President Trump signs executive order to modernize U.S. government computer systems

“President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to help accelerate long-delayed efforts to modernize the government’s patchwork of aging computer systems,” John D. McKinnon reports for The Wall Street Journal. “It’s one of a series of steps, led by senior adviser Jared Kushner, that the administration is expected to take to speed up the slow process.”

“The federal government spends as much as $90 billion a year on information technology, but much of that money is wasted on maintaining costly and duplicative legacy systems that are often 10 to 20 years out of date, according to critics on both sides of the aisle,” McKinnon reports. “Many agencies have numerous chief information officers, not just one, to run their IT. Those CIOs often don’t report to agency heads or coordinate effectively, and they sometimes have little incentive or authority to implement comprehensive modernization plans, administration officials said.”

MacDailyNews Take: The U.S. federal government has created the Lake Superior of IT doofus backwaters.

“The Department of Agriculture, which has emerged as a testing ground for the administration’s approach to IT overhauls, until recently has had 22 chief information officers for its various units. It’s in the process of reducing that number to one, with seven assistant CIOs for specific services and programs,” McKinnon reports. “Other agencies are expected to follow suit under the executive order that Mr. Trump signed Tuesday.”

“Senior administration officials cast the overall modernization effort as perhaps the largest enterprise IT transformation ever attempted,” McKinnon reports. “Mr. Trump previously has taken other steps to shift the government toward more sharing of IT services among agencies, and improve the government’s ability to withstand cyberattacks.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Let’s get some quality CIOs in the federal government who recognize the benefits of superior Apple technology!

The White House’s statement, verbatim:

IMPROVING AGENCY INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: President Donald. J. Trump is signing an Executive Order to enhance the effectiveness of Federal Agency Chief Information Officers (CIOs).

• President Trump’s Executive Order will implement successful Information Technology (IT) management practices from the private sector, enabling agencies to reduce costs, better protect sensitive data, and improve services offered to the public.

• President Trump is designating a strong role for agency CIOs, empowering them to act more strategically.
– Agencies will be able to more effectively leverage technology to accomplish their missions, cut down on duplication, and make IT spending more efficient.

• President Trump’s Executive Order will improve agency compliance with statutes.

• President Trump’s Executive Order requires agency CIOs to report directly to their agency heads.

• President Trump’s Executive Order will increase the ability of agency CIOs to influence decision making across bureaus and drive an enterprise-wide view of IT.

– Agency CIOs will be made voting members of bureau-level IT governance boards.

• President Trump’s Executive Order will improve the ability of agency CIOs to hire qualified IT personnel.

INEFFICIENT MANAGEMENT: Past legislation has attempted to consolidate agencies’ IT spending, yet success in implementing reforms has varied from agency to agency.

• Multiple laws, including the Clinger-Cohen Act and the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), have sought to consolidate IT spending authority and responsibility and bring them under the management of agency CIOs.

• Only half of agency CIOs currently report to their agency head or principal deputy.

• Despite legislative efforts, most agency CIOs still have limited control over IT spending.

– CIOs at multiple agencies do not “have the authority to review and approve the entire agency IT portfolio,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

• Lack of centralized control by agency CIOs over IT has contributed to duplication.

– Multiple Federal agencies currently operate duplicative email, human resources, financial management, and other systems.

• Agency CIOs often have limited oversight over component CIOs.

– Many agencies do not require the hiring of component CIOs to be approved by the agency CIO, despite requirements in FITARA and guidance from OMB.

• The lengthy Federal hiring process, which can take more than six months for many positions, makes recruiting talented IT employees more difficult.

BACKWARD-LOOKING AND WASTEFUL SPENDING: Federal agencies have struggled to improve information technology.

• The Federal Government spends around $90 billion dollars every year on IT, which is often fragmented across bureaus, programs, and offices.

– Breaking up spending this way contributes to duplication and the ineffective management of resources.

• Agencies have struggled to modernize IT systems, largely allocating resources toward the maintenance of older systems rather than using those funds to transition to modern technologies.

– Approximately 80 percent of funds budgeted for IT goes to maintaining legacy systems.

• Billions of dollars have been wasted on failed projects to modernize IT, as they have too often run over budget, fallen behind schedule, or failed to deliver intended results.

– According to the GAO, the Federal Government “has spent billions of dollars on failed IT investments.”

Source: The White House

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    1. Trump tweets that he wants to fire 21 of 22 CIOs, but will not approach Congress with a plan to replace the 22 old information systems.

      So you now have one interim director overseeing 22 antiquated but important systems that CANNOT be replaced by cheap consumer grade hardware and software.

      Why are we praising the Tweet Chief again?

  1. “The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 47 on Wednesday to reverse the Federal Communications Commission decision in December to repeal landmark 2015 net neutrality rules.”

    What was it some GOP accused the Dems of?

  2. Computer ignorance and consistent, unrelenting computer blundering was the inspiration for my personal hash tag #MyStupidGovernment. It’s well deserved.

    If The Trump manages to actually force computer modernization and computer security upon my government, it will be a great achievement. He actually signed something to get it done, versus vaporous rhetoric.

    Fingers Crossed that this is a major step out of our Dark Age of Computing.

      1. HAHAHAHA! Dear oh dear. I was telling someone how I recall the US Navy being the spearhead of computer security progress within the government in the 1990s. WTF happened? I’m not close enough to it all to understand. I just watched the ongoing onslaught of inter-governmental hacking from 1998 onwards.

    1. I worked for the federal government for 20 years. Based on that perspective, I believe it will take a lot more than an executive order to solve this problem. It will take legislation, money, and less political meddling. I hope it happens. I remain pessimistic.

      1. At one point in my diverse career, I was offered a job at the US Fish and Wildlife Service. During a visit, I took one look at their seriously antiquated computer equipment and said ‘No.’ Since that time, while working and studying project management at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), l learned this history of FAIL that has been decades of attempts to update the computer systems of the IRS.

        If an organization can’t invest in their own future, they’re stuck in the mud of the past. It’s not a place anyone would want to work. That’s certainly had an effect upon the government’s ability to hire talented technologists.

  3. Updating old systems is incredibly complex and expensive especially when systems are outdated and their original designers can’t be found. Added to this is the fact that these systems can’t be taken down for any real amount of time. I see nothing about this order that will help that.

    1. “Updating old systems is incredibly complex and expensive especially when systems are outdated and their original designers can’t be found.”

      I suspect you are looking at this all wrong. You don’t update, you throw decades old dead tech in the trash and COMPLETELY START OVER designing new systems on the latest hardware and software.

      Eliminating duplicative IT chiefs and making them accountable to the agency heads is a huge step in the right direction. Unbelievable this sort of government unaccountability has gone on for far too long wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

      If Apple bothered to update all their Macs regularly and had serious skin in the server game, they might be a player and benefit greatly. Ahhh, probably not …

      1. Tim is looking at it absolutely correctly. Until the Trump administration formulates a specific plan and budget proposal to Congress to authorize a solution to make improvements or start over or something inbetween, the directors’ hands are tied.

        Trump has stated ad nauseum that his priorties are to spend money on walls, extradition, and military buildup. Nothing in his budget proposals has in any way showed that he has a clue how to implement new and improved IT infrastructure. Nobody in his administration has the capability, and the truth is that Apple doesn’t either. Remember, Apple outsources a huge chunk of its IT backbone to other companies that are hated here at MDN.

        1. “ Remember, Apple outsources a huge chunk of its IT backbone to other companies that are hated here at MDN.”

          Yes, it boggles the mind how ignorant Apple has always been in this space. That said, we shall see …

        2. Yeah, Tim is right. It’s amazing how many people think their personal computer usage scales up to a huge organization that can’t just switch over to something new in one step.
          If a transition is messed up in something like this, they don’t just lose some precious memories, people suffer and/or die, property is lost, and much more.
          Updating most of these systems is probably a case of “completely overhauling the plane while it’s still flying.” Not easy.

          This kind of upgrade is going to take talented people, a well-thought-out plan, patience, and MONEY. Does any honest person think Trump’s administration is actually willing to provide ANY of those things to a bunch of government bureaucratic agencies?

      2. Throwing out the old systems would work if, and only if, you were willing to throw out the old government.

        There are decades (possibly over a century) of essential data that is no longer available except in digital storage on the legacy systems. That data is essential and irreplaceable. Translating old databases in bygone formats into new databases usable by current software is a far from trivial process. The programmers of the new system cannot just throw the old system in the trash. They have to thoroughly understand the file formats in each data collection and all the connections within the overall relational database. The older the old system gets, the harder it is for an outsider to understand it well enough to safely translate it.

        It can be done—eventually—but it isn’t as quick or easy as a nonprofessional might think. I have lived through it a couple of times on the county level, and it took up to a year each time. I can only imagine how complex it would be to make that transition for the entire federal government.

        During the transition, it is necessary to keep both the old and new systems running for an extended period in parallel. It is not possible to shut data access down without also shutting down the government department that needs the data to operate. The old systems can only be trashed AFTER the data has been transferred and verified as accurate.

        It goes without saying that this entire process, which will eventually be necessary, will be spectacularly expensive. It should have been done years ago when it would have been much less expensive, but Congress could never be persuaded to appropriate the money. I wish Mr. Trump luck in getting the money now.

        1. Of course it can be done… for a price. Very real long-term savings can be obtained, but only by a substantial up-front investment. There has been no suggestion from the Administration that any such investment will be forthcoming.

          If you read the Trump memo, you see that it lists as the first priority, “to reduce costs.” It never mentions any need to request, appropriate, and spend additional funds to finance new IT infrastructure. Instead, it suggests that the 80% of the existing IT budget that currently maintains legacy systems can simply be redirected into acquiring new technology. It does not seem to recognize the need to keep the old systems working until the new systems can come online.

        2. Thats an ideological position, which has no place in this conversation. Pragmatic, competent, IT is not served well by ideology, which tends to be inflexible and decidedly, NOT pragmatic.

          Simply stated, you cannot reasonably expect to A. reduce cost, while simultaneously, B. replacing old systems and C. migrating data, and D. training users on new systems.

          Expertise and skill cost money, development and compatibility cost money. These are not “cheap” things. As has already been pointed out to you, the old systems will need to be run in parallel and maintained, while the new systems are brought online, users trained, and data verified, reliability tested. Nowhere in the hot mess that is Trumps budget proposal, are these things funded.

          Ironic that you adopt the overly simplified bean-counter driven thinking model model, which historically has been hostile to Apple adoption. Sometimes, better costs more upfront. Same is true of overhauling government IT systems. It is going to cost a lot to get it done properly.

          You don’t start a project this big with a spending edict, you start with a needs analysis, then you identify system requirements based upon need, then you do a cost analysis. Then you budget and appropriate.

        3. Whoa. Talk about extrapolation grande and putting words in my mouth!

          Nothing you have said is something I don’t already KNOW. Don’t assume because I don’t address every tedious point from every poster that I DON’T UNDERSTAND. And NO I was not advocating blind ideology in and of itself to solve the problems, sheesh.

          Budgets and wasteful spending should be addressed first and trimming the fat of overpaid duplicative government workers and services. As in this illustrative example:

          “The Department of Agriculture, which has emerged as a testing ground for the administration’s approach to IT overhauls, until recently has had 22 chief information officers for its various units. It’s in the process of reducing that number to one, with seven assistant CIOs for specific services and programs,” McKinnon reports. “Other agencies are expected to follow suit under the executive order that Mr. Trump signed Tuesday.”

          Right there in one example you saved millions and streamlined the bureaucracy and established efficient reporting standards. With the money SAVED, then yes go out and hire the best if they have not already done so.

          After ALL the agencies have been streamlined and savings realized evaluate the budgets to determine if additional funding is required. Don’t put the cart before the horse. This is where U.S. businesses excel, government fails is something the president knows all too well.

          As I have posted here before, a friend from the hood where I grew up has been in the U.S. Congress for years. He told me his committee studies such things and found 25 government agencies working on the same problem. You can’t call that a funding problem.

          Like I said, governments at the local, state and federal levels do not have a funding problem — they have an (inefficient) spending problem. If additional spending is required to make it best, so be it …

        4. As you know, GoeB, there are change costs.

          As an analogy: even if the trashcan Man Pro added Thunderbolt ports and a newer generation CPU, very few people with big tower Mac Pros were compelled to spend the money. You don’t criticize a Mac owner for using a 2009 Mac Pro with Snow Leopard, do you? He’s been able to keep the old box running, adding PCI cards or newer GPUs or whatever tinkering as needed to suit his needs. Why would be buy a sealed iMac Pro? Because somebody claims newer is better???

          The details are too many for all the legacy systems that the US government has to manage and replace. I think we all agree that modernization is a constant challenge, but it is also true that having the latest most expensive electronics does not necessarily mean that government has saved you money or runs more effectively. It’s easy to criticise big bad government, but if you notice, the biggest whiners don’t have any answers to the inflated problems they rail against.

        5. I agree with what you are saying, Mike. I too have an old pro computer running my fav Snow Leopard and older apps I love. See my response to truth I posted minutes ago …

        6. “The Department of Agriculture … until recently has had 22 chief information officers for its various units. It’s in the process of reducing that number to one, with seven assistant CIOs for specific services and programs,” “Right there in one example you saved millions and streamlined the bureaucracy and established efficient reporting standards.”

          How did that save millions? Previously, there were 22 CIOs reporting to Department leadership, probably through one of the Deputy Secretaries. Now one top manager reports directly to the Secretary, and seven others report directly to that single CIO. All eight of those individuals have substantially increased responsibilities that probably carried an equally substantial raise.

          The single CIO still needs middle managers in each of the 22 units that previously had separate CIOs. Those managers are probably not making much less money than their functional predecessors, and they probably do not have many fewer employees. There may be some savings, but hardly millions.

          As for streamlining and efficient reporting, under the old system the unit CIOs reported to a Deputy Secretary who reported to the cabinet Secretary. Now the unit managers report to one (or more) of the Assistant CIOs, who report to the single CIO, who reports to the Secretary. Four layers, rather than three.

  4. I wonder. Does this explain why Cook has been making WH appearances recently? Also, the federal computing systems (windows mostly) have been bought because the IT admin d-bags need windows for job security. I would REALLY enjoy watching Trump flush all of them down the toilet (by picking Apple as the principal supplier).

    1. Nice thought and would love to see it happen, as well. Unfortunately, the dismal Mac track record under Cook of no yearly upgrades, dumbing down and killing software, server ignorance, abandoning routers — is all the ammunition the IT chiefs need to keep Apple at stiff arm distance. Wish it was not so …

      1. My thought is that Cook attempted to persuade Trump that Mac computers were more secure than Windows computers, and had a s***load of proof. I hope to hell that was the message, because a giant order for Macs from the federal government would snap Apple out of its hypnotic trance, and we’d see a bunch of upgrades in a big hurry, and we individual users would sigh in relief after being repeatedly stood up by a guy who pretended to be our best friend.

    1. that doesn’t seem true, davgreg. is that really true. because, aren’t we supposed to be smart. i think we are. yes, we are. we most certainly are. we’re shrewd and frightfully smart. we’re insightful and our good judgment is just freaking uncanny in the land of the brave. isn’t that right. i think it is.

      so, davgreg, you must be mistaken. yes, you must be. you’d have to be because, damn, we think these things through and explore every possibility. that’s just what we’d do cuz we’re hugely smart.

      i did, however, just read where our government believes it’s identified the perpetrator of the 2017 leak of the cia’s computer hacking tools. they say it’s a former cia employee. i don’t believe it, though. we just wouldn’t do that. we’d never do that. we just wouldn’t. and even if it were true, that anomaly probably convinced himself he was doing the right thing for the right reason in which case his logic would have been flawed, nevertheless, i don’t believe it. besides, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. but, if it were true, then, our government would consider that before they outsourced a bunch of sensitive data to a private entity’s cloud services. we’re smarter than that, davgreg.

      1. “Microsoft said Tuesday it has booked a six-year cloud computing agreement with the intelligence community worth “potentially hundreds of millions of dollars” to use the software giant’s products across the 17 intelligence agencies and other components.

        Intelligence agencies now have access to nearly the entire Microsoft cloud portfolio that includes Azure Government and Office 365 for US Government, as well as Windows 10. Agencies can buy the products through a joint enterprise licensing agreement awarded to Dell, Microsoft said.”

  5. One of the problems for Apple in this effort is that, in terms of governmental security, Apple is its own worst enemy.

    Case in point: If you are using a token/PIN combination for login to your Mac, you STILL must have a username and password for FileVault to unlock. Microsoft will permit use of the token/PIN combination. And without that, Macs cannot comply with high-security data security requirements.

    1. The government issues very comprehensive requirements when it solicits bids. Apple doesn’t meet them on so many levels, and the majority of taxpayers would whine that Macs have too high up front costs. It’s up to Apple to decide if they want to play ball or not. So far, Apple has shown complete inability or interest in supporting high integrity secure computing systems for the long term. Apple wants to sell sealed disposable thin clients on subscription to consumers, with 3rd party app sales flooding the coffers with easy cash.

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