FCC targets costs, security and mobile communications with IT upgrade plans

The Federal Communications Commission's in-house IT infrastructure has to modernize, in order to save money and become more efficient, according to FCC CIO David Bray.

Bray, in a blog post, cited a 2012 Government Accountability Office study as saying that about 70% of federal IT money went to maintaining older systems leaving just 30% for new acquisitions and developing new capabilities.

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"Moreover, this cost only captures those legacy processes automated by IT; several paper-based, manual processes exist and result in additional hidden, human-intensive costs that could benefit from modern IT automation," he wrote.

Some of the systems Bray is looking to replace, he told Network World, handle the FCC's central duties, including spectrum auctions and licensing. This is a not-inconsiderable issue, given the major auction scheduled for next year.

Mostly, however, reducing complexity is the priority.

"What I'd love to be able to say ideally within two to two and a half years from now is that I don't have 207 different systems at a commission of only 1,750 people," he said. More than 40% of those systems, he added, are more than a decade old.

Bray declined to mention specific vendors being eyed for new deployments, but stipulated that preserving the commission's existing data would be of paramount concern.

"As you can imagine, trying to extract the data out of some systems that have stored procedures, as well as code commingled with the data it's kind of difficult. But that's actually the most important thing," he said. "What's meant to be long lasting is the data, and actually making that data, as much as possible, available to the public and partners where appropriate."

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The FCC IT chief also cited a need to improve the commission's public-facing websites specifically for tablet and smartphone users as a priority. But more general modernizations are apparently on the table, as well, given that the FCC still handles its complaints via physical paper forms.

"If you send in a request for the forms for the complaints, we will mail you 18 different forms, and you'll have to figure out which one of the forms is the right one, and then send it back, which we will then scan and enter into the system," Bray said, with evident chagrin. "Obviously, there's huge gains to be [made] where we ideally adopt a web-first approach."

Ensuring mobile device security for teleworkers and travelers at the FCC is also a top priority, he said. Along with end-to-end encryption, secure kernels allowing for devices to be split into personal and workplace partitions will be a critical part of achieving that goal.

"I think we need to prepare for an age in which we have bring-your-own-device," said Bray. "So while I'm hoping that you're running appropriate scans on whatever device you're bringing, and I'm hoping you have anti-virus ... I need to also be assured that if you're operating with a connection to the FCC, it's within a secure kernel, that is, for all intents and purposes, logically abstracted from whatever else is going on inside the device."

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Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

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