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A Cloud Timeline: U.S. Government’s Modernization Journey

Over the past decade, consecutive administrations and the U.S. Congress have focused on IT modernization, issuing policies, directives, and passing legislation to help agencies move from legacy systems to modern commercial technologies. Policies that embrace cloud help save the government and taxpayer money and become more efficient, customer-focused, and secure.

The following is a brief timeline of the U.S. government’s continued journey to the cloud:

  • 2007: OMB releases a directive to executive departments and agencies to optimize individual network services into a common solution for the federal government, known as the Trusted Internet Connection (TIC). This tool was designed to improve the government’s security posture by establishing a set of baseline security capabilities through enhanced monitoring and situational awareness of external network connections. This policy has evolved as new capabilities become available.
  • 2010: The Obama Administration released the 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management, introducing the idea of “cloud first” for the federal government.
  • 2011: The Cloud-First strategy was shared in 2011 to accelerate the pace at which the federal government realizes the value of cloud computing. The policy required agencies to evaluate safe and secure cloud computing options. To complement the effort, the Office of Management and Budget also released a plan for “Security Authorization of Information Systems in Cloud Computing Environments” known as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). OMB recognized that “Cloud computing offers a unique opportunity for the Federal Government to take advantage of cutting edge information technologies to dramatically reduce procurement and operating costs and greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of services provided to its citizens.”
  • 2012: In the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2012, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Defense to create a Department-wide strategy for transitioning to cloud computing. This directive focused on “the migration of Defense data and government-provided services from Department-owned and operated data centers to cloud computing services generally available within the private sector that provide a better capability at a lower cost with the same or greater degree of security.”
  • 2015: The House and Senate Armed Services Committees released a Joint Explanatory Statement. There was an emphasis on cloud computing in the statement directing the DoD CIO and department CIOs to “carry out an assessment to identify and prioritize the software applications in use throughout the DoD that should be considered for migration to a cloud computing environment.”
  • 2016: The FY 2016 NDAA instructed the Chief Information Officer of the DoD to “develop a cloud strategy for the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) of the Department.” This took into account security, cost, and application compatibility.
  • 2017: In May 2017, the President signed the Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure Executive Order (EO 13800). The Administration emphasized federal IT modernization as part of its cyber plan, and its plan to move all federal civilian (.gov agencies) to a “shared services” IT infrastructure, “including email, cloud, and cybersecurity services.” In December 2017, the Administration released the The White House IT Modernization Report in response to EO 13800.  The actions articulated complementary efforts to modernize citizen-facing services – by moving to a more secure, agile, and cost-effective infrastructure, specifically commercial cloud, much of which would be provided by shared services.
  • 2018: Following passage in late 2017, the 2018 implementation of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act allows “agencies to invest in modern technology solutions to improve service delivery to the public, secure sensitive systems and data, and save taxpayer dollars.” Within the Act, there is continued emphasis on “transition[ing] legacy information technology systems to commercial cloud computing and other innovative commercial platforms and technologies.”

Cloud is at the core of federal IT modernization strategies and continues to transform agencies. To keep the modernization momentum, government buyers must understand cloud to improve procurement strategies, strengthen the acquisition workforce, and embrace security policies.


Download Gartner’s The Challenges for Government Private Cloud to Deliver Value report to learn about the benefits of hyperscale cloud, the risks of an on-premises approach to cloud adoption, and recommendations for government CIOs looking to modernize legacy mission-critical applications.