When federal employees quickly transitioned to working from home en masse in March, there were significant challenges. Many agencies had no agency-wide videoconferencing software. The Air Force only had enough VPN licenses for one-third of its employees. Even Congress was Zoom-bombed in the early-days of the crisis.
The transition has gone far better than many feared. IT teams did some fast, heavy lifting to help their agencies get working quickly. Some agencies are even reporting higher productivity levels than when they were working on-site.
That doesn’t mean that agencies didn’t experience major security and accessibility issues, however. And while the pandemic exposed some new risks, it mostly brought new light to very old ones. Many of the biggest technology problems facing the government have little to do with current conditions and remote employee accessibility.
The largest, most complex agencies have major IT messes to untangle. The VA didn’t pass the 2019 DATA act audit because its internal financial system, built in 1992, cannot even output the data required for analysis. And in 2017, the VA was found to keep data in unsafe and unreliable systems for the 17th year in a row. The State Department’s CIO doesn’t even have a way to track the agency’s IT investments. And at the Department of Interior, which faced more than 100,000 phishing attempts during a one year period beginning in June 2019, the core IT system was found to be both insecure and a poor fit for the agency.
In order for remote work to become a long-term reality for these agencies, IT systems must be brought up-to-date. Maintaining security, accessibility and cross-communication between platforms developed across multiple decades may be an impossible task. Many of the largest agencies have so many different pieces of software that it would be difficult to audit all of them to ensure they haven’t been compromised.
With so much attention recently being brought to state-sponsored cyber espionage, it’s an excellent time for Inspectors General to bring heightened attention to systemic deficiencies in agencies’ IT software, and pressure them to commit to a hard timeline for resolution. These issues will be so financially and administratively burdensome to resolve that they are unlikely to ever be streamlined without strong focus from the top-level of the agency. This will likely require pressure either from the executive branch or Congress – both of which can be spurred by high-profile IG findings and recommendations.
To learn how CMTS can help government investigative teams reduce unnecessary case delays, call us at 855-667-8877 or email us at Team_CMTS@MyCMTS.com.