Beebe: Cloud services will force acquisition reform

Tools

"Cloud first" cannot reach its full potential without changes to federal acquisition policies, said Hank Beebe, chief information officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

"[Cloud computing is] going to force, in my opinion, that acquisition reform around this piece needs to happen. Otherwise it can't happen," said Beebe March 23 at an AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va.

"[The] Defense Science Board study was 5 years ago; I don't know how many acquisition reform studies there are that say 'get IT off of the weapons system model.' How many have been implemented? I think the number is zero," said Beebe.

Agencies looking to take advantage of services running in the cloud find the federal acquisition process prohibitive, because most do not have a working capital fund to quickly adopt cloud services, he said.

"There are lots of things that we have yet to overcome in the bureaucracy to move to the cloud," said Beebe.

Many agencies decided to consolidate data centers, virtualize and move systems to the cloud before Office of Management and Budget mandates were issued, and they're already benefitting from increased speed, said Beebe. At one unnamed agency, it used to take 61 days for a program manager to get a set of servers provisioned--now it happens in just 24 minutes, he said.

"If I have agency A running 'the cloud' and agency B wants to use storage or compute or whatever, how do they pay for it?" said Beebe. "How do I move the money from Agency B to Agency A for the service I [acquired in just] 24 minutes? We don't have answers to those questions. We need answers to those questions."

Lynn Schnurr, Army Intelligence chief information officer for the deputy chief of staff, said she's looking to improve "intel and ops convergence" but very often these programs are paid for through different budget lines.

"So, if we're looking at procuring a cloud node that we want to have intel capability and operational capability, everybody's wringing their hands trying to figure [it] out," said Schnurr. "These are some of the things that sound simplistic but they really have the financial people trying to figure out what the policy is."

If the procurement processes gets up to speed, cloud computing will enable more agile acquisition, said Grant Schneider, chief information officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency. It will allow agencies to build core enterprise systems that other programs will layer on top of, he said.

"In the future we shouldn't need to provision a new server in order to be able to deliver the capability. It should just ride on something that was already there," said Schneider.

This means good planning decisions up front will be critical to building systems that are interoperable across all environments, said Schneider. Interoperability means that DoD and intelligence community components are working together to set standards in three areas: identity and access management, data tagging and auditability to protect against insider threats.

"When we do not have a common solution for [authorization methods] it makes it very difficult for us to implement all the way from the strategic user down to the tactical level," said Schnurr.

For more:
- listen to a recording of the event

Related Articles:
Data security key for cloud environment, says NSA official
Responsibility for FedRAMP security controls will vary
Survey: Federal IT skeptical of cloud computing benefits