It always amazes me when I’m researching a story and find one that I wrote over the summer or the spring and have no recollection of ever having done that piece. It reminds me of how fast things move in the federal community and that I’m getting old.
Without a doubt, 2013 ranks as high on the list of interesting and newsworthy years among the last 16 I’ve covered in the federal community. We saw a government shutdown, a major administration program fall on its face and a host of smaller, but just as important developments from mobile to big data to the first attempt at IT and acquisition reform in a decade that will continue the government’s evolution.
I asked more than a dozen current and former federal officials for their top choices of IT and acquisition stories for 2013. The following is a list compiled based on all their answers.
At the same time, many agency chief information officers, IT and acquisition experts say it also spurred better, more substantive discussions around IT and procurement reform. One agency official said HealthCare.gov demonstrated the importance of “getting IT right” as a major success factor for policy initiatives, and reinforcing what happens when you take technology implementation for granted. Just this week President Barack Obama met with private sector CEOs to discuss the challenges around IT and procurement. The White House’s statement on the meeting: “The President made clear his continued focus on improving the way we deliver technology to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service, and encouraged the CEOs to continue to share their ideas on how to do so.”
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Pay attention here, this is a precursor to the steps the administration and Congress plan to take in the coming months, especially now that the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) didn’t make it in the final version of the Defense authorization bill, passed by the Senate Thursday. Several sources say the most recent CIO Council meeting featured a long discussion on where the administration needs to go with IT and procurement reform.
One executive said the government is actively fortifying its insider threat protections as a result of Snowden- related leaks. The President received recommendations earlier this week from a committee of experts detailing 46 recommendations to improve the privacy and civil liberties of signal intelligence collection. These changes also will impact the federal contractor community, especially in the wake of the shootings and tragedy at the Navy Yard.
The idea of contractor support and security clearances have come under more scrutiny and will continue into 2014, many experts say. In fact, the Defense Department announced earlier this week at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on protecting federal facilities that it’s testing a new continuous monitoring approach to security clearances.
Stephen Lewis, the DoD’s deputy director for Personnel, Industrial and Physical Security Policy in the Directorate of Security Policy and Oversight in the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, told committee members that the Pentagon established a “pilot on continuous evaluation, which is going to look at — do queries, automated queries of public and DOD records, to look for issues of concern.”
Additionally, several experts have said contractors are suffering from the Snowden-effect worldwide as foreign countries are hesitant to do business with them because of the NSA’s intrusions and capabilities. One former federal executive said, “The combination of anti-contractor rhetoric generated by the actions of these individuals and a widely acknowledged need to review the entire security clearance process, has led to a series of studies and analyses that could either lead to smart, thoughtful change or could adversely affect how companies are allowed support the government in the future. In either case the government’s ability to respond to national security threats could be hampered by an inability to access key skills in a timely manner.”
Associated with the budget crunch is the government’s move to lowest-price, technically acceptable procurements, which also is wreaking havoc on the vendor community. Additionally, the IT passback from the Office of Management Budget, which usually comes right around Thanksgiving, is delayed until after Jan. 1, according to multiple government sources. This cuts down the time agencies have to prepare to implement the new IT and acquisition policies. With Congress passing a topline budget for the next two years, makes planning a little easier, some of the federal executives say they are hopeful for some stability in their budget situations. A New Year’s resolution from Congress, maybe?