Tech Roundup


Ramping Up Security

Federal cloud providers have until June to comply with new uniform security controls so that multiple agencies can piggyback off the certifications for faster installation.

To more quickly slice $5 billion from the government’s annual $80 billion information technology tab, the Obama administration in December 2011 released requirements for expediting cloud security approvals. Protecting remotely managed data in the cloud has been a stumbling block for some federal managers. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, aims to guarantee a vendor’s goods adhere to baseline controls so that any agency can immediately deploy the services without reassessing a product’s safety.

Recycling accreditations is expected to save the government 30 percent to 40 percent in testing and procurement costs, says federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel. “Cloud computing has become an integral part of the government’s DNA,” he says. “One of the main challenges that people have identified is around security and using security as a barrier to entry around cloud computing.”

If FedRAMP can’t meet an agency’s cloud security needs, then the agency must report to the White House the reasons why for each service and offer alternative approaches. The Obama administration will create a secure online repository for agencies to share boilerplate contract language on products that already have gone through the FedRAMP process.

Most national security systems, some of which are classified, are exempt from the program.

- Aliya Sternstein

Time to Share

Agencies must create plans to move at least two agency-specific information technology services to shared interagency platforms by the end of 2012, according to a draft strategy from federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel. 

The draft strategy also requires agency IT leaders to assess what’s working and what isn’t in their shared services by March and shift “the ‘default setting’ for IT investment decisions from the development of new components to the utilization of existing resources.”

That means new IT projects should be built with standardized architectures so that they can be easily converted to process work across different agencies. The government has more than 200 planning and budgeting IT systems, plus more than 275 human resources systems and more than 300 financial management systems.

According to the strategy, “as it stands, agency IT investments are so highly specialized and difficult to integrate with one another that it is often less expensive to acquire a new proprietary system than to share existing systems.” 

- Joseph Marks

Foreign Affairs

Investigations into potential security risks posed by foreign takeovers of U.S. companies, including many information technology firms, have increased 23 percent in recent years.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States evaluates security implications of planned transactions that would result in foreign powers gaining significant influence over domestic firms. American companies voluntarily report their dealings, so the findings may not reflect all transfers.      

- Aliya Sternstein


Made in China

In November 2011, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he would add an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would require Customs and Border Protection inspectors to examine all Chinese electronic components before they enter the country, based on reports that the Defense supply chain is infested with bum parts from China.

The law signed by President Obama in December does contain language on counterfeit parts, but not exactly the bold steps that Levin promised. The law calls for the Homeland Security Department to develop a “risk-based methodology” to target suspicious electronic parts—a process that seems several steps removed from Customs agents stopping them at the border.

And how long will it take to develop the risk-based methodology, a buzz phrase that I imagine will take at least one contract to develop?

- Bob Brewin

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