Federal CIO working with Congress to increase cloud adoption, knowledge

January 23, 2012

The United States government is a major supporter of widespread cloud computing, which it believes can reduce IT budgets and better prepare federal agencies for the future.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, who replaced Vivek Kundra in early August, is at the forefront of universal cloud adoption among government agencies. Federal News Radio recently interviewed VanRoekel regarding the progress of federal cloud implementation and how he's helping Congress understand the vast benefits of several cloud services.

"I'm spending a lot of personal time talking to Congress about what the benefits are and carrying forward data," VanRoekel told the source. "The key here is showing people the real, live data and, if you think about cost benefit analysis, it comes down to people, it comes down to re-occurring costs, it comes down to other things."

VanRoekel, who previously worked for the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Agency for International Development, said the long-term impact of transitioning data and applications to the cloud is immense, as cloud adopters can pay one fee and continually receive upgrades.

Lawmakers recently forced the U.S. Army to halt its plan to migrate email users to a cloud-based service until a detailed project outline is examined by congress. According to VanRoekel, the situation provides him with a perfect opportunity to work with Congress and the Department of Defense to speed cloud adoption and increase knowledge among lawmakers.

"It's an opportunity for us to work with Congress, to work with the Army and the Department of Defense to think about this stuff," he said. "I think we have a great opportunity to work with industry on evolving the cloud and cloud technology to meet the needs of a 21st century government. I think we have an opportunity to continuously improve and drive this stuff forward."

VanRoekel's comments back up several reports that revealed the government's swift transition to the cloud. According to the Federal News Radio's recent survey of agency CIOs, 83 percent of federal organizations expected to meet the Office of Management and Budget's requirement of moving at least one IT function to the cloud by the beginning of 2012. The survey found that email and collaboration tools, data storage, data center consolidation and web hosting are among the IT tasks federal CIOs expect to transfer to the cloud this year.

Despite many survey respondents acknowledging their own security concerns in the cloud, most experts believe the cloud provides a more secure environment than traditional technology. Booz Allen Hamilton, a provider of strategy and technology consulting services, recently released the Cyber Power Index, which measured the success of digital adoption and cybersecurity among 19 of the world's 20 leading economies.

The report ranked the U.S. second to the United Kingdom in overall cyber power, although the the U.K. ranked only slightly better. According to the study, the U.S. receives high marks in commitment to cyber development, cyber protection policy, IT spending, security, ecommerce and e-government.

"When you look across the various countries, those who have really taken an interest in investing in the technology really seems to propel them higher into the list than those who maybe have not done as much investment," Dave Sulek, a member of Booz Allen Hamilton's advanced analytics team, told The Federal Drive.

Many American businesses have refrained from implementing cloud services due to perceived security risks, but government cloud adoption and cybersecurity recognition by outside analysts should eliminate that perception during the next few years. According to a TechTarget survey, nearly one-quarter of IT professionals expect their company to increase cloud expenditures this year.

-McAfee Cloud Security