Federal Cybersecurity Projects May Provide Zero Trust Blueprints for MSSPs

The first seven awards worth $311 million granted to federal agencies under the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) will see investments in zero trust networking and digital identity, standardizing secure data and information sharing, and improving interagency collaboration.

MSSPs that study the project descriptions could gain some clues about how to build and deliver Zero Trust managed security services to federal agencies.

Indeed, five of the TMF awards are aimed at buttressing the nation’s cybersecurity profile in one form or another and include projects to modernize high-priority systems. Two support cross-government collaboration and scalable services, and two improve public-facing digital services. Three attend to COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts. The seventh project is classified and not included in the total.

Four agencies were awarded six projects, including three to the Government Services Administration, one to the Office of Personnel Management, one to the Department of Education and one to the Department of Homeland Security. They are the first projects funded by the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) emergency legislation that provides $1 billion in TMF funds to modernize IT, bolster cybersecurity defenses and respond to the COVID-19 crisis. In that ARP bundle is $650 million for cybersecurity.

Federal Agency IT Initiatives: More Details

The tranche marks the seventh round of TMF awards since the Modernizing Government Technology Act established the fund in 2017. Since its inception, the TMF board has awarded 18 projects to 10 agencies worth roughly $400 million.

Here’s the list:

  1. Zero Trust Networking, U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The goal is to improve the security of data and privacy protections for 2 million civilian federal employees whose data is housed in the Office of Personnel Management’s systems.
  2. Zero Trust Architecture, U.S. Department of Education. The goal is to improve the security of data and privacy protections for the over 100 million students and borrowers the Department of Education supports.
  3. Advancing Zero Trust, U.S. General Services Administration. The goal is to bolster the security of GSA’s shared services that support millions of users and hundreds of facilities under the control of GSA.
  4. Login.gov, U.S. General Services Administration. The goal is to promote the widespread adoption of secure authentication for millions of users, allowing easy access to the services that the federal government provides, and significantly improve the security of government systems. Increase adoption of identity proofing while ensuring equitable access to government services, preventing fraud, mitigating the risk of identity theft and protecting individual privacy.
  5. MAX.gov Transition, U.S. General Services Administration. The goal is to improve inter agency cooperation and communication, particularly in a remote and hybrid environment, as well as support strong authentication for federal employees interacting with government systems.
  6. Southwest Border Technology Integration Program, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The goal is to use data and technology to more efficiently, effectively, and humanely process non-citizens encountered at our Southwest Border.
  7. Classified Project. The goal is undisclosed since all details are classified.

“When our citizens need something from the Federal Government, they don’t think about an agency’s name or organizational chart; instead, they focus on the service, benefit, or information they need – and try their best to get it,” wrote Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana in a blog post.

“Government services should be as easy to use as the consumer products and services our citizens use in their daily lives,” she said. “In many cases though, the public must figure out how to navigate across department and agency silos, use paper-based processes, and deal with multiple call centers before getting to an answer. We must do better.”

Monitoring the Progress

TMF board officials said each project’s progress will be tracked and make adjustments as needed. Funds for these projects will be distributed incrementally, and will be tied to performance targets and delivery milestones. The Board will review projects quarterly to make sure they are on schedule and milestones are met, and the program management office at GSA will provide hands-on technical support to project teams to guarantee successful execution. As of July, some 100 proposals had been submitted for the awards.

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