Cost Control, Security Top Federal IT Managers' Worry Lists
The tough political bargaining over the federal budget underscored by the recent government shutdown portends a continuing emphasis on keeping the cost of government under control. As federal agencies resume full operations after the budget and debt ceiling hiatus, it is clear that the goal of getting more for less" will continue to be a major theme for federal information technology specialists as they manage their budgets.
Government IT workers at all levels listed cost control as a priority in a recent survey sponsored by Cisco and conducted by Clarus Research. Cisco released results of the survey in early October.
Twenty-eight percent of the 400 participating federal, state and local IT managers said reducing costs was their top priority. Cost control ranked second as a major issue, at 25 percent, for the 200 federal respondents. It was topped only by information security, at 30 percent.
"As the results show, reducing costs and increasing security continue to be priorities for government IT decision makers. In the face of reduced budgets, creating the best architecture with available resources that will allow public sector agencies to securely serve citizens will be key to achieving mission success," said Patrick Finn, senior vice president of Cisco's U.S. public sector organization.
Budget Factor Spawns Jitters
In fact, all respondents to the survey listed budget constraints as the greatest threat to their IT infrastructure. Just over 40 percent of state and local IT managers put financial controls as the top concern for maintaining IT operations, while 30 percent of federal managers did so. For all respondents, the next biggest threat to system infrastructure was cybersecurity.
The concern about costs "wasn't a complete surprise because it's always an issue, but in the last year we have seen federal agencies take cost control to a whole new level," said Larry Payne, Cisco vice president, U.S. federal, during a briefing on the survey.
Another indication of the increased attention to cost control is the trend among federal agencies to improve their contracting methods. One of those methods, which was mentioned in the Cisco briefing, is an emerging federal acquisition method utilizing the "lowest price technically acceptable" standard, whereby price is the controlling factor for any proposal that meets the technical requirements, with virtually no consideration of non-price factors. However, LPTA has not been a favorite option within the IT vendor community.
TechAmerica, for example, has set up a task group that "will seek to illustrate the problems with LPTA and provide alternative procurement processes in order to provide best value to the customer," according to Task Group Leader Rick Jones of Cisco.
"We have we seen more LPTA type procurements. However, we see that is not always in the best interest of the customer in the long run. Given the long-term budget challenges, it makes sense to consider what is the best value over time," Cisco's Payne told the E-Commerce Times.
Healthy Future for IT Spending
However, the concern about cost control doesn't mean that federal IT investment will come to a screeching halt. Among the federal agency respondents, 66 percent said they expected to increase spending on cybersecurity next year; 50 percent saw a boost in cloud spending, and 41 percent expected to spend more on video conferencing. Thirty-six percent predicted an increase in data center investments, and 35 percent said they would boost spending on broadband.
Cloud technology is gradually gaining acceptance in the federal sector, the survey also revealed. Asked to rate their confidence in the reliability of cloud computing, 18 percent of respondents said they had "great confidence," while 62 percent said they had "some confidence" in the technology.
That pattern held for two other cloud-related issues. Cisco reported that 14 percent of respondents registered great confidence in cloud security, while 54 percent said they had some confidence in the security of cloud systems. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they had great confidence in the cost effectiveness of cloud technology, while 53 percent said they had some confidence in cloud reliability.
The Federal Buzz
Federal Cyberopportunities: Information technology vendors continue to see business opportunities in the federal cybersecurity market. The MIL Corporation, a mid-sized provider of a wide range of IT services to both federal civilian and defense agencies, is enhancing its current capabilities in information security. The company will now provide offerings in cybersecurity development, operations and risk-mitigation support.
To advance its capabilities, the company has added Anthony Stephens, a former Army intelligence officer and cybersecurity expert at both BAE and Raytheon, to its staff.
"Our cybersecurity sector is aiming its focus on becoming a digital security advisor to our customers," MIL chief operating officer Ed Greer told the E-Commerce Times.
"Currently, our attention is on security engineering, cybersecurity assessments encompassing vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, and independent verification and validation services, as well as training," he said.
"From individual hackers looking to defraud and scam, to state-sponsored espionage attempts to infiltrate Department of Defense-secured networks, cybercrimes and the threats and vulnerabilities that they impose have created a market for experts to out-think and out-maneuver this growing cybermenace," he said.
One indication of the potential market is the commitment of the DoD to cybersecurity, Stephens noted. "The fiscal 2013 DoD cybersecurity funding budget is currently estimated at $3.4 billion, and it is predicted to jump in years to come. This is a key indicator that forward thinking in this field is not a luxury, but a requirement."
USPS Contract: The U.S. Postal Service has selected FedCentric Technologies to provide high availability and expanded functionality to the agency's Transactional Record Processor system.
The project will include the use of Silicon Graphics International high-density hardware platforms.
"Today, the USPS uses our systems for visibility, reporting, sorting, fraud detection and deterrence," said Gerry Kolosvary, president of FedCentric. "The current systems established the ability to process streaming mail piece data in real time. Future efforts will leverage this capability for additional high speed analysis and detection."