IT Modernization, Management, and Cybersecurity Stressed at PSC's Tech Trends Conference

Published: October 04, 2017

CybersecurityInformation TechnologyIT ReformIT WorkforceShared Services

Federal technology leaders at several levels are focused on IT modernization, cybersecurity, shared services, and improved management and acquisition.

The recent 2017 Tech Trends Conference presented by the Professional Services Council (PSC) hosted several senior government officials who discussed many of the top IT issues facing the federal government. Some of the major topics addressed and comments made by presenters include the following:

Modernization of Federal IT

  • The challenge at hand is to build the tactics and incentives to enable IT modernization offer the long haul. It is analogous to a sustained foreign policy over many administrations and different parties. We need to think about IT modernization in human terms, i.e. improving the experience and outcomes for citizens. There is much consensus on the kind of culture and environment we are trying to create, technology-wise. Our focus is on creating a “generational arc” under which tech modernization can happen. – Matt Lira, Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy & Initiatives, White House Office of American Innovation
  • The process of modernizing and securing backend legacy systems is basically a triage process, and that takes time. Securing legacy systems is an issue. Plus, we do not want to build the legacy system of tomorrow. – Rob Cook, Deputy Commissioner and Director, Technology Transformation Service, General Services Administration (GSA)

Shared Services

  • One benefit to sharing is the access to other agencies’ cool technologies and the expertise that you would not have access to if you didn’t share, but sharing is hard and takes a shift in mindset and culture. The M-17-22 memo that directed agencies to identify duplication included language to drive growth of shared services. The keys to success are common standards, change management, and access to capital because the government doesn’t need to build every system but can use commercial offerings. – Beth Angerman, Executive Director, Unified Shared Services Management, GSA
  • HHS’s Reimagine initiative has a shared services component that we will be revealing soon. We need shared services and centers of excellence (COE) to drive savings and improve performance. – Chris Wlaschin, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Health and Human Services


  • In the aftermath of the OPM incident we have been identifying high value information assets and what critical functions the federal government does that if disrupted would cause real problems. We’re doing the same with critical infrastructure. As a result, there is a lot more resilience across both sectors and a lot more information available. The recent WanaCry attack was an example of good collaboration among private and public sectors as well as international partners. By mid-afternoon they were on collaboration calls with dozens of partners sharing info on what they were seeing. So the apparatus is in place all the way down to local entities. Further, we’re working with the SBA to further improve support for small businesses in such cases. – Jeanette Manfra, Assistant Secretary, Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • HHS is standing up a Healthcare Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (HCCIC) to ingest cyber threat indicators and act upon them. The large healthcare firms have cybersecurity staff and capabilities, but the smaller providers and doctor’s offices need support, which will be the focus of the HCCIC. – Chris Wlaschin, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Health and Human Services

IT Acquisition and Management

  • We need to do a “spring cleaning” to clear out-of-date regulations, etc. that are in the way of effective modernization. We need to identify the policies and regulations that no longer make sense. Some of that will be regulatory and others will be statutory and we will work with all sides of the aisle on this. – Matt Lira, Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy & Initiatives, White House Office of American Innovation
  • There are several ways we can improve federal IT. We should further step back from the assumption that the government knows everything and look to expertise in industry and academia and increase collaboration. We should look to change the current 1-year appropriations mindset, because with budget impasses and continuing resolutions it’s actually only an 8-month cycle. We want to support implementation of FITARA provisions to empower the agency CIO to manage their IT. – Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Chairman, Subcommittee on Information Technology, U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

A major theme across each of these areas was the challenge of hiring, equipping, and retaining a qualified IT personnel and building the IT workforce of the future – all of which touches on existing hiring and training processes as well as greater opportunities for collaboration and partnerships across the public and private sectors.