With 2022 just around the corner, MeriTalk is taking a month-by-month look at the most popular stories in Federal IT from 2021.

January

MeriTalk FITARA 11.0 Special Report

The FITARA 11.0 Report Card released at the end of 2020 graded the 24 largest Federal agencies across nine different categories – some rooted in law and others in policy – to gauge their progress in improving IT operations. The bottom line showed that 16 agencies received identical grades from the previous scorecard issued in August 2020, three earned higher marks, and five saw their overall grades decline. None of the agencies received an overall failing grade, and all were in the “B” and “C” range.

OPM Releases New Security Vetting Principles

The Office of Personnel Management published an updated doctrine in January to help guide its Trusted Workforce 2.0 initiative, detailing new core security vetting principles for the government to use in managing security clearances. The principles help guide agencies to build a trusted workforce by assessing “the trustworthiness of individuals based on the core characteristics to protect people, property, information, and mission, as they relate to the particular purpose,” the doctrine read.

February

TMF Funding Boost Dropped From $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill

As Congressional Democrats worked to pass their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, a $9 billion funding boost for the Technology Modernization Fund was dropped from the bill. While the TMF funding was dropped from the draft, the version of the bill that passed in March ultimately included a $1 billion TMF funding boost, which the TMF board is still working to award.

Upfront Analysis, Enterprisewide Monitoring Smooth Agency Pathways to the Cloud

Federal agencies are finding their way to cloud services in increasing numbers through a variety of mission-specific motivations. Agency decisions to undertake cloud migrations need to be evaluated through multiple project outcome priorities. Cloud solutions provider Force 3 gave agencies that are looking to move to the cloud advice on how to smooth the transition.

March

Flipping the On(site) Switch: Ensuring Federal Employees Return to a Cyber Secure Workplace

A year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Federal agencies began looking at what securing a cyber-safe Federal workplace would look like when employees began to return. MeriTalk spoke with Bobby McLernon, vice president of Federal sales at Axonius, on how Federal agencies can ensure employees will transition smoothly back to in-person working environments while maintaining proper cybersecurity practices.

Preparing for the Next Transition: Employees’ Safe Return to the Office

After Federal agencies were forced to quickly shift their workforces to remote and hybrid models at the start of the pandemic, the increased vaccine rollout had agencies beginning to think about the best way to transition their employees back to the office from a cybersecurity standpoint, as well as looking to understand what is the best way to foster collaboration in a hybrid work model.

April

Executive Q&A With OnSolve: Crises on the Rise? Agencies Need Better Critical Event Management

The past two years, the country has seen surges in civil unrest, protests, and riots – culminating in the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. In April, MeriTalk connected with Matt Bradley, vice president of global security solutions at OnSolve, to discuss how the Federal government can improve crisis communications to protect citizens, employees, and stakeholders against potential threats, critical events, and natural disasters.

White House Nominates Stacey Dixon for Principal Deputy Director in ODNI

The White House announced in April that President Biden nominated Stacey Dixon, an intelligence community veteran and former deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to serve as the principal deputy director in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Dixon was confirmed by the Senate in August to the role that has her working closely with DNI Avril Haines.

May

Zero Trust: The Linchpin of a New Federal Cybersecurity Paradigm

In the past year, zero trust security architecture has garnered mentions in the Cybersecurity executive order, TMF awards, and more. It has become clear that zero trust is the future for Federal cybersecurity architectures, and zero trust is often the right choice for Federal workloads. The adoption of zero trust architectures is accelerating, and it is a concept that will be a linchpin of Federal cyber for the foreseeable future.

New Fed Spending Plans, Hybrid Cloud Accelerate AI Growth

Federal civilian and defense contract spending for artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) was projected by Bloomberg Government to reach approximately $3 billion in 2021. This may sound small compared to the worldwide market for AI, estimated at $327.5 billion in 2021, according to International Data Corp. But, a series of indicators point to rapid and significant AI growth in the Federal government.

June

Biden Administration Announces Permanent Telework Options for Feds

The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the way the Federal workforce interacts with each other and in June, President Biden announced a set of permanent telework options for Federal agencies. The lifted the 25 percent occupancy restriction for Federal offices and outlined how agencies can offer long-term telework options.

Cyber EO May Move Software Supply Chain Security From Neutral to Highway Speed

President Biden released his cybersecurity executive order in May, to help patch some of the Federal cybersecurity issues made clear by the SolarWinds attack. One of those issues was the need for a secure software supply chain. In June, MeriTalk caught up with Matt Howard, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Sonatype, to discuss the executive order (EO) and its potentially game-changing effect on the nation’s cybersecurity posture.

July

DoD IT Leaders Say the COVID-19 Pandemic Made Federal IT More Complex

As vaccination rates were increasing and the United States nears closer to a broader return to offices in the summer, Federal IT officials in the Department of Defense (DoD) reported that their organizations’ IT environment is more complex now than two years ago, an Axonius and MeriTalk survey showed. The move to remote work has driven that shift, and Federal IT leaders are grappling with how to work their back-to-office plans into the landscape.

Witnesses Ring the Alarm on Water Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Hacks on localities’ water supply have shown the importance of cybersecurity in the water infrastructure. Witnesses from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and local municipalities’ public works departments sounded the alarm about water infrastructure cybersecurity and called for training and funding investments at a July Senate committee hearing. Witnesses said there are still deficiencies in both cybersecurity training and funding.

August

Emerging Tech Key to Unraveling UFO/UAP Mysteries, Officials Say

Further use of emerging technologies marks the path forward for the intelligence community to uncover more compelling evidence of unidentified flying objects (UFO), and to learn more about their meaning and intent, former Federal government officials said in August. A former DoD official said gathering hard data from a variety of sensors has provided a crucial bridge in the government’s approach to studying UFOs – also referred to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).

Workforce Special Report

The longer the coronavirus pandemic lasts, the further in the rear-view mirror fades the pre-March 2020 version of work-life as many of us knew it – and the less likely it is that workforces spanning both the government and private sectors will ever fully get back to what was normal before the public health crisis. This MeriTalk special report took a deep dive into what the prospects of returning to a pre-pandemic work environment are and what the future of the Federal workforce will look like.

September

White House Sets Nov. 22 Deadline for Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force gave Federal employees until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated in accordance with an executive order from President Biden that included a vaccine mandate for all Federal employees. As of Nov. 24, the Federal government had hit 96 percent compliance with the vaccine mandate, and some agencies had a nearly fully vaccinated workforce.

OMB Releases Zero Trust Strategy; CISA Debuts Cloud Architecture, ZT Maturity Model

In September, OMB and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) both published key draft guidance documents providing the next set of road maps for Federal civilian agencies to transition to zero trust security concepts over the next three years. CISA also released draft guidance for cloud security reference architectures to guide agencies to securely migrate to cloud services.

October

Senate Appropriators Tacitly Back 2.7 Percent Federal Pay Raise for 2022

The Senate Appropriations Committee lent its tacit support for President Biden’s proposed 2.7 percent pay increase for Federal employees in 2022 by not including a specific pay raise figure in the legislation. The move substantively amounted to Senate appropriators are giving their endorsement to President Biden’s 2.7 percent pay raise plan outlined in his FY2022 budget request. The appropriations process is still ongoing.

Changing Mindsets: How a Cultural Shift Can Transform Agency IT Investment Planning

Taking a holistic approach to digital transformation in the Federal government requires a shift in mindsets. MeriTalk spoke with Kelly Morrison, director of public sector at Grant Thornton, a technology consulting firm, in October to discuss how the Technology Business Management framework can help agencies transform how they manage and implement IT to support agency missions.

November

19 States Sue Biden Administration Over Fed Contractor Vaccine Mandate

While President Biden’s vaccine mandate for Federal employees has seen a high rate of compliance, his mandate for Federal contractors has faced much more pushback. In November, 19 states sued the Biden administration over the mandate, taking the issue to the courts. Florida was the first state to sue, with Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming joining within a few days.

SKYWATCH: Sen. Gillibrand Introduces UFO Transparency Amendment to NDAA

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would fundamentally transform the Federal government’s approach to UAP – more commonly referred to as UFOs. A disagreement over the NDAA ultimately scuttled the amendment, but the version of the NDAA that passed includes the establishment of a UAP office within DOD and ODNI.

December

House, Senate Leaders Reach CR Deal to Fund Government Through Mid-February

After not reaching a deal on appropriations legislation for the full fiscal year 2022 by the time an initial continuing resolution expired Dec. 3, Congressional leaders reached a deal earlier this month that will keep the government funded through Feb. 18, 2022. The resolution was passed by both chambers and signed by President Biden shortly after the deal was announced, avoiding a costly shutdown.

DoD to Establish Chief Digital and AI Officer

In December, DoD announced the establishment of a Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer, responsible for strengthening and integrating data, AI, and digital solutions across DoD. The position will be in place by Feb. 1, 2022, and will perform in an initial operating capability upon its stand-up. The new position should reach full operating capacity no later than June 1, 2022.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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