The cloud presents federal agencies with a new frontier of faster capabilities, but one question still pervades federal agencies: will their workforce have the skills to use it?
Several government officials in charge of agency technology, speaking at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center June 25, acknowledged this and said reskilling the workforce is the critical — and sometimes missing — piece of cloud migration.
The final version of the White House's new strategy instructs agencies to consider three pillars for successful cloud adoption.
“I think we’re spending a lot of time looking at great programs — I love them all — to bring in a new workforce, but probably not enough time on programs to reskill our workforce,” said Leo Garciga, director of information management at the Army.
He added, “The tech is actually really easy. I think this other piece, which is that human capital piece, is a bigger challenge.”
There are some reskilling pilots in the federal government right now, said Margie Graves, federal deputy CIO at the Office of Management and Budget. She specifically pointed to the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy, a pilot program providing hands-on cybersecurity training for federal employees, that is ending July 14. That program, she said, is a “translatable process.”
“As we move forward, it’s not just about cybersecurity specialists. It’s about cloud architects, it’s about data scientists, it’s about all of the different types of skill sets that you’re going to need to effectively make the transition to the cloud,” Graves said.
Pam Isom, deputy CIO at the Department of Energy, said that she knows employees can be apprehensive about new technologies — some may even be “afraid” of artificial intelligence — but agencies need to move forward with new technology.
“It may seem like that some of them may not want to. It could be for various reasons, but we need to try,” Isom said. “We need to try to get employees more delighted to reskill, to keep up with the times.
At the Energy Department, she said, she would like to see some retooling surrounding the management of data.
“I would like to see us to sharpen our data management talent, sharpen it up. Because from a data management perspective, we are only as secure as our data management,” said Isom.
The just-launched Cloud Information Center is designed to explain the benefits of cloud adoption while providing agencies with the tools to execute a successful transition.
The General Services Administration’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which evaluates security risk on cloud products and services bought by federal agencies, is also looking to expand its training program for federal employees.
“We’re working to get all of our training on-demand,” said acting FedRAMP Director Ashley Mahan. “We love folks in the D.C. area that can come be with us in person, but we know that that’s not a reality. There’s so many different other workforce members of the federal government that are outside of [the] D.C. area.”
So as federal agencies continue their journey toward the cloud, ensuring that employees have the right skillset for the cloud is central to efficient use of the new technology.
“Nothing happens without the right talent … the workforce of the 21st century is extremely important,” Graves said.