Cloud Smart: The Mission Is Above the Cloud

Now that government cloud use is established, it's time to really take advantage of it

Mark Forman

When Gartner announced the arrival of the federal cloud “inflection point” almost two years ago, it was a moment worth celebrating.

In 2010, the Cloud First policy was issued. By 2017, federal IT leaders had largely overcome skepticism, caution, and discomfort on cloud matters, and dozens of cloud initiatives ensued. Obstacles fell away, and federal experimentation with cloud computing accelerated.

2019 brought key guidance to accelerate cloud adoption, culminating in the Federal Cloud Smart Strategy. Up to that point, the cloud computing challenge for federal agencies was about the technology. Will it be secure? Will it protect privacy? How do we find the skills needed to move to the cloud? Which applications are “cloud ready?” How do we avoid vendor lock-in of data? Should an agency wait for a cloud solution to get through FedRAMP? Is it worth the risk of losing direct control over equipment, network, applications, and data?

Those were all important questions, clearly, but they begged the big one: What does the cloud mean for our mission?

Now, in 2020, with a set of new policies driving agencies to take advantage of cloud computing, there’s a new inflection point that is on the horizon for some agencies and in the grasp for others. The shift is reflected in rapid growth of cloud services for operations of the business (business process, platform, and applications services), which will account for 75% of cloud services spending, according to Gartner’s forecast. This is where the full potential of the cloud can be realized and an agency’s use of the cloud begins to play a substantial role in fulfilling its mission:

  • Instead of just reducing data storage costs, the agency can put data to valuable use and make it securely accessible to tech-savvy citizens accustomed to the remarkable customer service and responsiveness in the private sector.
  • Instead of having to staff up to procure, deploy, and maintain software and hardware, cloud providers remove the headaches of technology refresh cycles, version updates, security patches, etc., freeing up skilled IT employees for mission-critical tasks and shifting resources from legacy maintenance to modernization initiatives.
  • Instead of long implementation cycles for new technology, agencies can rapidly deploy new capabilities to create a responsive user experience and a modern work environment, improving both citizen and employee satisfaction.


Examples of federal agencies finding mission-enhancing opportunity in their cloud strategies are beginning to proliferate:

  • Only last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced its capability to enable “more access to its ever-growing troves of data in the hopes of sparking new economies and a better understanding of our environment.” NOAA continues to leverage the cloud across its enterprise, in both front and back office operations. It was one of the first agencies to move to unified communications using cloud tools. Last year, NOAA conducted a $144 million procurement to accelerate secure migration of data and applications to the cloud.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has moved to the forefront in its commitment and use of IT to improve services for veterans. Amazon Web Services GovCloud (U.S.) connected the VA’s network to the cloud to provide a single place for veterans to discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits they have earned—using any device. The VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals uses GovCloud to streamline the appeals process from more than five years by prioritizing pain points and producing timely appeals decisions. The VA is currently deploying a robust modernization strategy built around cloud services.
  • With Microsoft Azure Government, the Department of Defense is building a cloud environment for the Air Force to support future innovation and leapfrog more traditional cloud migration strategies in furtherance of the Air Force mission “to fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace.”

As agencies move forward in this new decade, they should think about what results they seek in cloud migration. Is their mission-critical inflection point at hand? Are their cloud strategies enhancing the mission or just shifting to infrastructure as a service? With the breadth of cloud solutions available to agencies, are they seeking ways that cloud services can improve mission performance, and how can cloud help execute them?

Posted by: Mark Forman

VP, Digital Government Strategy

Mark Forman is vice president of digital government strategy for SAIC. In this role, he is responsible for is leveraging deep domain expertise across the SAIC solutions portfolio to provide digital solutions important to U.S. Federal government clients. This includes data analytics, applications modernization, and hybrid cloud services using techniques including low code, containerization, and cloud native. He also co-chairs the SAIC CARES Solutions Task Force.

Forman is an accomplished thought leader with more than 30 years of professional work experience in industry and government, including a Presidential appointment to be the first U.S. Administrator for E-Government and Information Technology, the Federal Government’s Chief Information Officer.

Prior to joining SAIC in 2020 as part of its acquisition of Unisys Federal Systems, Forman was global industry vice president and global head of Unisys Public Sector. In that role, he designed and implemented the successful repositioning of Unisys as a global provider of solutions for Digital Government, Justice, Law Enforcement, Border Security, and Social Services. During his tenor, the Public Sector teams grew rapidly in both new clients and base business expansion, achieving nearly $1 billion in new contracts.

Before joining Unisys, Forman was vice president for IT Services and Cloud Solutions at TASC, Inc./Engility Corp., where his group assisted government agencies in transitioning to the cloud by providing advanced systems engineering, integration and decision-support services to the federal government. This work included building a high quality team of consultants and engineers that developed IT Modernization Roadmaps, a modern IT governance framework, and deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agencies first hybrid cloud environment.

Forman is past President and Co-founder of Government Transaction Services, Inc. which was established in 2010 to be the leading provider of cloud-based business process and transaction services enabling interaction with the federal government. Forman left KPMG LLP in January 2011, where he was a Principal/Partner and the Practice Leader of KPMG’s Federal Performance and Technology Advisory Practice. In this role, Forman created a rapidly growing organization of about 170 consultants assisting federal agencies in business transformation initiatives.

From 2001 through 2003, Forman was the first administrator for E-Government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, where he instituted most of the Federal IT budgeting and governance processes in use today. From 1997 to late 2000, Forman was a principal in IBM Global Services where he went from leading a federal government practice to creating and growing the national Public Sector e-Business Consulting Services, which he then extended to IBM’s Global Public Sector e-Business Strategy Services practice.

From March 1990 through February 1997, he was a lead staff member in the U.S. Senate for legislative reforms in place today including: Defense and government-wide management, major acquisition programs, and IT and weapons acquisition. He also conducted oversight and investigations on horror stories in major government projects.

Forman holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in public policy analysis from University of Chicago. He currently serves on the Social Security Administration Advisory Board IT Panel and previously served on the Board of Directors for Corio Inc. and the Advisory Board for PureEdge prior to their acquisition by IBM.



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