US federal agencies to upgrade cybersecurity and data capabilities as part of government-wide IT plan

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A New Digital Government Framework, Produced by OMB, Sets Out Its Plan to Update the Federal State’s Digital Infrastructure and Create Better Customer Experiences

The Biden administration is to focus on improving cybersecurity and data analytics capabilities across the federal government as part of an IT modernization plan released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). ).

The framework sets out the government’s aspirations to more fully embrace digital technologies and improve the customer experience, and to leverage data for strategic purposes while protecting it from cyberattacks.

Clare Martorana, OMB’s federal chief information officer, said the federal government was “at a unique time to drive digital transformation,” after receiving $1.35 billion in IT modernization funding from the through the American rescue plan (ARP). The ARP is the nation’s US$1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus package.

“We recognize the significant investment that Congress has made in securing and modernizing federal computing and have assembled this plan to outline how we ensure the wise investment of every dollar that Congress has entrusted to us toward its most efficient use. highest – creating the most impact for the American people,” Martorana said.

Read more: Biden signs executive order to bolster US cybersecurity

According to the framework report, the OMB’s goal is to “maximize the impact” of three funds tasked with supporting the agency’s IT upgrades. These include the Information Technology Oversight and Reform Account (ITOR), a fund focused on government efficiency, effectiveness and security; the Federal Citizen Services Fund (FCSF), which supports public engagement with the federal government through various intergovernmental programs; and the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), which allows agencies to access capital.

OMB said it would dedicate the $200 million currently held by the ITOR account to hiring technical experts to lead IT modernization projects across all departments. Meanwhile, the General Services Administration is expected to channel $150 million from the FCSF to improve the customer experience of agencies considered high-impact service providers.

Under the TMF, to which US$1 billion has been allocated through the ARP, work will be undertaken to identify and leverage new shared services opportunities across the federal government. According to the report, in the past month, the TMF board received more than 130 proposals requesting more than $2.5 billion from more than 60 federal agencies and constituents.

Attack and Defense

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on strengthening cybersecurity in May last year. It contained a series of measures aimed at strengthening the national IT infrastructure, including a joint public-private group that will examine hacking incidents.

The order follows a number of cyberattacks last year that aimed to manipulate weaknesses in the cybersecurity systems of critical private sector service providers. An attack struck days before the order was signed, forcing America’s largest pipeline system for refined petroleum products, Colonial Pipeline, to shut down its mainline for five days.

Upcoming Webinar: Adapting to Heightened Risks: Cybersecurity and Data Security in an Age of Uncertainty

During a press briefing on the executive order, a senior administration official blamed a “laisser-faire attitude toward cybersecurity” and “poor software security” for the incidents, which also included attacks on SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange.

The government was criticized at the time for its frequent use of vulnerable software in some of its most critical systems and infrastructure.

The new framework lists four priority areas in which federal agencies will need to meet the requirements of Biden’s executive order. These include the use of the “Zero Trust” architecture, which only grants access to data through a series of authentication controls based on access policy. Others include adapting services to modern customer expectations, tracking the evolution of IT, and leveraging data to inform government operations.

In addition to improving cybersecurity, the framework indicated that it was essential to offer better customer service. He said the American public is increasingly used to “well-designed interactions” with consumer products and services that are “easy and intuitive.” He added that the public “rightly wants, expects and deserves the same experience when interacting with government”.

“By uniting behind an IT operating plan — enabled by a business view — we can see what works, close technology talent gaps, and help agencies course-correct, all while adopting ways to innovative ways of working and integrating modern service delivery into the public’s daily interactions with government,” he said.

Read more: US Agencies Failing to Manage Cyber ​​Risks, GAO Report Says

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