Agencies have deadline to name services destined for Web

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, December 13, 2010

Federal agencies must identify within three months three services they intend to shift to Web-based computing under the Obama administration's new "cloud-first" policy, Office of Management and Budget officials said Thursday.

The requirement is part of a 25-point implementation plan released by U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra last week in an effort to improve the way the government buys IT products and services.

The plan sets out detailed objectives over the next 18 months meant to help agencies better manage their programs and improve collaboration with industry, along with achieving other goals.

Among the most prominent requirements of the plan is a focus on getting three "must-move" services into the cloud -- or using Web-based computing -- within 18 months. At least one of these must be in place within a year, according to the plan.

Additionally, the strategy restricts agencies from approving funding for major IT programs unless they have a dedicated program manager, use specialized IT acquisition professionals and adopt a modular approach, meaning parts of the system will be delivered every six months.

Kundra said the government is setting up an online, interactive way for agencies and industry to collaborate before a solicitation is released. Too often, he said, contracting officials are scared they might violate acquisition regulations by working with industry. Daniel I. Gordon, administrator of the OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said his office is launching a "myth-buster" campaign to disabuse the acquisition workforce of confusion on the rules related to industry interaction.

"We have got to have our people be comfortable using authorities they already have to meet with industry," said Gordon at a meeting on the implementation plan attended by industry representatives and federal chief information officers last week.

The new plan follows the government's decision to reevaluate some of its most troubled IT projects. Of 38 projects reviewed, four have been canceled. The OMB reduced the scope of another 11 and pushed forward the functional parts of 12 other systems.

To make these decisions, the agency relied on in-person sessions dubbed "TechStat" reviews to evaluate the programs. Now, Kundra said, TechStat sessions will be adopted by agencies to regularly check on the status of their own projects.

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