Following Today’s Oversight Hearing, SIIA Says Healthcare.gov Sheds Light on Problems of IT Acquisition More Generally

Today’s House Oversight Committee Hearing on the problems facing Healthcare.gov highlight the continuing challenges with Healthcare.gov and also with federal IT acquisition and deployment more generally.  If the problems of Healthcare.gov lead to improved IT acquisition, then there is a bright side to what has otherwise been a difficult situation.

Acquiring and deploying information technology is difficult, and the implementation of a system as complex as Healthcare.gov is not easy.  There are literally dozens of feeder systems fueling the site, and an equal number of contractors and subcontractors adding to the complexity.

These challenges demonstrate that we need to continue to think creatively about ways to improve federal IT acquisition.  It’s critical that we add flexibility to what is a cumbersome process, keeping in mind that federal acquisition is a rules-based process designed to manage the inherent risk associated with it.

Ideas like those that have been proposed by Chairman Issa in his Federal IT Acquisition Reform legislation would go a long way to improving the process.  SIIA supports Chairman Issa’s efforts to increase the authority of federal CIOs, establish acquisition centers of excellence and make sure our acquisition personnel are properly trained.

Since the launch of the Obama Administration’s 25 Point Plan over 3 years ago, we have made significant progress in focusing attention on this issue but more work is needed.”

SIIA will hold an event next Monday, November 18th, featuring House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).  “Driving Government Innovation” will provide insight on how technology will make the government more efficient, effective, open and transparent.

In addition to Rep. Issa, the event will feature a panel discussion with industry experts:

  • Doug Bourgeois, VP, Services and Solutions, VMware
  • Mark Forman, Founder, Government Transaction Services and former OMB Administrator for E-Gov
  • John Landwehr, VP, Digital Government Solutions, Adobe
  • Dan Chenok, Executive Director, IBM Center for the Business of Government

Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.

Join SIIA at Driving Government Innovation featuring Rep. Darrell Issa Nov. 18

The federal government is evolving and information technology is the primary enabler of this change.  But how will technology make the government more efficient, effective, open and transparent?  Find out at Driving Government Innovation , November 18th at 2:30pm in 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The event is free and open to all interested parties but registration is required.

Join us to hear opening remarks from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) Followed by a panel discussion of industry experts including:

  • Doug Bourgeois, VP, Services and Solutions, VMware
  • Mark Forman, Founder, Government Transaction Services and former OMB Administrator for E-Gov
  • John Landwehr, VP, Digital Government Solutions, Adobe
  • Dan Chenok, Executive Director, IBM Center for the Business of Government

For more information or to register for the event click here.


Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.

Public Sector Innovation Roundup

GAO issues report on IT consolidation: This week, GAO issued a report highlighting the potential savings that could be achieved through IT consolidation. The new report pegs that number at nearly $6 billion or more than twice what the Obama Administration has been highlighting that we could expect from their IT consolidation effort known as PortfolioStat. The GAO review covered the 26 major agencies that are required to participate in PortfolioStat, and found 200 consolidation opportunities, essentially double what OMB has identified. The report also criticized agencies for poor planning and inadequate reporting under the PortfolioStat program. Here’s the full GAO report.

Healthcare.gov problems rekindle debate over procurement reform: At a campaign event on Monday, President Obama personally raised the issue of reforming the way the government buys IT in response to problems associated with the Healthcare.gov website. The President’s comments come on the heels of comments mades by Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel who called the Healthcare.gov issues “a teachable moment” last month. For what it’s worth, the government IT industry has been pushing to reform the federal IT acquisition process for as long as I can remembers and with legislation being pushed by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) included in the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act some changes may be on the horizon. FedNewsRadio has a good report.

Defense Secretary Hagel to target cyber in Quadrennial Review: Secretary Hagel announced this week that he plans to address the issue of cybersecurity in the upcoming Defense Quadrennial Review, recognizing that it is an issue of increasing importance and threat. The QDR is due in February and this year’s planning is of increased importance due to the ongoing challenges created by sequester level funding across DOD. FCW is tracking the issue.

FedRAMP needs more approved CSPs: Federal Times has an article this week highlighting the ongoing challenges of the FedRAMP program, which becomes mandatory for cloud service providers operating in the federal government in June 2014, just 8 months away. To date GSA has approved 24 third party assessment organizations to review CSP applications for FedRAMP approval and there are 10 approved CSPs, eight who have gone through GSA and two who have agency approved authority to operate. The pipeline remains strong for CSPs who are in line to get through the process but more definitely need their provisional FedRAMP ATO for the government to have the options it needs come June 2014. SIIA hosted an event on FedRAMP this week to discuss the progress GSA has made with the program. Here’s the recap of the event.


Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.

Achieving Success with FedRAMP: What CSPs and Government Agencies Need to Know

As part of its federal IT leadership agenda, SIIA partnered with Potomac Forum to host an event, Achieving Success with FedRAMP, yesterday in Washington, DC.  Keynote speaker Dave McClure of GSA, industry leaders, government experts and a representative from the new privatized FedRAMP 3PAO accreditation entity gave their insights on FedRAMP before a standing room-only crowd at the Willard Hotel. Both cloud service providers and government agencies were in attendance to learn best practices and other tips related to getting through the FedRAMP program.

McClure spoke on the lessons learned so far in the FedRAMP process and provided guidance for the future. In a response to a question on modifying the accreditation process to speed it along, McClure stated, “the last thing we’re doing is lowering the bar, there is just too much at stake.” He emphasized that the process is difficult and is meant to be so.  Adding that the “do once, use many times” nature of the certification will save time, money and effort over the long haul.

The industry Panel, moderated by FedRAMP Program Manager Matt Goodrich, consisted of four speakers: James Bowman of Autonomic Resources, the first CSP approved under FedRAMP, Michael Carter of Veris Group and Tom McAndrew of Coalfire, two of the leading 3PAOs and Malek Abdo of Oracle, who’s company is currently in the FedRAMP pipeline. Speaking on the topic of Achieving Success with FedRAMP, each shared their unique experience and lessons learned from their role in the accreditation process. Two topics that received recurring attention throughout the panel discussion were transparency and mindset. All the panelists reiterated the necessity of building a relationship of trust early on with the FedRAMP process, citing extensive delays when companies fail to be fully transparent about certain aspects of their systems. McAndrew said it best, “you’re unique, and so is everybody else.” Attempts by companies to hide their “secret sauce,” as Carter called, it will bring nothing but increased time and cost.

The government panel, moderated by Mike Hettinger Vice President of the Public Sector Innovation Group at SIIA, gave a FedRAMP update. Panelists Maria Roat, Director of the FedRAMP program at GSA and Emery Csulak, Chief Information Security Officer at DHS fielded many technical questions about the program, while talking about the trust the program is developing with industry and government agencies alike, as well as the cultural shift and mindset changes needed for the program to be ultimately successful. When asked to give perspective on the program Csulak stated the “biggest goal was to elevate this conversation around risk.”

Closing out the discussion, Samantha Dizor Carter of the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) spoke on how the privatized 3PAO accreditation process would be different than how the process was conducted by GSA – most importantly that A2LA will now make on-site visits to potential 3PAOs to ensure they have the resources necessary to effectively participate in the program. Carter also responded to numerous questions about how the transition was progressing and how those 3PAOs that were already in the pipeline would be addressed.

Overall, the exchange of ideas provided industry and government with an opportunity to hear from all of the key players in the FedRAMP process and hopefully walk away with a better understanding of what it takes to achieve success with FedRAMP.


Sabrina Eyob is communications and public policy intern at SIIA. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied Comparative Cultures and Politics, and International Relations. 

Event Tomorrow: Achieving Success with FedRAMP: Best Practices & Lessons Learned

SIIA  and the Potomac Forum today announced that they will host Achieving Success with FedRAMP tomorrow, November 5, from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The SIIA FedRAMP breakfast is open to the media and will begin at 8 a.m. with a keynote address from GSA’s Dave McClure, Associate Administrator in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

Other confirmed speakers include:

•  Maria Roat, FedRAMP Program Director, GSA

•  Matt Goodrich, Program Manager, GSA

•  James Bowman, Government Compliance Director, Autonomic Resources

•  Michael Carter, Director of FedRAMP and Assessment Services, Veris Group

•  Tom McAndrew, Executive VP, Professional Services, Coalfire

•  Samantha Dizor Carter, Senior Accreditation Officer, American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)

•  Malek Abdo, Director, Information Assurance, Oracle

See the full agenda and register at:  http://www.potomacforum.org/content/executive-breakfast-achieving-success-fedramp.

WHO:                   The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the Potomac Forum
WHAT
:                 Achieving Success with FedRAMP
WHEN
:                 Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 8 am – 11 am
WHERE
:               The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington D.C.


Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.

Federal IT Woes Go Beyond the Affordable Care Act Website: The Time for Procurement Reform is Now

Many of the Affordable Care Act website’s issues result from long-standing federal procurement struggles that might be locking some of the best and brightest out of federal IT. Unfortunately, the problem goes beyond what we are witnessing with the ACA website.  As I noted in a POLITICO article yesterday, the federal government needs to be able to move faster to acquire the technologies that will allow it to update its outdated IT systems.

SIIA agrees in principle with comments made by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who said last week that federal procurement regulations are far too complex, and the aquisition process itself is too lengthy and expensive. As a result, many innovative technology companies forego entry into the government market. This is why SIIA has been advocating for reforming the way the federal government buys technology goods and services, with the hope that we can get newer technologies in the hands of the federal government more quickly.  The move to cloud computing has caused the federal government to rethink how it buys technology and bills like the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), seek to address the fact that the federal acquisition process simply cannot keep pace with the rate of technological innovation.

How do we get more companies interested in the federal market?  For starters we need to reform the acquisition process, which will in turn make the federal market more attractive to innovation technology companies whether they are based in Silicon Valley, northern Virginia or around the world.


Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.

Public Sector Innovation Roundup

Contractors forced to reprioritize after shutdown: The government shutdown has caused serious disruptions for some contractors, many of whom received stop work orders when government funding lapsed on October 1st. While almost all of those orders have been lifted and contractors are now back to work, they are still faced with backlogs and delayed proposals, not to mention some are cash strapped as a result of more than two weeks or 4% of their year without revenue coming in. GovExec examines further.

FAA chief says shutdown was major disruption: FAA Chief Michael Huerta said this week that the government shutdown impaired the agency’s ability to keep US airways safe and that he believes it will be difficult for the agency to recover. The Hill has more.

Pentagon moves email to DISA cloud: The Office of the Secretary of Defense has moved more than 10,000 email accounts to the cloud-based Defense Department Enterprise Email (DEE) service managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency. The move comes on the heels of the Department of the Army completing its move of over 1 million unclassified and 115,000 unclassified accounts to DISA in August. Expect more moves to the DISA DEE in the future as the consolidation comes as a result of the DOD CIO’s memo from September requiring each agency to have to plan to move to DEE within 120 days. Nextgov has a report.

FedRAMP adds two new 3PAOs: GSA announced the 23rd and 24th approved FedRAMP 3rd Party Assessment Organizations or 3PAOS this week. They are A-Lign Security and Compliance Services and Blue Canopy. These two companies will now compete with the 22 other approved 3PAOs for work related to FedRAMP assessments for cloud service providers. Currently 10 CSP organizations have provisional authority to operate under the FedRAMP program with many more in the pipeline. See GSA’s website for more.

Personnel News – DHS CFO to IRS, Zients to lead tech surge, McCormack to DHS as CIO: There were a number of key personnel moves announced by the Obama Administration this week, including DHS CFO Peggy Sherry moving to the IRS where she will take on the role of deputy commissioner for operations support, overseeing the agency’s IT, human capital, procurement and related operations. No word on who will replace her at DHS. The administration also announced that Jeff Zients, who is currently waiting to join the National Economic Council, will be brought in to lead the “tech surge” with the hope of correcting the problems that are plaguing Healthcare.gov. Lastly, Luke McCormack, currently CIO at the Justice Department will be moving over to DHS to fill the CIO post there that has been vacant since Richard Spires resigned in May. FCW and FedNewsRadio have the stories. (FCW 1, FCW 2, FedNewsRadio)

OMB reduces financial system requirements: Major changes to the financial systems requirements went into effect on October 1st. Not only have they reduced the number of requirements from 500 to 70, but they have also eliminated OMB circular A-127, that had provided the guidance and added the new requirements to OMB circular A-123 as Appendix D. OMB’s goal is to drive agencies toward outcomes, while reducing waste, fraud and abuse as well as pushing shared services. They also believe the new requirements are less prescriptive and will give agencies a measure of flexibility in complying with the underlying statute, the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act or FFMIA. FedNewsRadio has a report.

DISA extends deadline for cloud contract to October 28th: DISA extended the deadline for proposals related to its $427 million cloud-based enterprise storage contract (ESS II) until October 28th, essentially giving interested bidders an extra week to get their proposals in. The new enterprise storage contract will eventually replace ESS I, a $700 contract which was awarded in 2007. See FedBizOpps for the latest updates.


Michael Hettinger is VP for the Public Sector Innovation Group (PSIG) at SIIA. Follow his PSIG tweets at @SIIAPSIG. Sign up for the Public Sector Innovation Roundup email newsletter for weekly updates.