The Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI), a Washington-based trade group known for its advocacy for Federal government IT modernization, released a new set of recommendations Dec. 17 for the Biden administration and incoming Congress to improve Federal tech capabilities by learning from some of the lessons of the government’s rapid turn to telework during the coronavirus pandemic. Highlights from the group’s lengthy list of recommendations include:
“The Federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown what is possible when exigent circumstances arise and immediate challenges require innovative thinking and new technology operating models,” the group said. “Going forward, agencies should build on the bright spots that have surfaced during this difficult time and powerfully embrace disruption in all aspects of the technology, security, and IT acquisition.”
“As part of the continued COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, the Administration should make significant investments in promising applications of emerging commercial technology to build on the successes in IT modernization over the previous year,” ADI said. “The workplace of the future has been irrevocably altered by the pandemic, highlighting government’s need to establish sustainable, remote collaboration.”
“Within the first 100 days, the Administration should develop a robust telework strategy that enables agencies and their workforces to safely and securely perform their mission responsibilities,” ADI said. “As such, it is imperative that both industry and government work collaboratively together to build a secure telework ecosystem that supports the technology and cybersecurity capabilities necessary for agencies to deliver vital programs and services, keep the workforce safe, and ensure agencies operate in state-of-the-art environments that rely on sophisticated digital workflows and commercial tools that support the mission.”
“The future of Federal ‘work’ will continue to be distributed – the previous assumptions have changed for good. The Administration can embrace the future by moving away from network-centric models of infrastructure and security to zero trust paradigms and software-defined networking will reinforce and propel these recent shifts to remote operations and ensure that the government can safely and ably perform its mission in a decentralized, but networked, world,” ADI said.
“Enhanced use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, and other cutting-edge capabilities can spur innovation and improve service delivery outcomes within and across agencies. Both government and industry have identified numerous examples where new capabilities or innovative IT services have enabled agencies to function more effectively and improve the delivery of digital services to citizens,” ADI said.
“Now is the time to develop and support a comprehensive plan to scale those solutions, fund them appropriately, and maximize the impact of these critical investments,” the group recommended.
On the acquisition front, ADI urged Congress to repeal existing laws including the Clinger-Cohen Act and the 2002 E-Government Act, “and in their place create a new, comprehensive foundation for Federal IT operations, management, acquisition, and oversight.” The new law should allow Federal agencies to pilot and buy “emerging technical capabilities,” provide modern IT budgeting and appropriations frameworks for greater spending accountability and flexibility, and reform Office of Management and Budget (OMB) authorities for tech policy, oversight, funding, and performance to facilitate agile acquisition.
The group also urged codifying the roles of the Federal CIO Council, and “formalizing” the responsibilities of Federal CIOs, CISOs, and chief technology and data officers “to provide more clarity around those key functions” and how they support agency technology, data, IT, and cybersecurity priorities.
Other recommendations include changes to Circular A-130, updates to guidance for how agencies secure cloud authorizations under FedRAMP, exploring “a path forward to true adoption of sufficient resourcing of commercial shared services,” and supporting more Federal workforce training and upskilling.
“Critical technology projects, including those that seek to replace legacy systems and processes with newer, modern capabilities, simply do not align well with traditional budget cycles,” ADI said, arguing that agencies need “multi-year or no-year dollars” to “drive true digital transformation.”
The group urged $3 billion of funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, and beyond that said, “it is past time that agency CIOs have more budgetary and project management controls over their agency’s entire IT portfolio.” It also urged Congress to create authority for agencies to establish IT working capital funds as envisioned under the Modernizing Government Technology Act.
The Biden administration, ADI said, “will have an unprecedented opportunity to make transformational change in Federal technology and cybersecurity operations, governance, and performance.”
“As the government continues its shift towards a more prevalent digital culture and modern workflows (which the onset of COVID-19 dramatically accelerated), the time will be especially ripe to make long overdue and important changes to law and policy that can better equip agencies to harness commercial innovation, embrace new technology capabilities, improve digital service delivery for citizens, and ensure smarter and more effective spending for IT and cybersecurity outcomes.”
The trade group said it hopes the legislative proposals can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans. “These efforts will empower Federal agencies to thoughtfully and effectively leverage innovative commercial technology and cybersecurity capabilities, reduce wasteful spending on outdated technology and infrastructure, and ensure today’s government builds a robust, yet agile, foundation for long term digital transformation.”