Network modernization requirements in federal agencies

Federal agencies are facing monumental challenges with the technology requirements and upgrades needed to maintain operations and lead in the current environment. A number of capabilities that were earmarked in the fiscal 2021 IT budget are among them: retiring legacy systems, cloud migration, artificial intelligence, mobile computing, and data analytics to name a few. As the government looks forward to a future where operations are restored to normal – whatever that may look like – it will be important for agencies to prioritize.

One way to prioritize is to, first, upgrade network infrastructure, the hardware and architecture that supports all internet-connected devices. These systems of converged cables and wireless access points, multi-gigabit ethernet switches and routers are the backbone of five of the most important next-generation technologies – all of which are among the areas that could significantly increase in deployment later in 2020.


The 5G cellular network is necessary for powering next-generation capabilities such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), 4K video streaming, as well as augmented and virtual reality. 5G is expected to make its true roll-out later this year after radio spectrum and 5G-enabled devices become more available. With speeds considerably faster than 4G, the next generation of cellular will be able to transmit data at the highest rates, enabling faster and more reliable decision-making.

Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 will provide agencies with increased bandwidth and faster internet speeds, enabling them to take advantage of the abundance of data they store and maintain. A survey by IHS Markit (now Omdia) last year said companies estimated that more than 64% of access points purchased by 2021 will be Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 has a four-fold capacity increase over the current Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 APs, which is important for supporting high-bandwidth applications. Wi-Fi 6 is expected to be 50% of all IP traffic in the next two years, driven primarily by bring-your-own-device and IoT capabilities.

CBRS Spectrum

Approved as a public-private spectrum-sharing agreement, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is 150 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band that improves wireless coverage and capacity, making it ideal for in-building, public space and industrial IoT wireless requirements. CBRS supports both 4G and 5G cellular and allows for private LTE networks, giving agencies total network control, stronger security and better interoperability. It also supports a wide-range of new, mission-critical and low-latency IoT applications.


These new connectivity options increase the deployment of converged IoT and edge devices such as IP security cameras, LED lighting and 4K/HD digital signage. With IoT, agencies can gain tremendous insight from data collected from sensors and other devices that connect – and report back to – a central location. This is the idea behind the smart cities concept, where any number of operations – from water and electrical usage to traffic lights and vehicles – can be outfitted with sensors to pull data that gives real-time visibility of operations, trends and anomalies to make cities safer and more efficient. While having so many devices increases the cyberattack surface, IoT risks can be mitigated by key technologies including encryption mechanisms and electronic key management.


Similar to 5G, commercial platform-as-a-service cloud makes most other technologies possible. Cloud’s ability to scale up or down quickly and to connect at the edge, from anywhere, are huge incentives, as well as its support for large-scale data sharing and storage. Only with cloud can federal agencies employ the full capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive actionable data.

In a recent address on Capitol Hill, Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner for the Office of Information Technology (IT) category in the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) talked about the importance of network and IT modernization to enable a more efficient government. Zielinski said that he “cannot overstate the importance of modernizing while transitioning.” This includes educating “agencies about the immense promise of 5G” and that GSA will soon “release a 5G strategy that outlines IT category activities and goals for its adoption across government.” GSA is pushing for network modernization; agencies need to follow.

There is no lack of options when it comes to IT budgets, but by prioritizing modernization, including these five technologies, federal agencies will be investing in solutions that can be used for years to come. That said, in order to take full advantage of these capabilities, agencies need to modernize their IT and network infrastructure. In doing so, government agencies will be in a better position to adjust to new and emerging requirements.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


Data Democracy

“Data democracy” term is a methodological framework of values and actions that benefit and minimize any harm to the public or the typical user. It can also be defined as making digital information accessible to the average non-technical user of information systems, without having to require the involvement of IT. Data democratization has been a trending topic amongst CIOs, CDOs, CTOs, CEOs, government leaders, and elected officials for the way it enables institutions to be more agile, accountable, innovative and aligned with their goals.

To empower government workforces, data can be used to enable front-line workers with independent authority to make decisions and solve problems in real-time. Traditional experiences with local, state and federal agencies were mono-directional. Citizens, residents or organizations make requests, submit cases or apply for permits only to wait and trust that the system is at work. Other times tickets get escalated and move through opaque processes that are unwieldy and outdated by modern standards. Putting data in the hands of front-line workers empowers them to solve more challenges faster at the point of intake. This creates benefits for both employees and customers. It engenders higher employee satisfaction by providing greater autonomy to workers who feel they are making a difference first-hand, and additionally, it will also elevates the customer experience, allowing government agencies and civil servants to truly serve citizens, businesses and constituents. According to the 2019 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 91% of respondents reported that they are seeking ways to do their jobs better. Creating data democracy in government agencies will help restore shaken trust in public institutions as constituents and stakeholders see their government being more transparent, reachable and responsive to their needs.

The 2020 Census count data will provide a clear and better understanding of our people, allow us to intersect demography data with other information and ultimately inform everything from investing in schools and roads to planning for future disasters. The recent COVID-19 crisis has shown just how important it is to have accurate data on where people live, who they are, and how close they are to others or to resources.

 The federal government owns the most important data on science, epidemiology, climate change, commerce, raw resource utilization and more. Federal research agencies are staffed with some of the brightest minds, they nevertheless function better still when matched with the researchers, innovators, thinkers, and capital from private research institutions, private enterprises and other non-governmental actors. Comprehensive data and the ability to leverage it across government will allow decision-makers to plan and build a better future for all citizens.

Author: Chandni Mandaviya


Annual federal contract spending reaches new records

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federal government into emergency spending mode, agencies—including the Defense Department—were on pace to blow past the single-year contract spending record of $598 billion set in fiscal 2019.

As of Aug. 5, the federal government has obligated $438 billion in spending, with agencies expected to unload almost $200 billion more before the close of the 2020 fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis. The government typically spends about one-third of all money appropriated by Congress in its fourth quarter—July, August and September—since most money unspent is returned to the Treasury.

“We’ve been saying at the end of fiscal 2020, total government spending is likely to be around $630 billion,” Daniel Synder, director of government contracts analysis at Bloomberg Government, told Nextgov. “That was before we factored anything related to the CARES Act or COVID-19 spending.”

Synder said the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March could add another $10 billion to $20 billion to the government’s total discretionary spending in fiscal 2020—much of it on networking capacity, bandwidth and telework services—which would put the government’s total discretionary spending to $650 billion or more.

The government’s discretionary spending has increased significantly since 2015, driven largely by the Defense Department. Discretionary spending at the Army, Navy and Air Force each jumped approximately 10% in fiscal 2019. Since 2015, annual defense spending on contracts increased $122 billion—totaling $404 billion in fiscal 2019—while civilian agencies spent some $193 billion on goods and services in fiscal 2019. Agencies that deal with health care, including the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments, saw the largest increases in discretionary spending among civilian agencies. Conversely, the departments of Energy, State and Homeland Security saw their discretionary spending obligations decrease.

The fourth quarter spending surge is likely to drive record technology spending as well. Bloomberg Government’s analysis estimates agencies will obligate about $28 billion on unclassified IT contracts in the fourth quarter, about $1 billion more than agencies spent last year.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil


Secret of success in government contracting world.

Government contracts may be lucrative for big companies, but for many small businesses, they’re not. That’s because few small firms win them at all. Only 22.5% of federal contracts go to small businesses and a dismal 4% are awarded to firms owned by women, according to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) from 2012.

That doesn’t mean these deals are not worth going after. They can be very lucrative–or you wouldn’t see so many big companies going after them. For women entrepreneurs, winning such contracts is a well-tested way to create a high-growth business, according to research by American Express OPEN, which found that 42% of women-owned small business contractors generate annual revenue greater than $1 million.

Prepare to invest. Winning a government contract takes more prep work than you may think. Women-owned firms that succeed in winning contracts devote an average of $112,000 in time and money preparing to go after them, according to Weeks. For male-owned firms, the investment is even higher: about $137,000. Of course, this is all relative. If you’re chasing a big contract that you win, whatever you spend could pay for itself several times over.

Tailor your services. Federal agencies don’t limit their purchases to things like airplane parts. However, it’s not always easy to sell what you offer, whether that is meeting planning services or a book you published. Success contractors adapt what they sell to federal requirements. “You have to be selling what a federal agency is buying,” says Weeks. “Not all businesses are the right kind to be selling to a federal agency.”

Find a mentor. Try attending networking events and information sessions for contractors that government agencies hold, so you don’t have to wade through all of the fine print on your own. “When you don’t know someone, who has been in federal contacting, it’s much harder to figure out if there’s something for you,” says Weeks. The SBA offers a program for women entrepreneurs called ChallengeHer that will be holding events across the country this year. The SBA is collaborating with Women Impacting Public Policy, which has pushed for greater access to government contracts for women entrepreneurs, and American Express OPEN.

Diversify your clients. Among small businesses that are active federal contractors, 19% of revenue comes from federal government contracts, on average, while 14% comes from state and local contracts. One reason to vary your clients is it insulates you against cutbacks in any one agency.

Try again. When asked how frequently they had bid on a prime contract or subcontract over the last three years, women business owners who had won active contracts had put in five prime contract bids and three subcontract bids.

Author: Prasanna Haresh Patil