May 12, 2017 By Douglas Bonderud 3 min read

The first 100 days of President Trump’s term have come and gone, with the new leader tackling challenges such as health care, border protection and reinvigorating American business. But what about government IT?

Cybersecurity and modernization were hot-button topics during the election, fueled in part by repeated breaches of private organizations by nation-states and cybercriminals alike, and in part by the massive cost of maintaining legacy systems. As noted by Diginomica, the U.S. government spends more than $64 billion every year to keep legacy hardware up and running.

With 100 days in the books, it’s worth taking a look at where the government stands with IT and what comes next for federal technology policy.

Technology and Immigration

It’s no surprise that forward-thinking American companies are now recruiting top talent from across the world to improve existing technology, develop new platforms and enhance corporate opportunities. According to Wired, however, the need for outsourced talent may be at odds with new efforts by the government to overhaul the H-1B visa program. These visas help highly skilled immigrants make the transition to American companies, but also pave the way for unscrupulous actors to undercut U.S. salaries. As noted by Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, the program desperately needs reforms and hopes any changes “will both crack down on people who are abusing the system and make it easier for the best and brightest to be able to come here.”

The challenge for the Trump administration going forward will likely be creating an H-1B solution that allows tech companies to bring in top talent without hampering the growth of U.S.-based jobs. Given the increasing skills gap present in cybersecurity, it may be in the government’s best interest to tighten existing laws while simultaneously supporting more security training to meet global demand.

Influencing IT Innovation

The Diginomica article pointed out that there are still older systems up and running in the deep dark databases of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other massive government agencies. That leads to a catch-22 scenario where cutting maintenance funding means huge data losses, but tying this much money up in handling hardware stifles digital change.

To address this issue, President Trump recently signed a new executive order that created the American Technology Council (ATC), led by White House director of strategic initiatives Chris Liddell, formerly of Microsoft and General Motors. The ATC’s mandate is to “transfer and modernize” U.S. government IT.

In Congress, meanwhile, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) is back with a stripped-down version of his Modernizing Government Technology Act, which he first tried to get off the ground last year. But lawmakers weren’t keen on the $9 billion budget, so Hurd reduced the asking price to $250 million in an effort to increase overall cybersecurity and reduce wasteful spending, Diginomica reported.

As noted by GCN, meanwhile, another avenue for government innovation stems from the development of microservices, which are specialized component services that require less coding and time investment than full-fledged software or applications.

Here, the challenge for President Trump’s administration is balancing the desperate need for modernization against the massive spend required to achieve total transformation. Expect this to be a push-pull budget battle over the next three years.

Information Security Issues

Last but not least is information security, which remains a critical topic of discussion. For the new U.S. government, this means that it’s not enough to pay lip service to the notion of effective cybersecurity. Instead, the government must take measurable action to ensure that technology services are effectively protected.

Part of the solution here comes from better support of American post-secondary information security programs. What’s more, the U.S. military recently debuted a program that offers skilled civilian security professionals the chance to work in the armed forces at the rank of colonel in an effort to equate rank with private information security experience. According to The Hill, President Trump also appointed Rob Joyce, who formerly led an elite hacking squad at the National Security Agency (NSA) and is a “certified cyber warrior,” in charge of White House cybersecurity efforts, a move that many experts see as a step in the right direction.

The Future of Government IT

Information security is a complicated and ever-changing issue, but it remains a top priority for military and civilian leaders alike. While there’s no quick fix here, the first 100 days of Trump’s administration suggest a government that recognizes the value in safeguarding critical data and services.

Government IT policy is under more scrutiny than ever as technology firms look to hire top talent, experts lament the costs of legacy systems, and cybersecurity takes center stage as ground zero for worldwide conflict and cooperation. The Trump government has no easy task ahead as it looks to address immigration issues, invest in innovation and empower information security initiatives.

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