Since the start of the 21st century, the United States has given birth to an incredible boom in technological innovation, which has granted Americans the opportunity to live more comfortable and productive lives.
America’s unique combination of free markets, intellectual property rights, and entrepreneurial spirit has led to the rapid development of a changing world, creating new challenges and threats along the way.
Conventional warfare has been replaced with cyber warfare. And unfortunately, the federal government has been slow to keep pace with the evolving landscape. As it currently stands, the government’s IT infrastructure is extremely outdated due in large part because approximately 80 percent of the federal budget is spent on operations and maintenance.
With little funding for innovation and modernization, the government’s IT infrastructure is stuck in the 20th century, trying to apply last century’s solutions to 21st century challenges. This is a major component behind the public’s disdain and lack of trust in government. Business executives and professionals have grown weary of endless reports of Russian hackers unlocking sensitive data and jeopardizing U.S. democracy.
The federal IT environment is like an “Atari game in an Xbox world.” This acute analogy first contrived by former President Barack Obama, is commonly re-iterated by younger professionals in and around the federal government. The advancements in video gaming is a perfect exemplar to the rapid growth in technological innovations and the disconnect between generations. Drastic restructuring and reform must be made, but how?
Moving forward, it is important to empower agency leadership, cut bureaucratic fat, and encourage the expansion of information sharing between the federal government and the private sector.
President Donald Trump’s latest executive order which places responsibility for cybersecurity on agency leaders is an important step in the right direction. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) should directly report to the agency head. More times than not, this is not the process that takes place. In addition, some agencies have more than a dozen people with the title “CIO,” when there is only need for one. These are structural problems the government must address to ensure that CIOs can introduce the newest technology.
In the effort to achieve a more efficient process, in addition to cutting bureaucratic fat, the government should model itself after some of the most successful businesses in America. President Trump, who recently made the jump from business to politics himself, has made great strides towards this mark by creating the Office of American Innovation (OAI), led by a young, successful businessman in his own right, Jared Kushner. The goal here is simple: cut inefficiencies in government and implementing innovation and technologies from the private sector by building bridges and forming coalitions.
On that important note, the government must strengthen communication with the private sector. Former Director of the NSA and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command Keith Alexander recently said, “the federal government thinking they can defend their infrastructure alone, and the private sector thinking they can defend their infrastructure alone is the equivalent of the French thinking an imaginary line is going to protect them from the Germans.” His metaphor could not be closer to the truth.
The future of government effectiveness, especially as it relates to cyber security, depends on business and policy leaders working hand in hand in the development and application of new innovations and technologies.
Thankfully, many working professionals in the up-and-coming generation, after witnessing years of bloated bureaucracy, are rising to the occasion. Young professionals in business and politics are actively working to strengthen the relationships between the private sector and government.
Organizations such as the Mavericks USA, a 501c4, exist to facilitate relationships and open dialogue between current leaders in the private, non-profit, and public sectors with young professional who will likely one day succeed them. This weekend the Maverick PAC will host its annual Mavericks Conference to bring young professionals from across the country to meet, learn from, and network with the likes of Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Paul Ryan, Ambassador Nancy Brinker (Susan G. Komen for the Cure), and other prominent business leaders, sharing best practices, and ultimately building coalitions that will shape the future.
It is time for the private sector to work in tandem with the federal government. Hopefully, the future that we are cultivating through open dialogue, information sharing, and cutting costs will lead to a more efficient government worthy of the 21st century America it serves.
Recent developments are promising, but there is still a lot of work to be done, which will be the topic of discussion for much of the 2017 Mavericks Conference, taking place this weekend in Washington.