Cost challenges remain in modernization efforts, officials say

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The Federal Communications Commission is still working on the “cheaper” part of the equation in moving its systems to the cloud, an FCC official said Tuesday.

Defining “efficiency” when considering whether to move to a commercial cloud provider is about more than just money — officials need to weigh the cost of the migration with the value the changes provide to the end user and the new system’s security, John Skudlarek, the FCC’s deputy chief information officer said during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The discussion about cost comes at a time when lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced two separate bills — the IT Modernization Fund and the MOVE IT Act — in recent months.

[Read more: Hoyer: MOVE IT Act ‘falls short’ of what’s needed for federal IT]

Skudlarek discussed the commission’s goal to be 100 percent public cloud, outlining recent FCC work to move its public comment system and public information files to the cloud.

[Read more: FCC’s new comment system upgrades legacy program]

“At the end of the day, anything I’m talking about here is not technology for the sake of technology — it’s technology to support business and mission needs,” Skudlarek said. “We’re still working out the cheaper part. But we’re also much more secure.”

Figuring out the best way to budget is not easy, Skudlarek noted. He added that the FCC has received money for modernization efforts, though it was not as much as it would have hoped.

Funding is still an issue, he said, in part because there is a transition period.

“It is still a complex environment to work in, to try to understand what do my [service-level agreements] look like,” he said. “At what point do I achieve economies of scale, and when is it better to go with an enterprise license?”

While modernization efforts have made his agency’s systems more secure, he said, FCC wants “to be able to do more for less, and in this fiscal environment it’s imperative.”

“Even for the really smart people that want to get in front of this and manage it correctly and do a good job, there really isn’t a playbook, and there’s no straight-line journey,” Skudlarek said.

For the Marine Corps, the trick is balancing funding pressure with accessibility and security needs, said Daniel Corbin, the Marine Corps’ chief technology advisor who also spoke during the event.

“There’s always the desire to save money to be more efficient,” Corbin said. “But we’ve made it very clear that it’s not everything about efficiency. We have to be effective as well.”

Pentagon CIO Terry Halvorsen has said the Defense Department is still developing its cloud strategy, and expects to make a big announcement related to cloud later this summer.

[Read more: Halvorsen makes Silicon Valley trip with NATO, allied CIOs]

“There’s probably lots of savings to be had, or at least advertised to be had, if you moved into a cloud commercial provider,” Corbin said, noting that the Marine Corps needs to consider data accessibility for its warfighters.

As the government looks to the future, Corbin said he thinks the administration’s goals of better efficiency and modernization will continue.

Skudlarek said the FFC’s momentum to modernize will continue despite cost challenges.

“I won’t pretend that anything we’ve done is easy, and I won’t even pretend it’s cheap,” Skudlarek said. “But I absolutely think it’s the right thing to do, and we aren’t going to put this genie back in the bottle.”

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Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, FCC, Modernization
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