USA Federal Government Cloud Computing – From Cloud First to Cloud Smart

 USA Federal Government Cloud Computing – From Cloud First to Cloud Smart

In their blog the U.S. Government’s long road to adopting the cloud Increment provide a detailed synopsis of the history of the adoption of GovCloud computing in America.

This charts the 20 year evolution from the early 2000’s e-commerce directives through the watershed moment of Vivek Kundra’s ‘Cloud First’ policy, through to today’s ‘FedRAMP’ initiative, a program to vet and authorize Cloud providers as being compliant with the many required security policies.

The potential growth market is staggeringly huge. The US Govt spends $86 billion on tech per year, but as of 2017 only 3% of this spending was on the Cloud. They operate over 6,000 data centres.

Wired writes that the main drivers will be IT consolidation, shared services and the need to offer improved online citizen services.

Understandably this scale presents significant challenges, explained in this NextGov interview with one of the chief authors of the policies intended to guide this transformation.

It has also courted controversy, notably the ‘JEDI’ contract, with Microsoft rather than AWS being awarded this enormous procurement. Jared Serbu writes on the Federal News Network that there is probable justification to question the decision.

Other key challenges include the fact that over half of the Government Cloud projects haven’t actually gone through the FedRAMP system.

From Cloud First to Cloud Smart

In 2019 CIO Suzette Kent published the Whitehouse white paper on Federal Government Cloud Computing, with a series of actions to implement the program.

The initiative marks and defines the evolution of the trend, from Cloud First to Cloud Smart, reflecting a maturity progression from a blanket, general imperative to adopt Cloud to one of precise identification and adoption of those Cloud services that will meet specific agency needs.

It addresses a number of major areas, such as technology practices in particular Security, procurement and workforce skills. The central theme is one of Modernization.

The Department of the Interior is one example of an agency fully embracing the program, detailing their comprehensive Cloud adoption plans here.

Legacy Modernization – Industrializing digital transformation

Addressing these challenges and accelerating the rate of Cloud migration presents the USA with a historic scale of opportunity.

Wholly embracing the full scope of transformation it represents, not just “lifting and shifting” IT from one data to another, will act as the catalyst for a monumental scale of deep systems modernization, and with that the business processes those systems are used to implement.

Enabling agencies to reinvent themselves and fundamentally change how they operate and deliver services can impact every facet of government and the citizens they serve.

This is why the real theme of GovCloud is not the technology but the action of Legacy Modernization. Those 6,000 data centres and the vast array of old software applications they run represent the ‘old way of doing things’.

For example just one of many scenarios is the Defence Health Agency’s plans to integrate all of the military’s disparate medical facilities and patient care efforts into a unified infrastructure. A project driven by an imperative to modernize and consolidate IT, and from that achieve an entirely new capability of the transition to a single electronic health records platform dubbed MHS GENESIS.

Consider every agency undertaking an equivalent modernization, across the whole breadth of the US public sector. This represents such a scale of work, of new skills requirements and vendor innovation opportunities, that it will act as a major stimulus for the American tech sector, already a behemoth economic growth vehicle.

Writing on Linkedin Mark Forman, VP Digital Government for Unisys Federal, describes:

“If the federal government is going to achieve real modernization of agency operations, executives are going to have to get much more engaged in defining a modern operating model and driving investments to achieve the desired objectives.

In my experience, it takes a team of line workers and technologists to figure out people, process, data, and technology alternatives. It takes leaders being actively engaged in understanding the cost-benefit-risk tradeoffs, then committing to the investment and business plan throughout its execution.”

Watch his interview on, where he discusses the state of federal IT, and how modernization efforts are faring in government.

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