Changing Times


Let’s be honest. One big reason federal agencies are moving swiftly to shift data and applications to the much-touted cloud is to save money. The prospect of paring as much as $5 billion per year from the $80 billion federal IT budget by outsourcing data storage and operations is irresistible to cash-strapped agency officials, not to mention their overseers in Congress and the Obama administration.

But if that were the only impact of the headlong rush to move key federal operations to cloud-based systems, it wouldn’t be worth devoting a big chunk of an issue of a magazine like this one to the trend. The reason we’ve chosen to do so this month is that the cloud has the potential to fundamentally change the way agencies and the people who work for them get government’s business done.

After all, as Joe Marks reports in this issue, if everybody is working in the cloud, what’s the advantage to being in the office, as opposed to at home or in some other location? Theoretically at least, making applications available via the Internet levels the playing field. And for managers who may not have led the charge in terms of innovation, it leaves them no choice but to adapt to working in a new and different way.

That, in turn, could give a long-awaited boost to telework in the federal government—especially when coupled with another budget driver: the increasing cost of office space. And it could increase the pace at which agencies adopt mobile technologies.

Even more significantly, the cloud could hold the key to fundamentally changing the way government delivers services. One relatively small example: Adam Stone reports in this issue how the Securities and Exchange Commission’s
Office of Investor Education and Advocacy turned to to manage interactions with the public. As a result, connections via email, Web, mail, fax and phone are all handled in a single electronic system. 

In larger government organizations, the sheer scale of operations makes moving to the cloud a daunting challenge—even for something seemingly as simple as adopting a new email system. One example: Stone reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration migrated 36 terabytes of data in 19 separate email systems— 150 million messages in all—to its new Google Apps-based system.

Right now, email shifts like this—large and small—are the highest-profile cloud computing efforts in the federal sector. But they are just the beginning. That makes it a little hard at this stage to separate the hype from the reality when it comes to the future of the cloud. And there’s another factor that makes projecting what a cloud-based government will look like difficult: Security standards have just begun to emerge. Aliya Sternstein notes in her report this month that FedRAMP, a fast-track security certification process, is just beginning to take off. It could be two years or so before agencies begin seeing the benefits of a streamlined process for picking pre-approved cloud products. 

Patience may be required, because one thing is for sure: The imperative to fundamentally change the way government does business isn’t going to go away.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.