US federal government digital government agenda takes shape

As a number of key federal CIOs step down, President Biden’s team is set to reshape the federal IT landscape with new hires, and new areas of focus.

It was under President Obama that the US took a leap forward with digital government by copying the UK’s GDS wholesale with the creation of the US Digital Service, and the digital services agency 18F. It’s easy to see the influence of executives from this period in the administration’s funding and service priorities.

President+BidenAmong these is an allocation of US$200 million (£146 million) for the Information Technology Oversight and Reform (ITOR) fund to bring in hundreds of personnel in to the US Digital Service. Their focus: to deliver on calls to develop "innovative” services with the greatest “impact”.

This will go some way to lure in big name hires from the technology world, to replace outgoing CIOs from the Defence Department, Transportation, Homeland Security, Veteran Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development.

This is dwarfed by plans for an eye-watering US$9 billion (£6.5 billion) investment into the Technology Modernisation Fund (TMF), to complete IT modernisation projects at federal agencies, and beef-up security in the wake of December’s SolarWind’s hack.

According to a statement by the administration:

“In addition to addressing the public health and economic crises head on, the President’s plan will provide emergency funding to upgrade federal information technology infrastructure and address the recent breaches of federal government data systems. This is an urgent national security issue that cannot wait.”

That shopping list in full:

The recent cybersecurity breaches of federal government data systems underscore the importance and urgency of strengthening US cybersecurity capabilities. President Biden is calling on Congress to launch the most ambitious effort ever to modernise and secure federal IT and networks. To remediate the SolarWinds breach and boost US defences, the administration wants to:

  • Expand and improve the Technology Modernisation Fund. A US$9 billion investment will help the US launch major new IT and cybersecurity shared services at the Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration and complete modernisation projects at federal agencies. In addition, the President is calling on Congress to change the fund's reimbursement structure in order to fund more innovative and impactful projects.

  • Surge cybersecurity technology and engineering expert hiring. Providing the Information Technology Oversight and Reform fund with US$200 million will allow for the rapid hiring of hundreds of experts to support the federal Chief Information Security Officer and U.S. Digital Service. 

  • Build shared, secure services to drive transformational projects. Investing US$300 million (£220 million) in no-year funding for Technology Transformation Services in the General Services Administration will drive secure IT projects forward without the need of reimbursement from agencies. 

  • Improving security monitoring and incident response activities. An additional US$690 million (£500 million) for CISA will bolster cybersecurity across federal civilian networks, and support the piloting of new shared security and cloud computing services.

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