Government 2.0: cloud first, $13 billion for cybersecurity

US federal government ramps up both cloud and security commitments. Hopefully, that means more secure clouds.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The US federal government deals with things in the billions of dollars, so you know anything it does related to technology will occur on a grand, billion-dollar scale. Fans of cloud computing and cybersecurity will be pleased, then, by a couple of reports over the past week that suggest billions more will be going to cloud and security.

First, it appears the a "cloud-first" directive has been issued to government agencies, seen as a way to better reign in its $80-billion annual IT budget.  Second, an analysis of US agency security spending plans indicates that the feds will be spending more than $13 billion a year for security within the the next five years.

The Washington Post’s Marjorie Censer reports that US federal agencies are now required to adopt a “cloud-first” policy when considering new information technology purchases. The policy is the result of an overhaul of the government’s IT procurement process:

“Jeffrey Zients, the federal government’s first chief performance officer, announced… that the Office of Management and Budget will now require federal agencies to default to cloud-based solutions ‘whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.’”

This is a dramatic sea-change in acceptance of the cloud technology approach, which was fairly new and radical just a couple of years ago — and still is fraught with misgivings about information security.

Still, the financial benefits are too compelling to pass up, espcially for an $80-billion-a-year IT operation such as that of the US federal government. The cloud-first initiative may help the government in its efforts to reduce and consolidate its stable of 2,100 data centers. The government is moving to reduce that total by at least 40% by 2015.

There are other “smarter” IT approaches already in place. The General Services Administration maintains a government “app store,” Apps.Gov, which provides agencies with access to various cloud platforms and applications.

Federal CIO Kundra Vivek has vowed to reign in and streamline the government’s IT  budget by at least by five percent a year through aggressive and pro-active actions such as cloud computing, virtualization and data center consolidation. And, as a result, enable agencies across the board to better streamline their own programs.

Of course, as evidenced by the latest WikiLeaks revelations, the security of government information appears to be extremely vulnerable, and many would say putting more in the cloud makes it even more vulnerable. But the government also intends to pour billions of dollars into its security efforts. The research firm Input calculates in a new study that annual information security spending by  government will increase from $8.6 billion in 2010 to $13.3 billion in 2015 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1%.

Input observes, however, that while agencies continue to make incremental progress toward secure infrastructures, "lack of leadership, ambiguous roles, technical challenges, and workforce shortages inhibit the federal government from developing implementing a cohesive, well-formed national cybersecurity strategy."

(Photo by the author.)

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