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Posted: 9/11/2014 - 11 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Did you know that the Union Jack – made famous by the Red Coats, Reebok, and Austin Powers – is in peril?  On September 18, Scotland goes to the polls to vote on independence from the “United Kingdom” – or, more accurately, England.  This after a 309-year shotgun marriage.  If the Scots lift their skirts to the Sassenachs, like the flag the notion of Britain as a united kingdom may literally come apart at the seams.  The Saltire, the Scottish flag, is an integral part of the Union Jack – which is itself a compilation flag.

Here's the before and after impact of the Scot's pull back on the Union Jack.

Stick or Quit?

As I mentioned last week, I was in England this summer.  As you can imagine, the Scottish independence referendum is a hot topic at the local pub.  Will St. Andrew walk out on St. George?  Like William Wallace and Edward Longshanks, the leaders of the pro- and anti-independence parties – Salmond and Darling – are at one another’s throats.  Word is the stickers are a wee bit ahead of the quitters.  But the latest polls are getting tighter – William Hill, the bookies, quotes 1/5 on sticking and 10/3 on quitting.

Cryptic Cameron?

Here’s the rub.  Whatever Scotland’s decision – David Cameron, British Prime Minister, is caught between clans.  He’s against Scotland's secession from the U.K. – but he’s for the U.K. cutting loose from the EU.  Business is piling on pressure for Scotland to stay – as banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, threaten to move their headquarters south is Scotland cashes out.

Irish Eyes?

If the Scots take back their haggis and highlands, what if the Welsh decide to let the dragon fly?  Yes, Wales is a separate country that’s not part of England.  And, that brings us to England’s oldest overseas colony – Ireland.  If the tartan army takes off, does that elevate Ireland’s case for reunification? 


Celts call the Union Jack the Butcher’s Apron – because England wrapped itself in the Union flag when it planned to do mischief.  Seems the butcher’s apron itself is now on the block.  We’ll know on September 19.

"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while.  And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take...  our freedom!" 

Should the Scots go for independence – what do you think?

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Posted: 9/2/2014 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Hope you enjoyed the labor-day break.

And, speaking of breaks, it’s been three weeks since I poured a Cup of IT.  Why?  I took a vacation – two weeks in Blighty.  First time in 23 years.  Must confess I was apprehensive – how would the D.C. IT scene manage without me?  Seems you did just fine.

A retrospective on the Summer of 2014.  ISIS, Ebola, Putin, and the Palestinian tragedyALS Ice-bucket challenge, Beyonce and Jay-Z splitGerman World Cup domination.

Here’s three cups in one to ensure you’re recaffeinated.

Patently Obvious?

PTO suffered some infringement on its telework triumphs.  Regrettably, this is a management mess manifest as a telework tragedy.  PTO blazed the trail on flexible work for Feds.  Issa’s amping up oversight – a good thing.  Net here, is Federal telework dead?  No.  It’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.  Telework is a mainstream reality for Feds.  The notion of tracking keystrokes is absurd – its 30 years too late for 1984.  Managers need to manage their people whether they're working in the office or remotely.  Mark your calendar now for the Mobile Work Exchange Brainstorm at the Newseum on May 13, 2015.  Hopefully PTO will keynote – discuss lessons learned and put this thing in context.

Feds – now’s the time to tell your telework success stories on the Mobile Work Exchange site. Feds, it's time to speak up for the value of flexible work. Also, check out this webcast on how to do telework right – Defining a Comprehensive Mobile Work-force Strategy.


There’s a lot happening in Fed cloud.  Dave Powner at GAO has a new report coming out.  DISA CIO David Bennett is the morning keynote and DoD Deputy CIO for Cyber Security Richard Hale is the afternoon keynote at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm on September 10th at the Newseum.  Maria Roat moved on from the FedRAMP PMO to become CTO at DoT.  Matt Goodrich now heads the FedRAMP PMO.  More than 400 Fed cloud execs will cram into the Newseum for the Cloud Computing Brainstorm to hear the latest on Federal cloud – register today. 


Virginians aren’t lusting after a driver’s license like they used.  Applications from 15-year olds for learners’ permits down six percent.  Why?  Texting does not get in the way of driving – it’s vice versa.  Teens tossing keys for keyboards – Facebook beats the mall.  Need a date?  Skype and sexting easy, casual, and immune to STDs.  Uber putting the brakes on driving – Google cars may total the notion. 

So, is it DMV RIP if driving’s no longer derigeur? Perhaps it becomes an identity authentication services provider for access to government services?  DMV is only one example of how tech advance and changing consumer behavior are remaking government services reality.  Just look at the Postal Service. 

Like the season - change is coming.

Hope to see you at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm.  You don’t need a driver’s license – take the metro.  And, telework another day.  

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Posted: 7/30/2014 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Joe Hungate - Neat Stuff?

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous. If you look at what ails Fed IT, it's not tech – you can distill it down to communications and finance. So what if you had a Fed exec who's in touch with tech, bounces with a balance sheet, and knows how to get his point across? Let me introduce you to Joe Hungate, deputy CFO at HUD. It's a name from Yorkshire in England – meaning water gate – not like Nixon - and Mr. Hungate's carrying the water for government efficiency – and something a little stronger – read on.

 I met Joe when he was CIO at IRS TIGTA – and blazing the trail on telework and mobility. He then served as a detailee investigator for House Appropriations. Now he's pulling finance levers at HUD. So, I thought I knew Joe pretty well...

 Turns out, in addition to his day job, Joe's a Scottish whisky aficionado - Joe assures me dropping the 'e' is consistent to the Highland heritage of the hooch. Now, who doesn't like a tipple every now and again? But did you ever buy your own barrel? Seems Mr. Hungate acquired a taste for whisky in the Highlands. But, as if a barrel wasn't enough, he's partner and CFO in the Virginia Distillery Company, a new whisky distillery in Lovingston – that's 30 minutes south of Charlottesville. Check out the bottle - no 'e'.

I'll raise my glass to a Fed exec who's triple distilled – tech, finance, and communications – and in touch with Hill appropriations. Here's to Joe Hungate – hitting with all three hands, and far from your average Joe...

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Posted: 7/22/2014 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Disputed Territory?

Not as charged as Palestine and the Ukraine, Federal cloud is nevertheless disputed territory. Released three and a half years after OMB issued the "Cloud First Policy", a new MeriTalk study “Cloud Confusion: Is Private Cloud Holding Feds Back?” provides a sanity check on Uncle Sam's cloud progress.

$18.9 Billion Bonanza

Based on a survey of 159 Fed IT execs, the study opens with big numbers. The Federal government could save $18.9 Billion by migrating services and apps to the cloud.

Going Public

But, if you dig beneath the promise, cloud reality comes up short. And, it seems how you define cloud is disputed territory. Forty four percent of Feds report their agencies are missing out on savings by using private clouds versus public or community solutions.  And, they tell us that 56 percent of Feds’ cloud adoption to date has been private cloud.

C is for Cloud

The majority of Federal IT managers give their agencies a "C" or below for cloud progress. Only 41 percent said their agency considers cloud as part of the overall IT strategy. Fifty one percent have used cloud strictly for a limited number of specific applications. That said, those agencies that fully embraced cloud in their overall IT strategy show much better savings performance.  Cloud-centric agencies saved twice as much with their cloud deployments than box-hugger agencies. 

Securing Savings

Considering the savings sweet spot moving forward in the next two years, agencies tell us they’ll migrate CRM, logistics, and procurement applications. Further, FedRAMP is important – 41 percent say that they’ll explore public, hybrid, or community clouds thanks to FedRAMP certification.

Check out the study and mark your calendar to attend the Cloud Computing Brainstorm September 10 at the Newseum in D.C. DISA CIO David Bennett is our keynote – his perspectives will be insightful.  That much is indisputable.

Cloud Computing Brainstorm

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Posted: 7/17/2014 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Social Shenanigans?

Ever wonder about the validity of social media? What's the moniker – trust but verify? I've always had my suspicions about Facebook Likes. Not to mention those randos that follow you on Twitter, even though you have not tweeted in four years. I'm really not that popular in real life – ask anybody that knows me. Well, Derek Muller at Veritasium dishes on the lies behind the likes.

Here's where I commit social hara-kiri – I'm going to recommend that you take nine minutes out of your day to watch a YouTube video. Not only is the content insightful – but the presentation style is worth your time investment. You have 1,440 minutes per day – 10,080 in a week. So, nine minutes is 1/160 of your day – or 1/80 if you sleep half the day.

I'll make this cup a quarter pour. Give you more time to watch the video. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.


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Posted: 7/2/2014 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

 Independence Day?

You may think that 238 years ago, your ancestors sent my ancestors packing. On the 4th, I like to remind folks I'm Irish.  All this independent spirit inspired MeriTalk to question the tyranny of yesterday’s IT in D.C.

Well, Yankee Doodle, stick a feather in your cap and check out our newest study – Consolidation Aggravation. Yes, if we’d considered the timing, we would have called it Data Center Independence Day. We’re doing the patriotic thing and rebelling against despicable data – and its damaging effect on FDCCI, the cloud transition, and the future of America. It’s like one of those box office action movies –“Men In Black 4: The Data War.”

Benedict Arnold?

Okay, back to the small screen. Net up front, is your data working against you? Fed IT managers tell us Uncle Sam can save $16.5 billion in the next decade by dumping duplicitous data. More than one in four agencies waste 50 to 88 percent of storage capacity stockpiling copy data. In 2013, 27 percent of agencies’ storage budgets funded duplicate data. That’s $2.7 billion in 2013 – and $3.1 billion in 2014. That’s more than a lot when you consider Jefferson only paid Napoleon a hair over $11 million for the Louisiana Territory…

Stars and Stripes Forever?

Fed IT managers tell us that 40 percent of Uncle Sam’s data assets exist four or more times.  Further, one in three agencies do not vary the number of data copies based on the significance of the original copy or the likelihood it will be used again. How many stars and stripes do we really need?

Manifest Density?

Is the number of data centers inevitable? Drilling down on FDCCI feedback, 72 percent of Fed IT managers tell us they have the same number or more data centers than they had when the FDCCI program launched in 2010. Only six percent gave their agency an “A” grade for FDCCI. What would Teddy Roosevelt make of this?

Tea Party?

So, the logical question is why isn’t FDCCI going better? What stops agencies from rising up – or at least taking out the trash? Fed IT managers flag overall resistance, data management challenges, and data growth.

Give Me FDCCI or Give Me Death?

Like the founding fathers, Fed IT pioneers are leading the charge to virtual and software-defined everything. Server virtualization has proven its mettle on the battlefield. Now it's data virtualization, SDN, and even software-defined hardware on the ramparts. 

Didn't Benjamin Franklin tell us that the definition of insanity is to assume the same behavior and expect a different outcome? Check out the study for a manifesto on change. 

And, before you throw me on the firework pile this 4th – English or Irish, I'm an American now.

CCX Brainstorm

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Posted: 6/24/2014 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Hat Trick, Heaven or Hell?

Is it me, or is it slow in Fed IT? Maybe it's because everybody’s watching the World Cup? Worldwide viewership is four times that for the Olympics – and global productivity will drop four percent this month.

A hat trick of humor – and perhaps a tear in my saucer this week.

Cloud Country?

Big howdy to Dr. Ron Ross at NIST. He's a real country fan. Gave me a smile by observing that cloud is like Kenny Chesney's famous song – “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Go Now.” Now, I don’t know much about country, but guess that’s better than “I Hold On.”

Not Cricket?

What’s the world’s second largest sport? Baseball? Basketball? Guess my delivery gave it away – watch out for the googley. Yes, it’s cricket. If you think football’s boring... Kenny Chesney’s Seven Days is pretty close. It takes five days to play cricket properly – and that’s without commercial breaks.

Three Lions

Okay, I know you lot don’t have much time for football – sorry, the real football. But, when England plays in the World Cup – it’s damned close to a religious experience for yours truly. This month, the Three Lions took me from Hillbilly Heaven to ***** Tonk Hell. How can England have so many great players and play so rubbish? How can you invent the world’s game and get a red card in the first round? I’ve Got Tears in My Ears From Lying on My Back Crying Over You.

And, if it’s bad for the Three Lions, consider the Indomitable Lions. Cameroon had a player sent off – then two of its team got in a dispute, and one head-butted his own teammate. And yesterday, Uruguay's Suarez bit one of the Azzurri – whole new meaning to Italian food.  Why you gotta be so mean?

The whole football world order is out of balance – Davids have felled Goliaths all over Brazil. Form book thrown out of the window. A goal bonanza. Big shout out to the U.S. team. My tip, Brazil or France for the cup – My Cup, anyhow. Please, anybody but the bloody Germans – I’ve Never Wanted Nothing More.



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Posted: 6/12/2014 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Hero or Zero?

Fed IT’s a jungle. Healthcare dot bombs. Super spies and insider imbeciles. To say nothing of hacker hijackers, big data booby traps, data center delinquents, and box huggers.

Mild-mannered cube dwellers by day, Uncle Sam’s digital defenders form the thin blue line on the carbon-silicon frontier. Three cheers for the likes of Terry Halvorsen, Walt Bigelow, Patrick Dowd, Jeff Eisensmith, David Bennett, and Maria Roat. And oh baby, there’s friction on the digital divide. App sprawl. FedRAMP fury. HSPD-12 dyslexia. BlackBerry sour grapes. There’s a joker in every deck.

Have Cape and Mask – Will Telework

Yes, we know it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. That’s why MeriTalk’s recognizing aces in government IT. What’s your super power? Cyber, cloud, big data, mobility, or data center? Take a minute to take our Superhero quiz – we’ll help you pick out your mask and cape.  

Almighty IT

So, I took the quiz – I’m Almighty IT. Ironic since my tech skills melt away like David Banner’s mild manners as soon as I venture into Excel. Pegged myself as more of the Optimizer – I have a soft spot for data centers. Perhaps it was my choice to keep my loved ones safe rather than save the world? Or my preference for cape wearing only on Tuesdays? I must confess, I do quite fancy Almighty IT’s crown.

But Seriously Folks...

We know too many digital defenders are getting KO’d by kryptonite. That’s why MeriTalk launched the Merit Awards to recognize every day government IT bravery. Take a minute to nominate special agents. It doesn’t take a superhuman effort to fill out the nomination – and it’s free to submit. No black tie required – we’ll recognize our Fed IT Superheroes at the Cloud Computing Brainstorm on September 10 at the Newseum in D.C. Capes are optional.

Gotham has Batman. Metropolis has Superman. Let’s not forget Wonder Woman. D.C. has the Digital Defenders. Please avoid the temptation to wear your underpants outside your tights.

CCX Brainstorm

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Posted: 6/5/2014 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

CDM Roadtest

CDM is all about numbers – $6 billion, 17 primes, legions of subcontractors, and one big question. Is the shiny new program making Uncle Sam's cyber security safer? This'll be a focal point of the Cyber Security Brainstorm on June 18 at the Newseum. More than 250 Fed cyber security execs have registered – so space is tight. But back to the question – how's CDM doing? Are the customers satisfied?

Under the Hood

Only one way to find out – take a peek under the hood. So, MeriTalk's Cyber Security Exchange asked Fed cyber security execs in the agencies if CDM's a Lamborghini or a lemon? We put the analysis wrenches down – and rolled out the CDM: Under the Hood study on Monday.

Good First Lap

DHS tells us that agencies burned rubber to meet OMB's CDM deadlines. More than 96 percent of agencies met the April 30 deadline to identify a CDM manager in their agency. More than 87 percent met the May 30 deadline to deploy products to support the new security management approach.

Find the Accelerator, Please

Quizzed about roll out and task order processing timing, 58 percent of Feds want to accelerate program phase roll out. Fifty-one percent want phase one solutions task orders processed more quickly – flag for Jim Piche and his team at GSA. Providing recommendations on how frequently to refresh security assessment and discovery information, Feds want more real-time updates. Today, the plan for CDM is to provide updates to agencies every 72 hours. Ninety percent of Fed cyber execs want daily updates, and 56 percent want updates every hour. Thirty-two percent want real-time intelligence.

Risky Business

As the cyber security market shifts from compliance to risk management, CDM corners like it's on rails and eats up the asphalt on the straightaway. Asked about the benefits CDM provides in their agencies, Feds revved their engines. Fifty-six percent say CDM reduces operational risk. Fifty-five percent point to enhanced risk prioritization – allowing cyber security pros to get to the worst issues first. Fifty-four percent point to quicker risk mitigation times – and 51 percent say CDM reduces time spent on paperwork.

FISMA Fork in the Road

Speaking of paperwork, it's impossible to put CDM on the lift without road testing it against FISMA. I asked OMB about CDM and FISMA – do agencies still need to pay for FISMA if they're doing CDM? OMB clearly said yes. "Yes. FISMA is the law." The study provides interesting insight on the relationship between cyber security's favorite acronyms – LOL. The net up front – FISMA’s far from RIP. Only 13 percent of Fed cyber execs consider FISMA OBE – saying that they have enough data to do away with FISMA. Fifty percent say they need FISMA today until CDM produces more data. Twenty percent say CDM will never replace FISMA. Interestingly, 17 percent are unsure.

Fed cyber security leads tell us they spend 25 percent of their cyber security budgets on FISMA compliance. Chipping in on future plans for FISMA reporting provides important insight on how CDM and FISMA can run together. Thirty-six percent plan to automate FISMA monthly reporting. Forty-two percent plan to swap out the automated dashboard for today's quarterly/annual reports. Disappointingly, 24 percent have no plans whatsoever to change their reporting behavior.

Real takeaway, NIST and DHS need to get together to tell one story. How do these programs fit together –and what's the roadmap for the future? And, speaking of confusion, or perhaps insecurity, the Federal cyber security initiatives need a branding makeover. How will the government achieve clarity if it keeps coming up with new terms?

Analytic Converter

Seems cyber execs like their new Streufert speedster. Looking down the road, Feds point to training, budget, legacy integration, technical complexity, culture, acquisition, and leadership supports as major speed bumps to accelerating CDM – check out the study for the stats. What do they need to pimp their CDM ride? Fifty-eight percent of Feds want more analytic capabilities. Next on the grid are critical application resilience, common trusted identities, automated tools, and enhanced RoI metrics – again, check out the study for stats.

So, there you have it, the numbers on CDM. If you're interested in the voice track, we'll look forward to meeting you in the pits at the Cyber Security Brainstorm at the Newseum on June 18. John Streufert's in pole position on the CDM panel.

CSX Brainstorm

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Posted: 5/29/2014 - 7 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Halvorsen Hates Iowa

But he’s really got it in for data centers, applications, and cost. In a world of posturing and politics, I'd like to take a minute to salute Terry Halvorsen as he steps into Teri's shoes as DoD IT tzar. With the challenges in DoD computing, Terry may quickly develop a bunion. We know he's already recovering from Achilles surgery.

Modernization, the Movie

When acting as the DON CIO, Terry recently spoke at the Data Center Brainstorm and the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group meeting on the Hill. Perhaps I'm losing my mind recommending that you watch a 17-minute video on the web, but if you want insight into DoD's most powerful IT brain, it's 17 minutes well spent. By government IT standards, this movie’s an action thriller – and a horror movie for those who dig the failing status quo.

Burn the Ships

No TQM, BPR, or Six Sigma – just straight talk. Navy plans to take $1.3 billion out of its data center spend. To achieve this, Terry cut the data center budget by $1.3 billion. Halvorsen hones in on what's important – and calls out the nonsense of the data center consolidation and counting fiasco. "It's about data center closings – not consolidations. You need to count money, not just data centers. To be clear, savings means that we spent less money – not just cost avoidance." Map this against OMB's double speak on the Hill – it's like music to my ears.

It's the Data, Stupid

Halvorsen grabs the issue by the scruff of the neck – to realize success you need to understand the data in your data center. You need to know your risk – not just cyber risk. This is where those of my readers from Iowa may want to turn off. At this juncture, Halvorsen unleashed on Iowa – maybe he has an allergy to corn? When running older applications, you will likely need your data geographically nearby – so cheap data center space in Iowa may be a false economy.

Killer Apps

"I don't like application rationalization – I like application kill." It doesn't get more real. Halvorsen tells us straight – murdering applications drives down data volumes. Is virtualizing data a good idea? **** straight it is. 

Big Enough to Matter

Halvorsen says he's not interested in definitions of data centers. The Navy has 150 data centers that are big enough – read expensive enough – for him to care. Unlike other execs who downplay the cost of labor, Terry tells it straight. The number-one cost in Federal data centers is labor – far and away. He also sparked off about power and facilities costs – and how Uncle Sam needs to rein them in.

Amazon Your Agency

Here's another third-rail issue. Halvorsen wants half the Navy's data housed in commercial solutions. He's pushing public-facing websites to Amazon – and realizing 66 percent in cost savings. Other commercial providers include HP's NGEN.

DISA Data Center Delight

He also applauded DISA's cloud and data center solution – saying it was very cost effective. The Navy is and will continue to run in DISA's data center. We're excited to hear from David Bennett, CIO at DISA, when he keynotes at the September 10 Cloud Computing Brainstorm.


It's not cost vs. mission – it's both. Cost significantly impacts your ability to achieve the mission. Halvorsen finally let up on Iowa as he noted that many applications do not need full COOP – it's very expensive. If you don't absolutely need a hot fail over – and can live with data restoration in five to seven days – here's your chance to take advantage of cheap capacity in Iowa.

Halvorsen's exactly what we need to shake things up in government IT. Again, I encourage you to watch the movie. Two thumbs up for his direct approach. He's going to shake things up in the E Ring. If he has a failing, it may be that obsession with Iowa? Perhaps it's because it's landlocked? Maybe he had a bad experience with a Goldfinch? Do the West Florida Argonauts have it in for the Iowa State Cyclones?

CSX Brainstorm

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Posted: 5/22/2014 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


While the weather’s tip top, the May 7 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing on Federal IT investments would have left Bill Murray with a chill. While the Ghostbuster suffered Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, even he’d be scared by the déjà vu in D.C. For those who follow these things – the hearing sounded and tasted like last year’s hearing. Did OMB see its shadow – and if so, does that mean more accountability or six more weeks of IT left out in the cold?

This was the annual appropriator hearing on Fed IT spending. The questions here – is Fed IT's behavior appropriate, and will the Hill change its appropriation? Rather than simply report on who said what, we wanted to follow up with Senator Mikulski (D-Md.), the appropriations committee chair, to find out about next steps. Not to be inappropriate, but does the Hill plan to follow up on its comments – will we see any change in Fed IT appropriations?

The witness line up for the hearing included Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and GAO IT director Dave Powner, as well as the administrators from GSA and OPM.

Read My Lips

To give you the net upfront, Senator Mikulski threw down hard in the hearing – she’s not happy about what she heard. And I quote – “We have spent billions of dollars on projects that have languished for years, only to be canceled or replaced with something else. This is inexcusable.”

Now You See IT, Now You Don’t…

Okay, now back to the stuff of the hearing. Pressed on IT savings, Steven VanRoekel said OMB has delivered $2.5 billion in savings from its PortfolioStat – and that we’ve already realized $1.9 billion in savings. To quote Cuba Gooding Jr. – Show me the money! But VanRoekel’s no Jerry Maguire. In this era of open government, OMB won’t release its CIO assessments. So, we don’t get to verify which agencies have realized savings, how they’ve achieved this, or where that saved money has been reprogrammed?

Too Big to Fail?

And, of course, the “savings” in Fed IT aren’t reducing the total IT spend – they’re being ploughed back into IT modernization. If government were a regulated industry, this type of accounting wouldn’t pass the smell test.

GAO Takes the Gloves Off

Dave “Rocky” Powner provided a reality check for the folks ringside. He hit VanRoekel with a series of rib shots – swinging hard at OMB’s $2.5 billion savings. “Based on our work, there are over 200 PortfolioStat initiatives that agencies are working on to eliminate at least $5.5 billion in duplicate spending.” Powner jabbed at the IT Dashboard – noting too many agencies have thrown in the towel on updates. Seems DoD’s listening to GAO. Here’s a DoD memo requiring components to do better on the Dashboard.

To Be Continued…

We followed up with Senator Mikulski’s office to get a sense of plans for next steps.  We hope the Senator plans to take some real action, but know she’s a busy lady.  Action needs to be had – there’s a reason why we don’t have a sequel to Groundhog Day.

50 First Dates

If there’s no accountability, then we’ll see no change – it’s 50 First Dates. And, speaking of dates, if there’s no enforcement, I wouldn’t bother putting next year’s Federal IT appropriations hearing on your calendar. Better to stay home and take in a good movie.

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Posted: 5/8/2014 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Walter Bigelow – Chief of IT Systems ATF&E – Mountain Man?

So, you think you know Walter Bigelow at ATF&E?  Former Army, DoD, and NASA, he's the sober hand in Uncle Sam's most combustible IT shop.  Well it's a long way from his new-fangled office in NE Washington, D.C. to the top of Mount Rainier in Washington state – but that's where Mr. Bigelow's heading, again.  A real mountain man – not exactly the stereotype of a computer geek.  Explains why Walter and Simon Szykman hang together.

Head in the Clouds?
His appetite for cloud befits somebody with an appetite for heights.  He's an active participant in the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group.  That said, he couples vision with steely pragmatics.  Nobody knows the reality of how to manage a government IT operation better than Bigelow.  Yes, he can be a cynic – that's why he's my go-to expert on why the latest new-fangled IT idea will fall off the mountain in D.C.  His attitude, wit, and purchase on reality come through loud and clear in this latest Zoom installment.

One additional aspect on Walter, he likes to get oil under his fingernails.  We share an affinity for old British jalopies.  Walter rebuilt the gearbox on his MGB, on his kitchen table, a few days before his wedding.  Hardware problems don't leave him stranded by the side of the road.

Go Bigelow
So, keep an ear open for news on Mr. Bigelow's ascent.  At more than 14,000 feet, Mount Rainier is the loftiest peak in the lower 48.  It takes three days to reach the summit.  Read more about his journey in the latest installment of Zoom.


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Posted: 5/1/2014 - 7 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Hunk of Burning Love or Hound Dog?

Elvis released "Hound Dog"on June 5, 1956.  OMB picked the same date, 58 years later, for its FedRAMP deadline.  Will it be a hunk or a howler?  

The FedRAMP rockers – agencies, CSPs, and 3PAOs – who’ve invested millions in FedRAMP certifications, have Suspicious Minds.  They’re All Shook Up over concerns that OMB’s not going to enforce the deadline – leaving agencies free to buy non-FedRAMP cloud solutions.  And, those that bought the FedRAMP record, Crying in the Chapel.

Return to Sender?
MeriTalk chatted with OMB to understand EOP’s FedRAMP enforcement plans.  According to OMB, “agencies have to be FedRAMP compliant, not CSPs.”   OMB asserts that the deadline is designed to “put agencies on notice.”  OMB acknowledged there needs to be more communication around what FedRAMP means.
A Little Less Conversation
Here’s the Q&A with OMB:
 1. Can agencies still buy/specify non-FedRAMP compliant cloud services after the deadline?

 Yes.  But agencies need to get their CSPs into the process.  But  that does not mean the full GSA and JAB process.  Agencies can  certify their own CSPs – see HHS’ experience.
 2. Will not having a FedRAMP A&A and/or being in the pipeline effectively close the government market to CSPs? 
 3. Will agencies have to stop using non-FedRAMP-compliant solutions? 
 4. How will OMB determine what CSPs an agency is using if the business office is buying those services around the IT function?  Folks can and do buy cloud services on a credit card. 
 That’s a larger issue around oversight and CIO authorities.
 5. Can you please specify how you will treat FedRAMP in your ongoing PortfolioStat sessions? 
 We cannot.  This is a government-only process.
 6. What happens if agencies ignore the FedRAMP compliance deadline?
 OMB will work through normal oversight channels to identify an appropriate response.
 7. How are you collaborating with DoD on cloud security certifications and this deadline?
 Ongoing dialogue with DoD stakeholders.  We engage with DoD  via the JAB.
 8. How will you factor the new Rev4 FedRAMP standards into your management plans?
 You mean if an agency says we just did Rev 3 FedRAMP, do we  have to do Rev 4?  We do not have an answer for this question right now.
 9. Other thoughts associated with the June 5th Deadline?
 FedRAMP is a process, not a thing.
Heartbreak Hotel?
So, it’s Viva Las Vegas – careful about betting the farm on FedRAMP.  If certification’s not required, those who’ve invested will be pissed.  Those who haven’t, won’t bother.  A lot of companies in California will scrap plans for FedRAMP.  It’s going to make it harder for Federal leads to get their companies to take certification seriously.
Couple of additional thoughts.  What happens to non-compliant CSPs already installed, that are not interested in investing to go through the FedRAMP process?  Will agencies need to kick them to the curb?  Who owns the responsibility at DoD now that Teri Takai has left the building?  Will David DeVries pick up the guitar?
It’s Now or Never
The time for cloud is now.  We urge OMB to take a stronger stance – and send the right message to agencies and industry.  To help, MeriTalk is launching a new Federal Cloud Watch on the FedRAMP OnRAMP site.  We’re tracking government procurements to see which agencies spec FedRAMP-compliant CSPs – and if new procurements comply with Cloud First.  More soon. 
We’re not the only folks interested.  We have heard that members of Congress are keenly interested in this issue as well.  The Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group will take a closer look at FedRAMP at the next Hillversation on May 20th at the Rayburn Building – register here.
It’s time to TCCB – Take Care of Cloud Business.  Thank you, thank you – thank you very much.
CCS Brainstorm

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Posted: 4/17/2014 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

 J, P, G, or R?  Do You Want to Know a Secret?  It’s 50 years since Shea Stadium.  She Was Just 17 – and so’s O’Keeffe & Company, MeriTalk’s sister organization.  They Say It’s Your Birthday.  So, we’re hosting the Fab 4 on May 15 at the State Theatre in Falls Church.  You’re invited to Twist and Shout with us.

Know it’s still a few weeks away, but Tomorrow Never Knows.  We’re offering you a Ticket to Ride.  I am a Loser and I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party – here’s your chance to Please, Please Me by joining us from Across the Universe, Norwegian Wood, or Strawberry Fields.

Register hereIt Won’t Be Long.  Don’t believe those who say Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.  Here’s a real Nowhere Man saying I’m Happy Just to Dance With You.  Even if it looks like I’m Only Sleeping.

Don’t Let Me DownI am the Walrus And Your Bird Can SingAll You Need is Love to get in.  If you miss it, then Happiness is a Warm Gun.

Back to the chorus.  Join us Thursday, May 15, at 5 pm at the State Theatre in Falls Church.  It’s easy to get there.   As Jim Beaupre will attest – baby, you can Drive My Car.

So who’s my favorite Beatle?   We Can Work It Out – which song is not like the others?  Reserve your spot today – you might hear me play Love Me Do on the harp.  Oh, did I mention we have a band?

OKCO 17 Anniversary


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Posted: 4/10/2014 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Friendly Fire?
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 requires GAO to provide DoD with an annual IT management physical.  The components need to give blood, cough, and pee in a cup to ensure they're healthy on IT cost and schedule, as well as on track to deliver functionality and performance.  GAO just released a new study – “Major Automated Information Systems (MAIS):  Selected Defense Programs Need to Implement Key Acquisition Practices.”
The report looks at 15 of DoD's 42 MAIS – across Air Force, Army, DLA, and Navy/Marine Corps.  If you're tracking DoD IT, the report's worth a read.
Fog of War
Only 13 of the 15 had cost information available – here's the chart.  Of the 13, 11 experienced changes in cost estimates.  Seven experienced increases – from seven to 2,233 percent.  Four experienced decreases – from four to 86 percent.  For example, Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) Increment 1 dropped costs from $25.4 to $21.6 billion – due to competitive contracting.  Two stuck to their original budgets.
All but one of the 15 had schedule information available – here's the chart.  Thirteen experienced timeline shifts.  Twelve slipped to the right – with delays from a few months to six years.  One program will beat the delivery date.
Four MAIS couldn't deliver systems performance data.  Of the remaining 11, eight did not meet their functionality targets.  For those scoring at home, that's more than half.
Risky Business
GAO weighed risk on three MAIS.  The Defense Health Agency's Theater Medical Information Program-Joint Increment 2 had an excellent risk bedside manner.  The Navy's Global Combat Support System had blind spots in risk and mitigation planning – although it's starting to see more clearly.  The Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Agencies Initiative program lacked robust risk categorization and management.
12 of 15 – Not Stellar
Net net, 12 of the 15 MAIS programs had cost, schedule, and/or system performance issues – five had challenges in all three areas.  If this is how custom-build programs are performing, the question begs, where's DoD on cloud and shared services?

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Posted: 4/2/2014 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

A Dose of Data?

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away – seems a storage array will pick you right up.  That, according to the new Big Data Cure study just prescribed by MeriTalk.  The report’s based on a survey of Fed execs working in agencies with healthcare missions.

So, let’s take a look at the chart.  Sixty two percent say big data will improve patient care in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Health Systems.  Sixty percent say big data will enhance their ability to deliver preventative care.
Out of the Lab
But, this is more than an academic exercise.  One in three Feds say their agency has successfully launched at least one big data initiative.  More vital stats – 35 percent use big data to improve patient care, 31 percent are pulling on big data to cut the cost of care, and 22 percent are successfully using big data to improve early detection.
Therapy Still Required
While Feds are upbeat about the big data prognosis, there’s clearly room for improvement.  Only 34 percent have invested in IT systems to optimize data processing, just 29 have trained their IT teams to manage and analyze big data – and less than a third have educated their senior management on big data issues.
If big data’s big, it promises to be bigger with a little help from a new three letter acronym – M2M or machine to machine.  While just 15 percent have implemented M2M, 53 percent plan to do so in the next two years.
With healthcare costs eating an ever greater percentage of the defense budget, big data may prove to be a critical new weapon in our arsenal.  Read the study – it's a lot shorter than Gray's Anatomy. 

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Posted: 3/24/2014 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Share and Share Alike?

My mother told me it was good to share my toys.  Seems Uncle Sam can cut costs by sharing tech toys.  That, according to a new MeriTalk study – Shared Services: Ready or Not?.  The study's based on a survey of 138 Fed IT execs at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm in January.  For the multitaskers, too busy to read the study, the takeaways are below.

Rampant Redundancy
GAO reports 777 supply chain systems and more than 600 HR systems strewn across the Fed IT playground.  Someone's not sharing...
And the study puts the first numbers around the waste associated with Fed IT fiefdoms – $27.9 Billion.  That's the savings from shared simplicity.  That's about one third of the Fed IT budget.
Making Nice
Feds are in touch with the opportunity.  Ninety six percent of survey respondents recognize the importance of shared services – and 72 percent say their agency's tracking shared services as a strategic initiative for the CIO Council. 
Reality Check
Okay, so we know it's good to share, but who's doing it?  According to Fed IT execs, just over half of agencies are using any shared services and 44 percent are providing shared services.  Top of the list of shared services apps: help desk, MDM, and finance.  But – and it's a big but – bear in mind, those shared services are only a fraction of those agencies' IT consumption diet.
Get a Plan, Stan
So, we know that redundancy is rampant.  Feds know shared services will unlock savings.  Why aren't we sharing more?  It appears government-wide efforts are all at sixes and sevens.  Just 40 percent of agencies have defined shared services goals and objectives.  Only 32 percent have established service-level agreements.  A paltry 16 percent have developed a financial model and chargeback system to deliver services to other agencies.  Agencies call out procurement, security, culture, measurement, and infrastructure as key barriers to sharing the IT love. 
First Things First 
Cloud is clearly the pathway to shared services reality.  While it certainly doesn't absolve the sharing sins, FedRAMP takes a swipe at the shared security shyness.  The FedRAMP OnRAMP allows agencies to see which CSPs are FedRAMP approved, by what agencies – and which CSPs are currently in the pipe.  Important stuff as we run at OMB's June FedRAMP deadline.
Play Nicely Together 
And, the FedRAMP OnRAMP shows the value of government and industry playing well together – sharing information to accelerate change.  What agencies need is a procurement platform and culture change to enable and measure progress.  Perhaps a government-wide cloud broker that gets us out of solitary IT confinement?
It's less than two months to May 11th.  No, that's not another OMB deadline – it's Mother's Day.  When we're able to save $27.9 billion by sharing, seems she really does knows best.  Perhaps send her a copy of the study with that bunch of flowers this year?

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Posted: 3/20/2014 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Big Five in Overdrive

Let’s change gears for this week’s circuit.  Chance to step outside the Beltway and look under the hood in the mega-billion dollar state and local IT race.  How’s transformation going – what’s fast and who’s furious?

If Uncle Sam’s modernization plans around cloud, data center consolidation, cyber security, big data, and mobility could use a tune up – seems the states are generating a lot of horsepower, but running into transmission issues.  This according to a new MeriTalk study, the Big Five in Overdrive: Are State and Local Networks Ready?
Okay, let’s put the Big Five on the lift for a closer inspection.
Based on a survey of 201 state and local IT pros, the study tells us most agencies are revved up about the Big Five – everybody wants into the race.  That said, 94 percent say their agencies are not completely prepared for the IT infrastructure impact.  Fully 63 say the Big Five will cause network bottleneck risks.   Eighty nine percent say they’ll need to upgrade network capacity to guard against traffic jams.
But, as the states move into the IT transformation passing lane, the network braking is just one of the concerns.  Fifty nine percent note security woes and 44 percent worry about storage speed bumps.
So, how do we win this race?  All eyes are on the driver’s seat.  Fifty two percent of respondents question their leaders’ understanding of the Big Five’s impact on IT.  State and local IT pros want better prioritization and coordination from leaders.  They also call for budget to invest in network infrastructure and to standardize associated mapping.
If you’re not up for reading the study, tune in next Tuesday, March 25th at 2 p.m. EDT for the webinar.  Wanda Gibson, CTO, Fairfax County, Virginia; Anthony Robbins, Vice President Public Sector, Brocade; and yours truly on the starters' grid.  It should be an exciting race.
Big Five in Overdrive

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Posted: 3/13/2014 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Juggling Chainsaws?

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?

MeriTalk sat down with 18 Federal big data and cyber security experts to discuss the art of the emerging science. Check out the study for yourself. Too busy? Here’s the small data download.

More Synergy than Static?
Big data can make cyber security stronger. Agencies are focused on leveraging the oceans of continuous monitoring data to better detect threat patterns. And, outside cyber security, big data’s playing a key role in ferreting out fraud.

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?
But, beyond these early adopter examples, how much of this is real today – and is Uncle Sam equipped to surf the data torrent without springing a leak in his trunks?

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.

Net Takeaways
Fed big data and cyber security leaders sound the alarm that bigger data sets make elements more sensitive – and amplify risks of unintended consequences. Yes it’s risky business, but ignorance is not a sound defense strategy. Read the full report.

Mobile Work Exchange Town Hall Meeting








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Posted: 3/6/2014 - 14 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

USS ITanic?

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.

Captain Cloud?
It's difficult to single any exec out – but today's the day Captain Cloud goes over the side at DHS.  Yep, Keith Trippie, the innovation lead at DHS is putting in his last day at 7th and D St. SW.  Keith's been at DHS since ground zero.  We're all counting on Greg Capella and his shipmates to keep pulling on the innovation oars at ESDO.

But, let's get beyond the anecdotal.  We decided to scan the horizon on on March 3rd.  Iceberg ahead.  There are 2,559 open Fed  "technology" jobs – 547 in a 50-mile sail of D.C.  Of the total tech empty berths, only 1,256 are open to non govies – so 1,303 are only open to existing govies.  Seventy percent of vacancies require mid-senior experience – GS11-15.  The agencies with the biggest tech talent troubles – VA, DoD (HQ, Army, Air Force, Navy), HHS, and Interior.  And, to rub salt in Uncle Sam's wounds, there's clearly a huge leadership vacuum – 124 SES vacancies.

Marie Celeste?
This isn't the typical appointee ship jump linked to the end of an administration – we're not two years into Obama II.  And, many of those leaving are career govies in their prime.  We're witnessing a massive brain drain – agencies are dangerously short of IT innovation navigators.
And, let's forget new ideas – and instead focus on keeping the lights on in IT.  Without knowledge of where the bodies are buried, agencies may find themselves marooned with their legacy systems.

Why the Sea Change?
Well, it's a perfect storm.  A rudderless OMB.  Uncle Sam's innovation agenda's all wet – data center consolidation and cloud transformations are mostly high and dry.  The high-water mark on Federal pay hasn't moved in four years – consider gas and real-estate inflation.  Add in the lack of empowerment – CIOs watched Richard Spires, the alpha CIO, walk the plank.  And to add insult to injury, consider the public floggings on and Snowden.  The motto for Federal IT should read the beatings will continue until morale improves...

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.  

DCX Brainstorm  

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