IntelliDyne brings you a weekly digest of some of the latest news and insights about COVID-19, how federal agencies and IT officials are dealing with the pandemic, and best practices in order to bolster security and privacy in teleworking environments and encourage improved communications.
Legislators: Government’s Response to Pandemic Exposes Weaknesses in Legacy IT Systems
Indications of government failures, such as reports that 21 million people have yet to receive their CARES Act stimulus payments due to the inability to locate direct deposit information at the IRS, have led Congressional legislators to point out the need for modernization of the federal government’s IT systems.
On July 28, 2020, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations heard from a panel of IT industry representatives such as Gordon Bitko, senior vice president of the Policy Information Technology Industry Council. Bitko told the committee that many agencies are still using systems that were designed and built decades ago. Rep. Ro Khanna, representing Silicon Valley, stated: “Our outdated systems create cyber security risks and prevent people from receiving federal benefits, including stimulus checks. They need to be addressed immediately.”
Technology Modernization Fund May Get Funding Boost
For the first time, U.S. Senators are pushing for additional Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) funding in stimulus bills related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Six senators wrote to Appropriations Committee leaders, stating in part, “The federal COVID-19 response has dramatically exposed the failures of outdated, legacy federal IT systems and shone a light on the need for agencies to more quickly modernize their networks.” TMF funding priorities include expanding claims processing systems, improving the security of citizen information and fraud prevention, and addressing long-delayed enterprise legacy IT systems modernizations.
COVID-19 Raises Urgency to Appoint Chief Data Officers at Federal Agencies
The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 mandated federal agencies to install a chief data officer by summer 2019. As Nextgov reports, that hasn’t yet happened. Federal CIO Suzette Kent stated earlier this year that not all agencies had identified a chief data officer. That includes the Centers for Disease Control. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 there have been efforts by agencies to better use their data. Regarding the pandemic, Kent noted, “I don't know that it changed anyone's understanding of the role and the importance [but] it might have certainly changed the urgency.”
FedTech Discusses Telework with IT Officials from DIA, CBP, EPA and the Farm Credit Administration
FedTech magazine interviewed IT officials from a number of federal agencies about their experience with telework during the Covid-19 pandemic. The discussion included commentary and experiences with issues such as ensuring cybersecurity, managing an enterprise operations center with minimal staff on site, the importance of cloud technologies and broadband, and working with classified information.
Will Face Masks Thwart Facial Recognition Tech?
A May 2020 bulletin drafted jointly between federal agencies discussed the potential impact of widespread protective masks on the ability of agencies to meet security needs by using video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms. The possible concerns raised in the memo come in conjunction with Centers for Disease Control guidance on wearing face masks and growing misgivings about the use of facial recognition software in law enforcement.