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Big data is good. Curing cancer. Trapping terrorists. Avoiding Armageddon.
Cyber leaks are bad. There’s a mountain of evidence on that front – we’ll call it Snowdonia. Sorry to the Welsh in the audience.
But concentrating intelligence could put big data and cyber security at crossed purposes. So how do we juggle these chainsaws without making a bloody mess?
More Synergy than Static?
Hardly surprising, U.S.-CERT is blazing the cyber trail – utilizing centralized analytics to hex hackers. Far from mailing it in, the Postal Service leverages big data to protect PII, improve mail processing, and stamp out postal fraud.
More Talk than Trousers?
It’s fair to say agencies are at different places in the big data equation. Sure, a few of the cool kids are hanging 10, but most are still at or near zero. Leaders are stoked about the potential, but bumming about budgets. Feds lack big data infrastructure and policy. They need to start with the fundamentals – filtering and characterizing data. They need dashboards to integrate input from multiple analytic engines to get to business insight. And, we’ve heard this before...Uncle Sam needs more highly trained data scientists.
There's been hysteria about the grey tsunami since before I had grey hair. But, today seems Uncle Sam's IT is really drowning in a digital-drop-out deluge. By all reports, Fed IT execs line up to jump overboard from the USS ITanic.
And, it's not just grey beards – young IT leaders are pulling on life vests. Let's consider those in the lifeboats – Simon Szykman, CIO, Commerce; Casey Coleman, CIO, GSA; Anil Karmel, deputy CTO at Energy NNSA; Anmy Torres, Deputy Division Chief, Cyber Acquisitions, Air National Guard; Major Linus Barloon, Chief of Cyber Operations at the White House – the list goes on... Let me know who I'm missing. It'll be interesting to try to compile a full manifest.
OPM – SOS?
Why the Sea Change?
Truth is, our best and brightest Feds know the answers to Uncle Sam's IT scurvy won't come from inside. Here's hoping those execs stay engaged in the community. That said, a complete mutiny's not the answer – somebody needs to skipper the ship.
We need a new initiative to boost Fed IT morale. If we fail to recruit now, Uncle Sam's IT infrastructure may capsize. Considering the OPM data, I'd recommend agencies open up jobs to non Feds – and lower their seniority expectations or boost compensation. Something's got to give. FITARA's a start – but we need to chart a new course to reach dry land.
Again, let us know of other Fed IT execs that have announced plans to jump ship. Let's get a better sense for the problem so we can chart a tenable course forward.
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?
Also, mark your dance card to attend the Mobile Work Exchange Town Hall Meeting on April 10th at the D.C. Convention Center. Join more than 1,000 Federal mobility leaders. We'll serve up the final Telework Week numbers. Stimulating food for thought. Make your reservation today.
Hats Off to GSA on FedRAMP
FedRAMP has been around for a while – and there's a good bit of confusion. You can read the manual – but at 49 pages and growing, it's not exactly a page turner. There are three flavors of approved FedRAMP CSPs. So far, we think we have 11 cloud service providers – 10 industry and USDA. OMB's deadline for mandatory FedRAMP for all government cloud services takes effect in June of this year. There is ample opportunity for better communication among agencies using and issuing authorizations.
We expect heavy traffic on the FedRAMP OnRAMP.
Look forward to meeting you this Thursday at the Rayburn Building.
Uncle Sam AWOL?
Between FISMA, Continuous Monitoring, HSPD-12, et al – Feds are adopting a belt-and-suspenders approach to security. And, if that wasn't enough, Snowden's taught the Prez about DLP.
But, there's no point in locking the door and leaving the windows wide open – right? A new study from the Mobile Work Exchange, MeriTalk's sister organization, shows Uncle Sam's mobility Achilles' heel. This study is based on data Feds input into the Secure Mobilometer.
I'll try to keep this short so you can read this on those unsecured iPhones and droids – you know the ones you keep in your other pocket...
So, here's the skinny on Feds' mobile security from the study:
And, before you jump on the Fed bashing bandwagon, please note, Feds did better than their private-sector counterparts who took the test.
New Year's Resolutions?
Swimming pools saturated. Treadmills trampled. Burgers biteless. Yes, it's early January – and as we push away from holiday excess and New Year's hangovers, everybody's resolved to do better in 2014.
With Thanksgiving safely in the rearview mirror, it's that time of the year again. No, not Santy. But, whether you believe in social media or not, MeriTalk's coming out with the Federal CIO naughty or nice list. The second annual sCIOal Circle study rates Fed CIOs' social skills.
And, some added bonuses in your stocking this year. First, we broadened the reach to look at Deputy CIOs. Second, we expanded the scope from the big three – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This year's study looks at IT leaders’ participation in GovLoop. Last, but not least, we've racked and stacked our ratings against commercial data. How do our scores map against Feds’ Klout scores – and how does Fed CIO social volume compare with their counterparts in the Fortune 250?
A quick read in on the methodology. It's pretty easy, really. Social media's an open book – mostly. So MeriTalk looked at the major social media platforms to understand if Fed IT decision makers have a presence – and if so, how actively they are engaged. More accounts and more activity means more points.
Just like last year – GSA's Casey Coleman and ATF&E's Rick Holgate are the hottest Fed CIOs – each scoring 11 points. Next up, its Shawn Kingsberry of the Recovery Board and Bob Brese from Energy – both huge climbers from last year, where they ranked in the middle of the pack. Honorable mentions to Frank Baitman of HHS, Mike Wash of NARA, and Richard McKinney at DoT. OMB's Steven VanRoekel is the big slider – his sCIOal Circle ranking drops from second in 2012 to the number-12 spot this year.
And, to give you a sense for how our Fed CIOs rank against the big dogs in social media – as measured by Klout – only Casey, Rick, Sean, Bob, and Steven VanRoekel hit it. To provide scale, President Obama scores 99 on Klout. Justin Bieber scores 95. Steven VanRoekel has a Klout score of 50.
And, doesn't everybody know that it's not all about the CIOs? So this year, MeriTalk took a look at the Deputy CIOs. Sonny Hashmi at GSA's in pole position. Joyce Hunter at USDA's in second. Deborah Diaz at NASA, Kevin Cooke at HUD, and Larry Gross at Interior place three, four, and five, respectively.
LinkedIn vs. Twitter vs. Fortune 250.
The first place to look for Fed CIOs in social media is LinkedIn. Eighty-two percent of CIOs have LinkedIn accounts versus 34 percent who have Twitter accounts. Interesting to compare Fed CIOs' LinkedIn adoption versus their Fortune 250 counterparts – 82 versus 66 percent.
Okay, Twitter's not as big as LinkedIn. Thirty-four percent of CIOs have Twitter accounts versus just 10 percent of their Fortune-250 counterparts. But, here's a confusing story. The number of Fed CIOs on Twitter increased over last year, but the total Fed CIO Tweet volume declined over last year. Another twist, overall agency tweeting is up – every agency, but the CIA, now has a Twitter account.
And, here's some interesting insight, who are Fed CIOs following on Twitter? The answer: one another. But also news and analysis sources like FCW, GCN, Gartner, and MeriTalk.
As Facebook becomes part of the S&P 500, its stock as a communications vehicle to reach Fed CIOs declines. Just 26 percent – 10 of 38 – of Fed CIOs had publicly searchable Facebook accounts. Of these, just three are actively and publicly posting. The net, Fed CIOs don't want people to use pictures of their families as sales tools against them – how is your daughter and isn't your dog a cutie?
Interesting insight on GovLoop. Steve Ressler's done the best job of building a social platform for government – the site boasts 100,000 users. But, seems Fed IT's not feeling the awesome. While 26 percent of Fed CIOs have a GovLoop account, not one has signed onto the network as of September 2013.
That's the final cup for 2014. Wishing you all a safe, warm, and joyous holiday season. Here's another link to the study if you need something to read by the tree. We'll put another kettle on the stove in January.
DHS Cyber and the Dentist Chair
I'm not much on going to the dentist. Perhaps it's a cultural thing? The waiting. The drilling. The fibs about flossing. The chopper doc's just not my thing. And, if IG reports are like visits to the dentist for your average Fed exec, these exams are like root canals for Fed CISOs. So, when I cracked the November 21 IG Evaluation of DHS' Information Security Program, I feared halitosis, cavities, decay, and, dare I say it, gingivitis...
Cap or Crown?
But wait. Little here to set my teeth on edge. Reading the exec summary in the waiting room makes me feel better about the pearly whites. DHS IG's initial sound bites:
"DHS continues to improve and strengthen its information security program" – good job, fewer cavities.
"During the past year, DHS drafted an ongoing authorization methodology to help improve the security of the Department's information systems through a new risk management approach. This revised approach transitions the Department from a static, paperwork-driven, security authorization process to a dynamic framework that can provide security-related information on demand to make risk-based decisions" – better job brushing and flossing.
"DHS has also taken actions to address the Administration's cyber security priorities, which include the implementation of TIC, continuous monitoring, and strong authentication" – better nutrition and exercise support better overall wellness.
But who gets out of the chair Scot free? IG does point to five areas for improvement. But they’re not recommending oral surgery, or even braces.
Some systems with no ATOs. Some missing POAMs. Some missing security configuration baselines. More attention needed in incident detection and analysis, training, account and identity management, as well as contingency planning. Continue to work to complete in TIC and implementing PIV compliance.
I've been called cheeky – and yes, by some, sometimes overly critical. While DHS cyber security still has work to do, it's great to see Jeff Eisensmith and his team headed in the right direction. Also great to see a positive relationship between IG and department. Nice to have something to smile about in government IT.
Here's that link again – reading for the waiting room. Now, what's the number for my dentist...?
Big Data Bling?
This ain’t no Robin Hood story. As Uncle Sam reels from the recession, street rats are becoming fat cats – and taxpayers are serving up the sardines. Get these fishy numbers. One woman, Rashia Wilson, pocketed $11 million in fraudulent tax rebates. IRS paid out on 1.5 million fake tax claims in 2011 – sending 655 refunds to one address in Lithuania. In 2010, IRS sent 4,900 refunds to five addresses in the U.S. You have to read this week’s Economist. Here’s the shakedown – consider this an overweight retweet.
Rake in Recipe?
Start with identity theft. Three every second in America – that’s 12.6 million heists per year. Then mix in tax-refund fraud. Americans file 145 million returns each year – three quarters ask for rebates. Next, you go to a store and set up a prepaid debit card. You don’t need a bank account. The government pays refunds directly on this platform – and it leaves no trace. And, there you have the perfect recipe for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud – SIRF.
Getting Tough on Drugs?
Defrauding the Feds is replacing drug trafficking – as gangs log off the streets and onto the Internet. Let’s get real – it’s higher margin, lower risk, and less time if you get collared. But, even jail time’s no deterrent. IRS caught 170,000 fraudulent tax claims filed from inside prison – it’s anybody’s guess how many other claims slipped through the bars.
Cure Worse than the Disease?
And, SIRF’s not the only fraud game in town. Consider Medicaid and food stamps. After the website misfire, the rush to make the Affordable Healthcare Act more accessible is going to open us up to all kinds of new scams. Hungry for a good story? The state of Florida caught one woman applying for food stamps in all 50 states.
Big Data to the Rescue…
But, here’s the good news. Fed, state, and local agencies are getting smarter about detection. Seems ignorance isn’t bliss. We’re heat mapping data to immediately identify suspicious concentrations. We’re using data mapping tools like Experian, LexisNexis, and Equifax to flag coincidences – multiple claims from the same address. Three cheers for Joe Hungate and his colleagues at TIGTA.
Big Data promise is electric in a down economy. Invest in these systems and watch immediate exponential RoI – while catching criminals. Talk about return on political capital…
As for Miss Wilson, the first lady of tax fraud, Big Data got her number. She’s in the pen doing 21 years. But, maybe we didn’t need Big Data to catch this smart criminal. She boasted about her exploits on Facebook – posting pictures of herself holding wads of Uncle Sam’s cash.
Seem like an easy way to make a bundle? My advice – don’t try this at home.
Middle Child Syndrome…?
I’m in the middle. I wore my brother’s hand-me-downs. I had to sit between my brother and sister on road trips. PaaS is the middle child in the Fed cloud family. Stuck between IaaS and SaaS, all too often, he’s overlooked by his Uncle Sam.
At a time when government IT program clangers are dinner conversation across America, maybe it’s time to bounce the little fella on his uncle’s knee? So, the timing of MeriTalk’s new study, "PaaS or Play? Cloud's Next Move," is perfect as we bring our families together to talk turkey.
The study tells us Uncle Sam can carve $20.5 Billion in savings by developing and testing new apps in the cloud.
Based on a survey of Fed IT execs, the study provides new insight on our dysfunctional Fed app development family. The average application development process takes three and a half years. Forty-one percent of Feds say their agency’s applications are outdated and 77 percent say new app development is vital to agency mission success. And, here’s the evil stepparent, 50 percent say government’s missing out on benefits due to contractor lock in.
Since Sliced Bread…
The study highlights PaaS' potential to rain down benefits Inside and Outside the Beltway. Ninety-two percent say PaaS is vital to broader cloud transition, 90 percent say it’s key to FDCCI, 73 percent link it to big-data rollout, 69 percent flag it as mobility mobilizer, and 42 percent say it’ll improve security. And, slicing to the business issue that thwarts OMB’s big five super programs, 79 percent link PaaS to shared-service adoption.
Are We There Yet?
So if 95 percent of Feds dig PaaS, where are we on implementation? Disappointingly, just 12 percent of Feds say they’re using PaaS today. "Why?" I hear you cry. Here’s cloud’s crazy aunt in the closet again – 67 percent point to security as the spoiler. But, folks who tasted the PaaS pie give it yum-yum reviews. Far from a turkey, 83 percent of PaaS pilgrims say they sailed across the cloud transition with no fear of the Mayflower springing a leak.
Guessing PaaS will become an increasingly appetizing cloud-menu option. Like me, PaaS may be the punk kid, but sometimes the punks rock.
As comrade Snowden cuddles up with papa Putin, Uncle Sam’s cyber security is feeling the chill. If it wasn’t for Sebelius’ sniffles, cyber would be the number-one Fed IT ailment. So, the timing for the new MeriTalk Cyber Security Experience study is healthy. It gets inside Feds’ heads, points to protection vs. productivity pressures – and hints at a prescription for a cure.
So is FDCCI DOA? We've consolidated ourselves from 932 data centers in February 2010 to 7,000+ at last count. But, who's counting anyway? Do we really have a good handle on how many data centers Uncle Sam owns? And, most importantly, what should we measure – clearly counting data centers ain't working.
We've heard that the CIO Council's merging FDCCI with PortfolioStat – is this just wallpapering over the failure or can we use this opportunity to grab victory out of the jaws of defeat? And, if so, how? GAO unveiled a new report on PortfolioStat this week, uncovering more savings opportunities and yet more kinks. When will we see the savings?
Okay, Steve, that's a lot of questions – what do you have to say? Apologies – that was your question, not mine.
Who's counting? The Hill. Issa, Connolly, Carper, and Coburn were promised savings. They won't give up easily.
Do we really have a good handle on how many data centers Uncle Sam owns? Nope. My prediction – the number of data centers will spike higher as we find out where the bodies are buried. What's the bid? Will anybody give me 8,000? 10,000? 15,000? Sadly, I'm not joking.
What should we measure and how do we empower and motivate better efficiency?
Data center cost is composed of three components – facilities (which includes real estate and energy), IT, and people. Those expenses roll into two, and sometimes three, separate budgets. Then you've got IT – and the "shadow IT” shell game. Many data centers don't sit in the CIO shops – they're part of the mission budget. And, to add insult to injury, very few CIO shops know what they spend on energy in the data center – the facilities folks pay the electric bill. The same is true for real estate costs.
So where do we start? First, let's acknowledge that we don't have good cost data. Let's break it up into constituent parts so that we can eat the elephant in smaller bites – but not one bite at a time. Let's generate a map of applications by agency – and then map the duplication within and among agencies to pinpoint opportunities for rationalization – think GAO already has a lot of this data.
Application rationalization is number one. Let's measure existing data center utilization levels – we'll quickly see who's carrying the heavy load. Let's measure floor space – it's a crude measure, but it is a measure. Let's meter existing facilities to understand power costs. We'll quickly separate the core data centers from the nice-to-haves. And, critically, we need a strong definition of what is core – something with hard edges around it. Then let's get to work unplugging non-core resources.
First step, OMB needs to publish its existing data center TCO model. We know it's not perfect. But, publishing the model will allow folks to provide constructive feedback – that's how the validity of the model improves. Second step, might I suggest that agencies should publish their service catalogs? That'd allow Feds to see where they can access better, cheaper services elsewhere – unleash the forces of supply and demand.
Simon Szykman, CIO Commerce – Wingman?
A picture’s worth a thousand words. What’s it they say about books and covers?
Let’s level here – if you ask America for adjectives to describe Feds – risk-taker and innovator wouldn’t make the top 1,000. But we know differently. And, on the heels of the shutdown, what better time to recognize Feds’ grit and gumption? We’re people, not statistics – right?
By day, mild-mannered IT exec, Simon Szykman, CIO at Commerce, likes to walk on the wild side – literally. Check out this snap of Simon wing walking at 2,000 feet. Yep, take a leaf out of Mr. Szykman’s book – turn convention upside down. Sorry, I can’t resist – Simon’s got a whole new perspective on cloud, he’s not afraid to make the leap. Evel Knievel, eat your heart out.
Zoom in on Innovators
Keep an eye peeled for the new MeriTalk Zoom feature. Each month, we’ll get up close and personal with a new Fed IT exec – new insight on the innovators.
Simon Szykman shows that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – not exactly sure how that works on an iPad…
Network Not Work?
Rotting on the Vine?
Uncle Sam loves him some blackberries. But, as Canada's one-time tech darling goes splat, Feds risk looking like gooseberries.
BlackBerry's U.S. smartphone market share is just four percent. i/OS and Android own 92.3 percent of the market. BlackBerry's global share is now below Windows. The company's valuation has dropped from over $80 billion to just $4 billion. It's slashed staff and stepped out of the consumer market – and that's where all the innovation's happening.
What happens when the fruit stand closes? What happens if a Chinese firm comes courting?
Let's face facts. It's not a matter of if, but when, the BlackBerry harvest spoils.
For Feds, BYOD can't be a debate much longer. Agencies need transition roadmaps. Either that or Uncle Sam needs to issue Feds a whole new generation of mobile devices – and we've clearly got a whole load of excess budget sitting in our coffers. We're staring down the barrel of a mobile shutdown. So, I ask you, where are the transition plans?
It's time to hang it up. Clutching the Berry will leave Feds in a jam.
Out of Office
Maybe it's gallows humor, but we're getting some pretty amusing out-of-office responses from furloughed Feds. Top three:
Ladies and Gentlemen: Due to Congress not passing an appropriations budget I have been placed on furlough. Therefore I cannot answer your emails or assist you in any way. If you need assistance from a government employee during this furlough period please contact your congressman.
I am currently unavailable due to the overwhelming incompetence of our elected government officials who have forced 100,000s of us to be mandatorily furloughed. However, should you be one of the fortunate ones still working and being paid, and you need immediate assistance on Knowledge Management issues, please contact...
And Our Winner
I am currently on furlough and prohibited by law from checking my e-mail, so you will not get a response to this message. As opposed to when I am not on furlough, and am just ignoring you.
Don't they say grin and bear it? Hoping we're all back to work next week.
Tempest in a Teacup?
Elephants and donkeys play chicken. Sequestration and the shutdown are a vice squeezing D.C. It's terrible, but what hasn't been written about this stuff?
How about the knock-on effect on liquidity and interest rates? Uncle Sam just got through the spending binge that is Federal year end. Companies booked revenue – and reported it to Wall Street. But agencies can't process payments because they're shut. That means a cash squeeze for corporate America – talk about collateral damage. Consider most tech companies generate 15-20 percent of their revenue from Feds.
Let's focus locally. Resellers are in a bind. Their agreements with tech companies commit them to deliver revenue in 30 or 45 days. But, they're not getting paid by the Feds. Is a day or even a week delay in processing payment a big deal? Yes, if you're bridging $50 million in orders from last week – and operating on a three-percent margin. Resellers are torn between partners and customers. We'll likely see a thinning of the herd. Smart ISVs and OEMs will find a way to provide relief for their valued partners.
Now consider the payment impact for direct suppliers outside of IT – what if you sold a $1 billion weapons system last week?
This mess is hurting everybody, and it will only get worse if left unresolved. The credit crunch – and its knock-on impact for Wall Street and our economy – will throw more than a pinch of salt in our economic wounds. If this drags on past October 18, when the U.S. will run out of cash without a rise in the debt limit, we will have the elements in place for a perfect storm. Watch for the price of borrowing to rise – that’ll move against fiscal easing. Pennsylvania Avenue sabotages Main Street. That’s how a tempest in a tea cup can become a tsunami.
Parting the Clouds
Don’t mean to rain on the parade, but what hasn’t been said about cloud computing?
How about are Federal agencies making any real progress in cloud and are we saving any money? That, and the new Cloud Computing Caucus, are on the menu as Fed cloud leaders and the Hill huddle at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on January 16.
Cloud First Consumer Guide
So Cloud First made Feds move three apps to the cloud. But, what did they move and how’s it working? Well here’s the Cloud First list from OMB. MeriTalk decided to reach out to the Cloud First app owners at the agencies and find out what’s working. We’ll preview the Cloud First Consumer Guide at a government-only breakfast on January 16, and you’ll have to attend to get in the know. Government folks sign up here.
Cloud Computing Caucus
Congressmen Issa (R-Ca) and Connolly (D-Va) want to get to grips with Cloud in a more tangible way. That’s why they’re co-chairs for the soon-to-be Cloud Computing Caucus. The caucus will make the Hill geek chic – helping members and staff catch up on cloud cool. I’m not supposed to give away too many details before January 16. Want more information? Sign up here.
Cloud Computing Brainstorm
Oh, and I almost forgot, all of this is taking place at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm at the Newseum on January 16. You’ll hear from Dave McClure at GSA on the government-wide cloud forecast. Then Fed cloud experts on FedRAMP, cloud brokering, and public and private hosting options.
We’ve got 200+ Fed cloud experts registered. There are only 20 spots left. Register now or risk getting left out in the rain.
Big Data CliffsNotes
I studied English and Economics in school – but I must confess, sometimes I didn't do all the reading. Sometimes I'd skimp on Joyce and Friedman. Fast forward 25 years, and I've learned to do the homework – but aren't we all looking for a shortcut? For those who want to get Big Smart on Big Data, I'd thoroughly recommend you read Ms. Jean Yan's excellent “Big Data, Bigger Opportunities” whitepaper. It's well researched, written, and sourced. But, for those of you that want your data by the cup, here are the CliffsNotes:
BD's Daddy: BD ain't new. Doug Laney with META Group – now part of Gartner – coined the BD term in 2001.
Five “V”s: A lot of folks define BD through the three “V”s – volume, velocity, and variety. Add in two more: veracity – integrity/provenance – and value – usefulness.
Data Explosion: TechAmerica tells us that 80-90 percent of all existing data was generated in the past two years. The New York Times has generated three billion words since inception – Twitter users generate eight billion words every day.
Search Surge: Google Trends show U.S. search interest in BD was up 90 percent between 2011 and March 2013.
Gartner Gauge: Gartner says government is the hot spot for BD. Gartner predicts worldwide IT spending associated with BD will hit $56 billion by 2016 – that's not just government.
No Cake Walk: Speed bumps on the BD highway. Challenges include: talent - accent on data scientists - leadership, capacities - that's tech - and, not to be left out, our old friend, budget.
Risky Business: And, speaking of old friends, here comes cyber security to rain on the BD parade. Yes, security is, and should be, a significant concern. Riding shot gun, we've got the look-before-you-leap factor. We need to be cautious not to attribute cause-and-effect just because data trend in the same direction.
And, now for the big finish. A big thank you to Ms. Jean Yan for the whitepaper. A big hand for the teams at the White House – NITRD – GAO, GSA, and OPM for their respective BD projects. MeriTalk hosts our own Big Data Exchange to bring together BD leaders from across government. We welcome govies on November 6th. And, if you're really interested in making your brain bigger, check out additional BD research reading.