The question is not whether Federal agencies should modernize but how do Federal agencies modernize most efficiently. Federal IT experts describe the implementation strategies and initiatives around their agencies’ IT modernization efforts during a virtual forum held by Federal News Network on August 31.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is currently undergoing a massive modernization effort. To accomplish this most effectively, DLA began to see modernization as something that goes beyond IT. A modernization strategy the agency has renamed the Digital-Business Transformation.

“IT modernization connotes an IT-focused and an IT-led initiative, and modernization isn’t about IT. It’s about using IT to solve current and emerging business problems,” said George Duchak, CIO for DLA.

By utilizing their Digital-Business Transformation strategy, the agency does not begin by adopting new technology. Instead, they start by looking over their business model and identifying emerging business problems or needs.

“Changing the name to the Digital-Business Transformation couples the business perspective with the digital perspective,” said Duchak. “The business now is a primary stakeholder and has a vested interest in the success of modernization rather than being on the sidelines because modernization is just an IT thing.”

Modernization efforts for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center ensure emerging technology capabilities advance and move forward missions by providing a better operating platform. Robert Leahy, CIO for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, explained that precisely at the moment, the center is focused on utilizing cloud capabilities to modernize its ground systems.

“We’ve got over 80 projects that have ground missions, each one of built-up individually. We’re providing platforms now to give them a migration path to move to the cloud,” said Leahy.

By utilizing cloud capabilities and modernizing those ground systems, the center will continue supporting missions that go back years, like the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in orbit for 30 years.

“This will [also] give the projects the ability to upgrade their cyber security capabilities. [And also] provides that infrastructure layer to our projects while looking for commonalities and ways to provide baseline services that are consumable and highly secure,” said Leahy.

There’s been a great deal of focus on migrating applications and systems to the cloud in the Federal space. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Department of Homeland Security has also begun to migrate its applications and systems from its Tier 2 Data Center to the cloud.

“We’re also using this as an opportunity to see how we can leverage data across the agency and create those key data sets,” said Jim Watts, program manager for the Program Management Branch at TSA.

Additionally, under direction from a recent Administrator’s Intent, the TSA began examining data management to find a way to share data across the organization, identify trusted data sources, create data stewards, and operationalize data across the TSA.

“To do this, we created an information service to pull data out of our applications and then share it across applications,” said Watts.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.