OMB, Office of American Innovation on a 90-day sprint to develop new hiring, cloud policy ideas

The Office of Management and Budget is working with the White House’s Office of American Innovation on a 90-day sprint to develop a series of new work streams that cover everything from hiring new people and talent to developing citizen services.

It’s all part of the administration’s push to align funding, acquisition and talent to deliver and modernize federal IT, said Margie Graves, deputy federal chief information officer at OMB.

Much of this work coincides with the president’s government reorganization executive order and the administration’s push to eliminate burdensome requirements.

“There’s a significant coordination that we’re doing with the Office of American Innovation,” Graves said in a June 7 speech at the BMC Digital Enterprise Management Exchange in Washington. “We have Friday meeting every week, where we’re on a 90-day sprint to deliver several work streams.”

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Those work streams include initiatives on cyber and cloud security, citizen services and the mechanisms that support them, she said.

One team is exploring alternative architectures in delivering the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) requirement.

Graves said the team will offer a few different options and provide a recommendation to the administration within the 90-day sprint.

“Just the mere fact that we’re actually considering that this might be done differently is very heartening to those of us who have struggled with the actual implementations and adoption of cloud as it relates to the TIC,” she said.

The administration sees the TIC policy as one of the many regulations that “no longer work or are sending people in the wrong direction.” OMB and OAI are revisiting the policy as they review hundreds of other requirements as required by the president’s executive order requiring agencies to eliminate outdated regulations.

Some members of industry and agency chief information officers have criticized the requirement in the past.

State Department CIO Frontis Wiggins, for example, told Federal News Radio earlier this year that TIC requirements added another layer of complexity in the agency’s move to the cloud. He said State needs to be sure the email system will run, even if the link back to headquarters through the cloud goes down. He said because all traffic must go through a TIC, that makes cloud email more complex than normal.

Graves again recognized the challenges organizations have in implementing cloud services and complying with TIC requirement. In an OMB pilot program, teams are considering other approaches to shorten the authority to operate (ATO) life cycle and may potentially look at a “phased ATO” approach, she said.

Another team is providing recommendations to OMB and OAI on undoing the many challenges agencies face to quickly recruit and hire new talent.

“We’re working as many flexibilities as we have today, including direct-hire and cyber hire capabilit[ies] [and] flexible salary structures,” Graves said of federal hiring procedures. “All of the tools that we have at our disposal are in use. However, there’s still not enough. So we’re exploring other opportunities that might be available to us, and we’re bringing those to the Office of American Innovation in a work stream that we’re calling People and Talent. We will unveil any kind of approaches that are new and different in the future when we get through that 90-day cycle.”

OMB is also sending a clear signal to industry that’s interested in reviewing shared services as they exist today. Graves said she’s noticed some challenges with agency shared services.

“When we go through the budgeting process, oftentimes those particular services don’t get the attention that they deserve,” she said. “Over time, you’re not investing in the service, [and] you’re not keeping it most up to date. Eventually it requires a major modernization, which requires a big spike in capital investment, which is difficult to move through the federal government[‘s]  budgeting system. It puts some of those agencies in a downward spiral, in that they can’t get enough money to keep up to date, and then when the service starts to degrade, the customers start to leave.”

Graves didn’t offer a specific timeline for when agencies and industry can expect to see some of the ideas from the 90-day sprint.

But the administration expects that many of these ideas will exist in tandem with the president’s reorganization priorities and pending legislation to modernize federal IT.

Graves said OMB expects the Senate will request a few technical changes to the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which passed the House but awaits a vote in the other chamber.

But the administration is confident the legislation will pass, and it’s already establishing a mock board to help OMB prepare to review the business cases and make decisions of where to allocate the funding appropriated in the MGT Act, some $250  million in the first year— if appropriators approve the full authorization.

OMB isn’t expecting that those funds will go toward one major modernization project.

“The expectation is that that’s enough to get started,” Graves said of the bill’s first-year authorization. “What I mean by getting started is not that it will completely modernize something as large as the [Federal Aviation Administration].”

Instead, the administration hopes agencies will use the opportunity they have now under the president’s government reorganization effort to brainstorm new ideas to become more efficient and potentially partner with other departments on a common project.

“It can be used to consolidate resources for a shared services play,” Graves said. “If several agencies come to us in the reform initiative or in the modernization board and they ask for an uplift for a shared service across multiple entities, I think that would be favorably considered.”