Beyond modernization: What’s next for federal IT in 2018?

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With the New Year here, the federal IT community is trying to anticipate what’s going to come next. While IT modernization will remain the focal point in 2018, there’s a lot more than that going on within the federal government.

To ensure the next 12 months are truly a tipping point for the much-needed, long-awaited digital transformation of federal IT, there are three key trends that industry and government alike must be prepared for.

Incorporation of multimodal touchless biometrics

According to a recent study, the market for biometric authentication systems is projected to grow at a rate of around 14 percent till 2020. In addition, the same study shared that the biometrics market is expected to reach $21 billion by 2020.

Agencies such as DHS, FBI, and the DOD as a whole are already using biometrics in a variety of ways. They’ve seen results such as being able to protect the identities of individuals, organizations, and other entities in both the physical and digital worlds; provide and manage access; and target adversaries.

Last year, a similar study detailed the emergence of touchless sensing technology as part of the boom of the biometrics market, and we expect this area of biometrics to continue its momentous growth in 2018.

Multimodal touchless biometrics is the usage of multiple biometric indicators by personal identification systems for identifying the individuals. Multimodal authentication provides deeper and more accurate security measures to better protect information, such as a person’s identity, which is pivotal as threats are increasing every single day.

A great example of this is the explosion of iris recognition technology. This technology is expected to increase in valuation in the coming years on a global scale, specifically within military and defense, government, banking and finance, and healthcare. With technology like this working in tandem and growing at an equally rapid rate with fingerprint or facial scanning, both of which are already prominent in many agencies, we can expect an expanded conversation on the biometrics front this year.

With more technology of this nature, though, we’re going to need more people in the federal government equipped with the niche knowledge in how to leverage multimodal biometrics programs effectively.

Increased use of government contractors

With nearly a third of federal employees being retirement-eligible and yet only 28 percent of the current workforce being under 40 years old, the federal government’s workforce gap is only going to get larger in 2018. The incorporation of nuanced technology and the expansion of certain projects and programs will remain understaffed if we don’t change something quickly in the coming year.

If we can look to our deep pool of respected government contractors, we may be able to begin closing the workforce gap a bit. According to Brookings, the best estimate of the number of for-profit contractors in the federal government is 7.5 million, as of 2013. This is about 2.5 million more contractors than during the Eisenhower administration, a popular benchmark for looking at the size of our government workforce.

Comparatively, the federal workforce has stayed at approximately the same size for the past 57 years. The sheer number of contractors the federal government could— and should– rely on is massive.

The use of government contractors allows for an agility and efficiency that isn’t typically possible with federal employees.  Contractors provide much needed specialized skills in rapidly evolving technical areas – that are difficult to recruit and retain in a competitive labor market.

Additionally, contractors provide flexibility to allow for the right level of effort needed throughout a program’s lifecycle and possible funding ebb and flows. It’s next to impossible for the government to surge and reduce workforce as needed.

In 2018, we will need to depend on these individuals more if we expect to maintain an efficient workforce and make progress towards the future of our nation.

The adoption of automation

This year we can expect that implementing automation will increase across the federal IT space. No, this doesn’t mean robots will be replacing employees. It does mean, however, that we can use our current resources more effectively.

For example, the federal government’s budget is measured in the trillions and its impact on the economy is substantial with federal spending exceeding 2 percent of GDP. Despite the massive size of balancing a budget of this size, many agencies are still balancing their personal budgets on Excel spreadsheets.

Especially with the current discussion around the budget, agencies will need to work even harder to make sure their books are balanced. In order to maximize their ROI, agencies should embrace automated budget processing as a realistic way of beginning to modernize, as well as easing the burden on the current workforce.

With the click of a button, modern databases automatically compute line items of data, which enables budget professionals to focus their efforts on analyzing this content, rather than inserting it into a manual spreadsheet themselves, easing the burden on the current workforce.

While this would be a welcome improvement by many, it’s important to keep in mind that with more technology, we run into more opportunities for vulnerabilities.

As we launch into the New Year, the government must embrace new ways of thinking to be take full advantage of these technology advancements coming to federal IT.

Jon Hammock is CEO of KeyLogic Systems.

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automation, biometrics, contracting, IT Modernization, Modernization
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