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It’s the end of the calendar year, which means recaps, listicles, and predictions dominate headlines. While 2018 was a solid year in government IT modernization—with policy, legislation, and support from the White House moving at the speed of technology—much more work needs to be done in the areas of federal IT procurement and oversight, cybersecurity, cloud, and the workforce. That being said, here are three top-line items that will permeate federal IT news throughout 2019.

  1. The evolving role of the Federal CIO, esp. in IT acquisitions and oversight: In May 2018, the President’s Executive Order 13833, Enhancing the Effectiveness of Agency Chief Information Officers, underscored, in large part, the longstanding issues Federal CIOs face when it comes to visibility and control over their agency’s IT investments.

Despite years of legislation, guidelines, and recommendations on the subject, GAO reported in January 2018 that CIOs at 22 selected agencies “were not adequately involved in reviewing billions of dollars of IT acquisitions. Further, only 11 of 96 randomly selected IT contracts at 10 agencies that we evaluated were CIO reviewed and approved as required by OMB’s guidance. The 85 contracts not reviewed had a total possible value of approximately $23.8 billion.”

The issue of CIO oversight over the IT acquisitions process will bleed into 2019. Guidance will become more prescriptive and direct, with clear-cut definitions of CIO roles, responsibilities, and authority when it comes to IT spend. However, without proper executive-level oversight and governance moving forward, many IT contracts will render themselves duplicative, wasteful, or poorly executed in 2019.

2. Updated policies and guidance re: data center closures and cloud: As the world turns and previous iterations of the Data Center Optimization Initiative and Cloud-First (now Cloud Smart) strategy evolve, so will the guiding forces’ take on what the future of Federal cloud looks and feels like. Updated DCOI guidance issued by OMB in November 2018 reflects a better understanding of the intersection of federal data centers and public clouds, and how both play roles in achieving many of the cost savings and performance goals outlined within the original DCOI. Today, OMB acknowledges the importance of virtualization and automation in the data center, stating “virtualization of Federal systems as critical for IT modernization efforts, to drive efficiency and application portability.”

In 2019, look for federal agencies to universally disband the “either/or” notion of private vs. public cloud as in years past, and instead focus on building a foundation for best-in-class hybrid cloud services based on mission needs, application requirements, and data sensitivity. Leveraging a virtualized foundation in the data center and expanding into public cloud as needed gives agencies the sovereignty, flexibility, and portability to achieve IT and service-level priorities without compromising security, budget, or risk.

3. Modernizing the network: The issue of federal cybersecurity is complicated at best and irreparable at worst. More IT resources are available off premises than ever before, and applications, data, and devices are becoming more distributed across data center, cloud, and edge infrastructure. Inconsistent networking policies, complex security management and operations, lack of visibility and context of network traffic, and difficulty achieving and demonstrating compliance are just some of the hurdles IT faces on a daily basis.

Today’s hyperconnected, hyper-distributed world requires a modern update to the traditional, hardware-based network. When cybersecurity remains the hottest topic in IT, agencies must update networking models with applications and data in mind. A network delivered in software enables end-to-end connectivity and policy-based security direct from the hypervisor, giving agencies full visibility into all components of the infrastructure across clouds, virtual, and physical environments, including end-user permissions, automated detection and response, and data encryption at rest and in motion.

Cheers to more progress and prosperity on the IT front in 2019.