Sequestration has had a number of negative impacts on federal agencies. We’ve all heard about furloughs and personnel cuts, but what about the pressures that technology leaders are facing within government agencies? Agency CIOs and CTOs were under pressure to do more with less even before the sequester, so how will they meet the increasingly onerous security and mobility requirements of an on-demand government with even fewer resources?
At a recent Executive Leadership Forum, hosted by immixGroup, a select group of agency technology leaders came together to discuss trends in technology, specifically as they look to consolidate and secure data while moving to the cloud.
After only four months in his position, Kirit Amin, Deputy CIO and CTO at the Department of Commerce, realizes that the challenges aren’t that different between agencies. Along with the Department of Homeland Security, Amin believes Commerce is one of the most diverse and complex agencies with its many bureaus and multiple IT systems. But in fact, it is not the technology that is the challenge. Amin says, “That’s the easy part. It is the other aspects that make the decisions hard.” For example, most of the challenges are spurred by political and financial decisions, along with the drive to meet new mandates.
While Commerce will get through the impact of sequestration “without much immediate impact” says Amin, he reminds everyone that sequestration is not a one-time issue. He argues “if sequestration is here to stay, some sacrifices and delays have to be made.”
Not being able to hire new talent is one of these sacrifices. Amin said he often feels like he is “shooting [him]self in the foot because, on one hand, I don’t have enough qualified personnel, but I don’t have much of a choice either; we need to delay it in order to decrease expenses.” The Department is also delaying a hardware refresh to address sequestration’s immediate impacts. Yet there are other areas where Commerce is pushing forward with new projects that will increase efficiencies and demonstrate savings despite sequestration.
According to Amin, Commerce is forging ahead with the implementation of enterprise-wide webhosting and will also be implementing email in the cloud across the agency prior to FY14. Similarly, Commerce is consolidating redundancy in its current data centers and has built a new, state-of-the-art data center, as part of the infrastructure modernization project at its headquarters.
While the Obama Administration’s budget proposals for 2014-2015 look promising for the Department of Commerce in terms of a significant increase in IT spending for key agencies, Amin believes that, overall, “cuts are here to stay.” However, he does not necessarily see this as hampering the agency’s success; instead it will drive him to find smarter solutions and embrace collaboration on initiatives internally, between agencies, and within the private sector.