Federal IT Survey Finds Spike in Government Cybersecurity Challenges

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Though efforts remain high, federal execs are not quite where they want to be on their IT modernization journey.

Most federal executives want to strengthen cybersecurity as they modernize IT, but many find their efforts are falling short of actually relieving IT security challenges.

A new study from Unisys Corp. surveyed 200 federal executives in both civilian and defense agencies, and 62 percent ranked cybersecurity as the top priority for agency modernization projects over the next year. Yet, 59 percent said these efforts have increased IT security challenges rather than alleviate them, and 43 percent graded their agencies’ modernization efforts at satisfactory or lower when it comes to improving cybersecurity.

This may be because of a lack of adequate staff and resources to properly manage today’s security challenges, according to Venkatapathi Puvvada, president of Unisys Federal. More than half of those facing these security challenges said it’s difficult for their agencies’ IT staff to support and complete all transitions. Other reasons included issues related to increased compliance reporting, learning new systems and complex management tools.   

The survey also asked respondents to grade their agencies’ achievements on 13 technology-related and nine process-related factors crucial to their agencies’ IT modernization journey. Even with the rise of cybersecurity challenges, 57 percent graded their agencies’ efforts as “A” or “B” in cybersecurity, as opposed to a lower 34 percent in leveraging cloud computing.

Specifically, the Unisys report said federal execs face unexpected hurdles while moving to the cloud, but “those respondents who are actively working with industry partners to facilitate their cloud transitions reported a much easier road to cloud adoption by a two-to-one margin,” Puvvada said in the press release. In fact, 45 percent of respondents gave their agency an “A” or “B” for efforts in engaging with industry partners.

Still, respondents remain concerned about challenges like mandates and lengthy procurement cycles, with almost half claiming federal procurement processes added time and complication to modernization efforts. And perhaps not so surprising, more than 90 percent of all respondents said the most important factors to their agencies’ IT modernization efforts are led by sufficient funds, aligning the project with the mission and having skilled technical staff and leadership commitment.