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Social media and emergency response

This week, the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) held a follow-up webinar to the iCERT forum on social media and emergency response. For the webinar, iCERT hosted speakers from the Ready Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Montgomery County, Md., Fire and Rescue Service, and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The purpose of the event was to build on the growing conversation about the use of social media by emergency response agencies.
 
Based on the presentations, it is clear public safety agencies’ use of social media can have a positive impact. Agencies can post tips and recommendations before and after emergencies. Craig Fugate, administrator of FEMA, can instantly reach his 23,000 Twitter followers to provide critical information moments before or after an emergency.
 
The use of social media by public safety agencies is not only helpful in informing citizens, it also extremely useful for citizens to have the ability to send information to the agency. At the webinar, Bill Delaney, program manager for Social Media & Community Life Safety at Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, provided examples of how the county has benefited from citizens sending information via social media. A resident was able to share video and pictures of a water-main break before the county even knew about it. After a snow storm, another resident created a video on how to discover buried fire hydrants and how to properly uncover them. The resident sent the video to the county via social media, and the county was able to embed the video on its YouTube channel to spread the information. 
 
Analyst’s Take
 
The adoption of social media by public safety agencies is still in its infancy, but the results seem to be positive enough to merit other agencies adopting the technology. However, there are still concerns over legal and policy issues that have left some agencies hesitant, such as liability and records management and retention. As Lea Shanley of the Woodrow Wilson Center explained, there is extensive research being conducted in academia and other institutions to combat the challenges of social media. The technology may not be right for all jurisdictions, but for those that do utilize social media, it needs to be implemented carefully.
 
For more information on iCERT, click here.

OMB’s Ongoing Travel Expense Reduction Efforts Could Drive IT Improvements

Last summer the White House launched the Campaign to Cut Waste aimed at reducing excessive or wasteful spending by federal departments and agencies. As part of the effort agencies were charged with reviewing their budges “line-by-line” to identify areas of unnecessary spending or opportunities for greater efficiency or cost savings. In a further step, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently gave agencies additional direction to focus their cost-cutting efforts in specific areas and these efforts could result in opportunities to further leverage information technology.
In his recent memorandum, Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of OMB, addresses further efforts to reduce federal agency spending on travel, conferences, real property, and fleet management. Here are the high points:
  • Travel – Beginning in FY 2013, each agency is directed to spend at least 30 percent less on travel expenses than in FY 2010 and maintain this reduced spending level each year through FY 2016. OMB has directed agencies to use the immediate savings toward improving the transparency and accountability of Federal spending. Reductions that are deemed to undermine critical government functions such as national security, international diplomacy, health and safety inspections, law enforcement, or site visits required for oversight or investigatory purposes may be excluded from the cuts.
  • Conferences – Agencies are focusing on reducing expenses related to conference sponsorship, hosting, or attendance by federal employees. OMB is directing agency senior leadership to:
o    Review spending for every planned/upcoming conference where their net conference expenses will exceed $100,000 and refrain from committing to future conferences until these reviews are completed;
o    Approve all proposed new conference expenses in excess of $100,000;
o    Prohibit expenses in excess of $500,000 on a single conference unless the agency head determines such spending is the most cost-effective option to achieve a compelling purpose.
o    Report conference expenses in excess of $100,000 on their official website by January 31 of each year for the previous year’s spending.
  • Real Property and Fleet Management – Agencies may not increase the size of their civilian real estate inventory without meeting certain parameters. Going forward, acquisition of new Federal building space that increases an agency's total square footage of civilian property must be offset through consolidation, co-location, or disposal. There is no new guidance in the memo for fleet management, but OMB promises additional guidance on carrying out provisions in these two areas within 90 days.
Implications and Potential Opportunities
While it may seem counterintuitive to look for opportunities for new spending within sweeping cost-cutting initiatives the potential for information technology to achieve efficiencies, increase effectiveness, and realize cost savings positions IT as a means to success for these kinds of initiatives. Reaching the 30 percent travel expense reduction target through improved travel management processes and IT systems is one example and through a quick review of the FY 2013 federal IT budget it appears that agencies are thinking this way. (See table below.)

Federal IT initiatives identified as specifically supporting Travel Management under the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s Business Reference Model shows that spending on these systems is projected to increase from $52 million in FY 2012 to $63 million in the next fiscal year. (And this does not include travel management elements that are embedded in financial management, HR management, and funds control systems.)  While these are modest investments compared to the overall federal IT spend, we are still looking at a 20% increase in an anemic budget environment. Further, new spending on these systems – identified as Development/Modernization/Enhancement (DME) – is running at nearly 30% of overall spending, government-wide. Finally, these systems are spread throughout federal agencies, so it presents potential opportunities in both the defense and civilian segments for both new development activities as well as for ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M).

 

This latest OMB directive also acknowledges IT’s relevance in achieving savings in the area of improved travel expense management by providing alternatives to physical travel. As part of their FY 2014 budget submissions OMB is requiring agencies to describe how they will make the travel expense reductions to FY 2010 levels sustainable going forward, “including the specific process changes and technology investments necessary to reduce their reliance on travel.” That sounds like a nod to increased use of collaboration tools like video conferencing and other remote technologies.  And OMB’s instruction to direct the travel savings toward improving transparency and accountability also cries for improved technical solutions.
As agencies continue to be pressured to find substantive budget savings and improve effectiveness they will naturally look to implement IT as a means to achieve their mission, fiscal and policy goals and this is good news for those vendors who provide cost-effective solutions.

 

 

Modernizing the Medicaid enterprise: State CIOs and the MITA framework

Guest blog by Chad Grant, senior policy analyst, National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO):
 
This is an unprecedented time for health IT in state agencies. Each stakeholder that comprises the health care system is trying to achieve lower costs, better health outcomes, and build trust within the numerous systems that relay a growing amount of personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI). Currently, states have a golden opportunity for Medicaid IT transformation because of enhanced funding opportunities set forth by CMS. States should be mindful of maximizing the value of tax-payer dollars and consider how an enterprise approach to Medicaid IT can embrace the principles of being strong stewards of fiscal sustainability and break down existing silos.
 
In response to the CMS release of MITA 3.0, the NASCIO Health Care Working Group has formulated guidance for states as they navigate Medicaid IT transformation. NASCIO continues to be an advocate for enterprise solutions and views the MITA framework as a way state CIOs can decouple legacy systems and increase information sharing across state agency silos. State CIOs grasp the importance of modernizing the Medicaid enterprise in a way that is flexible, interoperable, and takes into consideration emerging technologies like cloud computing. In addition to emphasizing conformity to the MITA vision, the brief calls attention to emerging security threats in states and the resources available for state planning. To view a copy of the brief, “A Golden Opportunity for Medicaid IT Transformation: State CIOs and the MITA Framework,” please click here.
 
Deltek’s Take:
 
Since 1965, the Medicaid program has been an ever-changing system influenced by state and federal actions, legislative initiatives, and increasing technological advances. Though states had state-of-the-art Medicaid management information systems (MMIS) just a few years ago, they are now burdened by legacy components and struggling to keep up with recent mandates to integrate with health insurance exchanges (HIX) and health information exchanges (HIE). In November 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the long-awaited draft of the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) 3.0 document. The MITA initiative was first introduced back in March 2006, with the goal of establishing national guidelines for processes and technologies to improve state administration of Medicaid programs.
 
Non-Medicaid vendors cannot afford to turn a blind eye on the MITA initiative, as many in the human services arena are eyeing the framework for their respective systems. States and vendors need to embrace MITA and every future version that follows as roadmaps are updated to adopt new and improved guidelines. Software solution vendors in the health care and human services space will need to incorporate MITA standards and ideals into their products if they intend to win government business now and in the future.
 
Thank you to Chad Grant of NASCIO for his blog contribution.
 
Interested in guest blogging for Deltek’s health care and social services team? Send an email to teamhhs@deltek.com for more information! Be sure to follow Deltek’s Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS  and LinkedIn!

Kratos Defense & Security: A Mid-Tier ISR Firm Making Big Acquisitions In Hot Markets

With the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and cybersecurity markets poised to receive federal funding increases over the next several years, the small- and mid-tier providers of these unique technologies are at the forefront of exciting changes taking place within the evolving federal landscape.
With this in mind, FIA is always monitoring these changes, and I personally have an interest in what’s going on in the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) market surrounding these hot sectors.
Within these markets, one company which has been making noticeable moves over the past year is Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc., a mid-tier defense contractor which has been acquiring other mid-tiers to expand its addressable markets in the areas of ISR and cybersecurity. Over the past year, Kratos has been among the most active mid-tier acquirers in the federal M&A market, snapping up small-and mid-tier players in hot markets to expand its list of offerings.
Based in San Diego, Kratos is a specialized national security technology firm providing mission critical products, services and solutions for U.S. national security priorities. Its core capabilities include sophisticated engineering, manufacturing, system integration and test and evaluation offerings for national security platforms and programs. The company’s principal products and services are related to the growing C5ISR market.
FIA Perspective:
Kratos targets ISR and cyber firms in year-long shopping spree. Over the past year or so, Kratos has made five acquisitions in an effort to expand its portfolio, with a particular emphasis on firms providing ISR and cyber capabilities. Overall, M&A activity in the ISR and cyber markets has been active this year, and we expect this trend to continue as top-tier defense contractors continue to seek out small- and mid-tier firms providing unique or niche technologies within these hot sectors.
Below, we highlight Kratos’ purchases over the past year, and detail how these acquisitions will boost the firm’s capabilities moving forward:
  • Earlier this month, Kratos said it would acquire drone maker Composite Engineering Inc. for $155 million. California-based CEI makes aerial target drone systems and composite structures primarily for U.S. defense agencies. In 2011, CEI booked revenue of $94 million, and the firm has a backlog of about $160 million, with a qualified bid pipeline of over $1 billion.
  • In December 2011, Kratos also acquired selected assets of a critical infrastructure security and public safety system integration business for $20 million. The critical infrastructure business designs, engineers, manages and maintains specialty security systems at some of the most strategic and critical infrastructure locations in the U.S.
  • In November 2011, Kratos purchased SecureInfo Corp., which offers strategic advisory, operational cybersecurity and cybersecurity risk management services, for $20.3 million cash. SecureInfo is a leader in the rapidly evolving fields of cloud security, continuous monitoring and cybersecurity training. Customers include the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and large commercial customers.
  • In July 2011, Kratos acquired Integral Systems Inc. in a transaction valued at $241 million. Integral specializes in developing, managing and operating secure communications networks, both satellite and terrestrial, as well as systems and services to detect, characterize and geolocate sources of radio frequency interference. Integral’s customers include U.S. and foreign commercial, government, military and intelligence organizations.
  • In March 2011, Kratos also purchased Herley Industries Inc. for $272.5 million. Herley’s products represent key components in national security efforts, as they are employed in mission-critical electronic warfare, electronic attack, electronic warfare threat and radar simulation, command and control network, and cyber warfare/cybersecurity applications.
Overall, we believe Kratos sees the significant potential in the ISR and cyber markets, and is enhancing its portfolio to win market share within these high-growth segments. We believe the above acquisitions exhibit Kratos’ strong push into these markets, and will allow the firm to better compete with larger and more-established contractors going forward.
Kratos reports solid top-line results in 1Q. In the latest first quarter, Kratos saw it revenues jump 75% to $215 million, compared with $122.8 million in last year’s comparable quarter, reflecting the recent acquisitions of SecureInfo, Integral and Herley (which had combined revenues of $100.5 million).
At the same time, Kratos posted a net loss of $3 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $3.5 million, or 17 cents per share, in the 2011 first quarter. At the end of the latest quarter, Kratos' had a total backlog of $1.1 billion, and a qualified bid and proposal pipeline of around $4 billion. Sales to the U.S. government accounted for 77% of the company’s total revenue in the latest quarter.
Looking ahead, Kratos believes that spending on modernization and maintenance of defense, intelligence and homeland security assets will continue to be a national priority. It also noted that its business is “aligned with mission critical national security priorities, particularly in the areas of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), cybersecurity, ballistic missile defense, space programs and science and technology efforts,” where the proposed defense budget for fiscal 2013 has actually allocated increased funding.
Overall, we like that Kratos is being aggressive with its M&A strategy to broaden its client base and expand its offerings, but think the company may face difficulties in competing with larger, more well-established defense contractors. Within the federal market, we expect mid-tier contractors to face increasing challenges in winning new business, as more RFPs are calling for past performance metrics as prime contractors. This places mid-tiers conducting most of their work as subcontractors in a precarious bidding position versus their top-tier rivals, and will make it difficult for them to contend for prime opportunities versus these larger companies moving forward.    

 

Fast Forwarding HealthIT

With the exception of some grant funding and the EHR meaningful use incentive program, up until now the federal government has more or less relied on competition, market-based activities, and industry de facto standards for the evolution of health information technologies. However, two major recent actions of federal agencies will go a long way in speeding up and shaping the future of national health IT adoption and, most importantly, interoperability.
This week, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) asked for public feedback as it develops a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for governance of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) in anticipation of greater use of the NwHIN by hospitals, health care practitioners, and labs, rather than just federal agencies and their health care contractors, such as Kaiser Permanents. 
ONC is asking for the public’s opinion on what voluntary “conditions for trusted exchange” should be to validate electronic health information exchanges. Having these voluntary agreed to conditions would give HIEs higher confidence that those they are exchanging data with are trusted entities, per certain criteria, such as use of technical standards and implementation specifications. The public will have 30 days to offer its views.
Promoted by ONC, the NwHIN has evolved in an ad-hoc manner as agencies, such as VA, MHS, Social Security, negotiated one-off exchanges with one another and their industry health care provider partners and labs. Implementing greater governance to ensure secure exchange of health information over the Internet through the NwHIN will pave the way for greater adoption of electronic health records and much better coordination of care, which is intended to result in better health outcomes while at the same time driving down the cost of providing health care.
The other major happening is this week, in a contract notice for a data mapping project, the VA inadvertently disclosed that earlier this year the VA and DoD signed a contract to license the 3M Health Data Dictionary, not just for VA and DoD, but for healthcare providers worldwide. The dictionary contains 36 million clinical terms, concepts and definitions. Once the cat was out of the bag, 3M issued a press release just yesterday announcing the agreement makes the  “software and terminology content openly available to hospitals, health systems, physician practices, payers, vendors, and public health agencies worldwide.”

This is huge as one of the thorniest issues of electronic information exchange is not technical interoperability, but is semantic interoperability (agreement on common jargon,  which then enables interoperability). This is what the industry has been needing most and the fact that the agreement opens access to all health care entities worldwide is phenomenal. The dictionary will now become the de facto standard for semantic interoperability and, as a result, the exchange of health data should grow very rapidly

 

 

Illinois Struggles During Mental Health Month

If you missed it on your calendar this year, since 1949, the month of May has been recognized by Mental Health America as Mental Health Month. Last November, Deltek highlighted information found in a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) report regarding funding cuts to mental health services across the nation. Economic hardships, high unemployment rates, and an increased need for services have been met with shrinking state budgets, as 28 states have cut funding for mental health services from 2009-2012.
 
Illinois is just one of many states facing a major budget deficit. Although the state’s Department of Mental Health wants to implement an electronic health record (EHR) system for its nine state psychiatric hospitals, according to the FY 2012-2013 Division of Mental Health Block Grant Application, mental health/behavioral health is not currently eligible for money to support activities related to a health information exchange or to assist in developing electronic health records.
 
Illinois has no money available to assist in undertaking this project during this time of unprecedented cuts to the state’s mental health budget. The department has argued that behavioral health is being left in the dark in the health IT conversation, and as a result, there has been little opportunity to ensure mental health/behavioral health needs and requirements are addressed. In its recent mental health plan, the department said that this work is not being incorporated into health information exchange activities after many years of developing data standards, data definitions, and performance measures that could greatly support work in the HIT arena. If funding is not found for the hospital EHR project, mental health will not be able to participate in HIE activities.
 
Look for an upcoming analyst perspective on this topic and as always, be sure to follow Deltek’s Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter@GovWin_HHS andLinkedIn!

 

 

The CIO Authority Debate

Just how much control should federal CIOs have over department IT budgets, IT investment management, and IT acquisitions? With nearly $80 billion dollars at stake each year in federal IT spending, the roles and responsibilities of federal CIOs are critical in actively managing these investments. A recent DHS IG report brings this issue to the surface once again.
An audit released earlier this month by the DHS Office of Inspector General calls into question the current IT budget planning process and its lack of centralization. The report recommends that the DHS CIO be assigned centralized control of the department’s IT planning process in order to head off problems in component agency budgets.
 
However, in response to the audit, DHS Undersecretary Chris Cummiskey stated that the CIO already had the needed authority and is “firmly integrated with the processes for making budget, financial and program management decisions within the agency.”
 
Overall, the IG audit credits DHS with better management of its $6 billion IT portfolio over findings from the last audit conducted in 2008. DHS CIO Richard Spires, who became CIO in 2009, increased oversight and authority of DHS IT investments, reduced costs and duplication, and made progress toward data center consolidation.
 
Similar recommendations for increasing CIO power were suggested in January by the Defense Business Board to grant DoD CIO Terry Takai greater authority over CIOs in the military branches and DoD agencies, especially in the areas of data center consolidation and cloud computing.   The Pentagon advisory board’s report states, “The DoD CIO should have authority and backing from the deputy secretary to decide and enforce policies related to data center consolidation, cloud computing and the termination of information technology applications and legacy systems.” The board's report was given to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for consideration.
In September 2011, GAO made recommendations for strengthening the CIO role in its report entitled “Federal Chief Information Officers: Opportunities Exist to Improve Role in Information Technology Management.” GAO conducted a survey of 30 CIOs, convened a panel of former CIOs, interviewed current CIOs, and held discussions with OMB’s federal CIO. 
GAO concluded that current federal law provides CIOs with adequate authority to manage IT for their agencies, but they could be further aided by clearer authority over IT acquisitions and personnel. For example, two-thirds of CIOs indicated that their explicit approval for IT investments was either not required or it was only required for major IT investments. Additionally, only 57% of CIOs surveyed had the ability to cancel funding for IT investments. 
OMB has taken steps to increase CIOs’ effectiveness, but it has not established measures of accountability to ensure that responsibilities are fully implemented. GAO believes more consistent implementation of CIOs’ authority could enhance their effectiveness. GAO recommended that OMB update its guidance to establish measures of accountability for ensuring that CIOs’ responsibilities are fully implemented and to require agencies to establish internal processes for documenting lessons learned.   GAO’s study indicated that OMB largely agreed with their findings and they have taken actions to address GAO’s recommendations.

As the CIO role continues to evolve, expect slight differences in authority, budget control, and reporting structure between CIOs in various departments and agencies. CIOs’ inconsistent authority over all levels of IT budgets and program oversight may provide opportunities for contractor entrance into agencies at lower levels of IT management, depending on the agency.   But watch for future OMB guidance, that will continue to shift this authority to the CIO.

 

 

Arizona 2013 budget: New initiatives, modernization and legacy upgrades dominate IT landscape

On April 27, 2012, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced a deal with state Republicans on a budget that will fund the state government through FY2014. The agreement closes a $300 million gap between the governor’s recommendations and the preferred budget of the legislature, helping to balance the state’s books until FY 2015.

Budget Overview

Figure 1: Arizona Vertical Budget Comparison FY 2011 to 2013

Click on image above for full-sized version
Total all-funds expenditures for the new year total around $34.96 billion, a 2.5 percent increase in overall spending from FY 2012. Department spending in the health care, higher education, general government, public finance, and natural resources/environment verticals all increased significantly, while the homeland security and community development verticals were down noticeably from last year (see Figure 1, above). After significant wrangling with the legislature, the governor’s office was able to hold the line on education and obtain an additional $445 million in health care spending. Additionally, state Republicans were able to secure nearly $450 million for a “rainy-day” fund to address a potential budget shortfall looming two years down the road.
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System was among the largest departmental increases year over year, largely on the back of a nearly one-half billion dollar increase for baseline caseload and inflation from FY 2012. A large portion of that increase is due to the state returning to previous spending levels after program freezes and cuts as a result of last year’s Medicaid Reform Plan, as well as expectations of increased caseload volume over the next two years. The State Department of Financial Institutions received a $255 million boost in funding from last year’s budget. Higher education (the combined funding totals for Arizona’s state universities, community colleges and higher education-related boards) saw an increase of nearly $275 million from FY 2012.
Notable departmental decreases include $500 million in cuts for the Department of Economic Security, $55 million in cuts for both the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and the Department of Housing, and $23 million in cuts to the Office of the Governor (see Figure 2, below). 
Figure 2: Arizona Vertical Budgets FY 2011 to 2013

Click on the image above for the full-sized version.
 
To read the full version of this budget analysis, including IT spending and major IT initatives for 2013, click here (subscription required).

 

LA-RICS update

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 reallocated the D Block and $7 billion in funding for the 700 MHz public safety broadband network. However, in return, public safety agencies have to vacate the T-band spectrum within nine years. This new law comes amid the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System’s (LA-RICS) evaluation of proposals for vendors to design and implement an interoperable communications network within the T-band. 
 
In response to the changes to the T-band, the LA-RICS Joint Powers Authority (JPA) hired Jacobs Project Management Company to conduct of feasibility analysis of multiple options. The first option examined was to continue with T-band deployment now and possibly migrate to another band in the next five to nine years. The second option looked at immediately implementing a 700/800 MHz Phase 2 system instead of a T-band system. The third option examined an alternate 700/800 MHz system.
 
Jacobs’ analysis estimates it would cost $208 million to implement the T-band and meet all of the requirements in the LA-RICS telecommunication systems request for proposals (RFP). It was found that a 700/800 MHz system using Phase 1 or Phase 2 technologies would not meet the RFP requirements because of the lack of channels. Using long-term evolution (LTE) for the narrowband mobile network could possibly free up enough channels for a 700/800 MHz Phase 2 system to be viable.
 
Analyst’s Take
 
Continuing on the current T-band path may be the most realistic way for LA-RICS to proceed considering the T-band system is the only option that could effectively meet the RFP requirements. According to Jacobs’ analysis, using LTE could help a 700/800 MHz Phase 2 system work; however, LTE is still in its infancy for public safety and could be better utilized down the road when the T-band system needs to migrate. LA-RICS has already had its share of problems and criticism, so success this time around is all the more crucial. In short, a T-band system is the safest bet in the near term.

Does Leveraging Big Data Depend on Agency Cloud Readiness?

Big Data technology is coming faster than federal employees and technology infrastructures are prepared to handle. Could agencies that are ‘cloud ready’ first be early adopters of the advanced data analytics and storage capabilities that are required to leverage Big Data?
Three years ago the emerging technology market in the forefront of the hype-cycle was cloud computing. Today the market in that spotlight is “Big Data,” a term used to describe the exploding volume of data that is burying federal agencies on a daily basis. Big Data is symptomatic of the success of information technology. IT was supposed to make tasks simpler, transactions easier, and communication more convenient. It did all of those things, but in doing so it also left behind artifacts - the records of those transactions, interactions, and messages. Commercial enterprises have discovered value in stepping back and looking at the collections of the accumulated data stored on their servers. This data tells them what their customers have bought, what they looked at, where their preferences lie, and what they might buy again, should a targeted marketing campaign reach them at an opportune time.
Federal agencies are also finding uses for the data they accumulate. This is helping them understand how better to serve citizens and how to carry out their mission goals more effectively. Agencies already awash in data see the benefit of analyzing it. What they have greater difficulty understanding is how to go about analyzing it efficiently and how to use that analysis to support better decision making. Serendipitously, perhaps, the answer to the data analysis efficiency conundrum may lay in cloud computing. The extent to which an agency is ‘cloud ready’ will likely bear directly on the degree to which that agency will be an early adopter of the advanced data analytics and storage capabilities that are required to leverage Big Data. A ‘cloud ready’ agency possesses an integrated IT infrastructure based on a standardized, service-oriented architecture that resides in a highly virtualized enterprise data center. The data center can be either proprietary or vendor-hosted. In turn, this data center contains significant storage space (preferably based on the latest available technology) that can be expanded as required and against which analytical queries can be made with relative ease.
What I’ve just described is simple enough to write about. Creating all of the pieces and fitting them together into a coherent environment is the problem that all agencies are currently struggling with. Those that achieve success earliest are the agencies that will be best prepared to consume the Big Data solutions vendors are lining up to sell them. Those that lag behind will find themselves unable to use Big Data solutions efficiently without making a significant financial investment.
To some extent, it was probably an awareness of the inability of agencies and departments to use Big Data solutions efficiently that informed the “Big Data Initiative” announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the end of March. The OSTP recognizes correctly, I believe, that it is easiest in the near-term to leverage Big Data solutions for research purposes. Not only has the technology framework been created (e.g., supercomputing), the network of ready users exists to analyze the results of the data. Here again we see a parallel with cloud computing, which was also adopted earliest by the federal government for scientific purposes.
The OSTP is clearly front-running the adoption curve of this technology. In doing so they are trying to bring it into government data centers as rapidly as possible. However, given the government’s current ‘preoccupation’ (i.e., struggle) with cloud computing, the Big Data Initiative might be coming faster than federal employees and technology infrastructures are prepared to handle. I suspect, therefore, that the growth of the Big Data market in the federal government will be quite slow for the next 5-10 years. We should expect to see a considerable amount of market research concerning Big Data as government learns about the technology and its application, but I’d be willing to consider that the overall value of the federal Big Data market does not approach $500 million before 2020. The transition to cloud computing is a muddled, helter-skelter affair so far, filled with multiple adoption paths, service delivery models, and deployment types. Until 2015-2017 most agencies will be consumed with data center consolidation and with creating their preferred cloud environment. It is only after this that they will be able to approach Big Data with any semblance of confidence. 
Readers curious about which of the largest agencies is approaching ‘cloud readiness’ the fastest might want to take a look at FIA’s recently published Federal Cloud Computing Services Outlook, 2012-2017 for a comparative analysis. I suspect those agencies closest to the ‘advanced’ side of the cloud readiness spectrum will be the organizations that can leverage Big Data solutions the earliest over the next 5-10 years.

 

 

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