB cyber policy/report last year, hopefully this was it.

9. “Is DISA getting innovation by using OTA for new background investigation system?”

The quickly expanding use of other transaction authorities (OTAs) has been a hot button issue for the last year plus. And when you combine OTAs with security clearances, the interest in the community jumps off the scale. Even today, nearly a year later, the status of this modernization effort is unclear.

10. “GSA’s central contractor website victimized by fraud for second time”

This story brings us full circle with number one in our countdown. This was the first story that alerted industry that there is a problem, again, with SAM.gov.

So there’s your top 10 Reporter’s Notebook stories for 2018. Over the next 12 months, we will continue to analyze and help you better understand the trials and tribulations of the federal IT and acquisition communities. Stay tuned, it’s sure to be a fun ride.

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