Over the past few weeks, every aspect of American businesses and operations have been scrambling to adjust to the new reality of social isolation and shutdowns created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, the vast majority of the American workforce is operating remotely from private homes. And while commercial industries have been gradually expanding teleworking capabilities for years, some federal agencies have been reluctant to adopt remote workforce models. This reluctance is due in large part to outdated technical infrastructures, coupled with concerns about security and personnel productivity. Many agencies do not have the bandwidth to support widespread teleworking and many essential software applications can only be accessed from within federal offices. The pandemic has highlighted the fact that long-term mission continuity is only possible through rapid modernization and workforce adaptation.
Fortunately, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, federal leadership and legislation quickly moved to shift priorities and funds to support the modernization imperative. On March 22, 2020, The Executive Office of the White House issued a memo titled “Harnessing Technology to Support Mission Continuity” The memo implores federal agencies to re-examine network resources and lean-in on collaborative technologies. Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management in the Office of Management and Budget wrote “[b]y aggressively embracing technology to support business processes, the Federal Government is better positioned to maintain the safety and well-being of the Federal workforce and the American public while supporting the continued delivery of vital mission services.” When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act was passed into law on March 27, 2020, the package included significant funds for agencies to expand bandwidth capabilities and make new technology procurements.
One of the fastest routes to modernization lies in the adoption of cloud computing technology. By leveraging cloud technology, agencies can avoid the hassle and resource drain of procuring and installing new hardware. This means new solutions can be deployed in a matter of days, instead of months or sometimes years. Agencies can shed the expensive maintenance requirements that come hand in hand with maintaining data centers. Maybe most importantly, cloud technology empowers federal employees to access mission critical resources from wherever they may be working. The technology market has recently seen an influx of cloud technology designed to support almost any workflow or process imaginable. It is imperative that federal agencies begin researching new solutions to legacy challenges.
Before taking the plunge and migrating to the cloud, agencies must take into account several key considerations including security, mission support capabilities, user authentication and the procurement process.
- For the public sector, the most important consideration is arguably security. Federal agencies must be able to verify that the sensitive information stored in any cloud computing environment is protected from hackers and malware attacks. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Technology companies make a large investment in both time and resources to obtain FedRAMP certification, representing a strong commitment to supporting federal clients.
- Agencies should also verify that the software will enable mission critical functionality without overwhelming users with too many unnecessary bells and whistles, and that federal employees are able to securely access the platform using accredited methodologies such as Personal Identity Verification (PIV).
- Finally, there must be a clear path to procurement. Technology companies invested in supporting the public sector should be aware of the federal procurement process and the contracting vehicles and partnerships required to facilitate contracting functions.
Over the course of the next few months, Everlaw will share our perspective on these key considerations. We will provide insight into the steps towards successful implementation of cloud computing technology in the public sector, including security considerations, stakeholder identifications and good procurement practices. Everlaw is deeply dedicated to supporting federal agencies in taking the steps necessary for mission continuity in today’s unpredictable and rapidly changing world.