Optimism in a Glum Financial Environment

In an atmosphere with continued threat of a Federal Government shutdown, talk of a flat lined budget for the outyears and continual cuts to the budget with no clear clarity of when or where it will stop, it is challenging to promote continued innovation and enthusiasm in Goddard’s IT investments and  workforce.  However, it is not impossible.  
Goddard’s defined IT goals and clear direction to obtain our customers’ business objectives will reassure success can still be had in times when it seems unattainable.  Our leadership will lead through an image that promotes understanding, preparation and drive to illustrate not only that our sustaining services will strengthen in continuity and satisfaction, but also will depict that our transforming investments are still in reach. 

Improved investment control, further acknowledgment of accomplishments, and monthly status reports will aid in ensuring all requirements are met.  It will also guarantee that opportunities for cost savings, improved performance and workforce excellence are identified and utilized.  In these opportunities the IT business will begin to establish and obtain its “quick wins.”  Thus, our customers and stakeholders will begin to extend their trust and support in the direction we have promised.  
Everyone- employees, leadership, stakeholders and customers- will have a hand in improving how Goddard does IT business.  It is through this partnership, that in these “glum” times we will still be providing light towards the defined architecture “to-be” state.  It will highlight that innovation and transforming investments are still objectives in the current IT business strategy.  We will not become stagnant and wait until times of ideal funding; it will be in this current state that we will make our game-changing moves to renovate the IT Portfolio for Goddard.

Our Mission is to Enable Yours

The next ten years hold many opportunities and challenges for the Goddard Space Flight Center. From the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, that will look back in time to find the first galaxies in the Universe, to Earth focused missions including the Joint Polar Satellite System to provide weather-forecasting, storm-tracking, and climate-monitoring and the Decadal Survey missions to renew our nation’s investment in Earth observing systems and restore our leadership and Earth and science applications, the work of GSFC will be both exciting for those of us involved and critical to our nation’s future.

To ensure success, our Information Technology must be ready to support the demanding work that is to come. If we wait for a need to arise before we plan for our information assets, we will not be able to complete our efforts in time to support our mission. Therefore, I am preparing a 1,000-day IT strategic plan and a EA IT Roadmap to lay the groundwork for the tools we will need to succeed. In order to identify the right technologies and activities for those plans, I need your help. Because who better to help identify the components of this future direction than those who work to serve Goddard’s mission everyday? I intend to use this blog to propose potential additions to our near-term and long-term plans and ask for your input. Each week I will identify challenges ahead for GSFC and suggest technologies to help meet those challenges. I need you, the GSFC Community, to make sure we are headed in the right direction and our plans are aligned with GSFC’s future needs.

Please watch this site and join me in a conversation about our future.

The Future of IT: Goddard's 2020 Vision

The exceptionalpersonnel of the Goddard Space Flight Center enjoy a proud heritage at thecutting edge of space and environmental science.  As a CIO looking 10years into Goddard’s future, I foresee the heritage of scientific and technicalexcellence preserved through the continued efforts of world-class personnel,world-class science, and world-class technology enhancements.

In today’s NASA,we talk of multiple types of service improvements through cloud computing,network integration, information sharing, and improved High PerformanceComputing.  As I consider the 1965 counsel of Intel co-founder GordonMoore, that computing power will double about every 2 years, that translatesinto a 2020 Goddard IT infrastructure that is 5 times more powerful than we havetoday.

Will integratedchip architecture continue to evolve as Moore’s Law predicts?  I believeit will – but perhaps not in completely the same form as heretofore. Perhaps in 10 years we will have achieved the first operational quantumcomputing capabilities.  Perhaps other interim or surpassing capabilitieswill have been attained.  Whatever the form these technologies will take,the underpinning information technologies at GSFC will enable more powerfulsensors, producing exponentially more detailed data, which in turn will beunderstood through modeling that today can be considered only a dream.

As in the past,in the year 2020, the GSFC team and its supporting technologies will still bedriving the means by which mankind observes, measures, and predicts the stateof our global environment, the understanding of our sun and solar system, theidentification of exoplanets capable of sustaining human life, and the originsof our universe.  The attainment of such knowledge will continue to improvethe lives of millions, sustain and advance our national economy, and fire theimaginations of those who will one day stand on our shoulders as GSFC is passedto a new generation of scientific leaders.  It is my belief thatinformation technology will continue to be a tool to sustain and enrich thateffort now and in the future.

A Work in Progress

As most Goddard components have seen, the work on the GSFC IT strategy and follow-on roadmap continues to move forward.  These initiatives began last year with a number of intake mechanisms.  The ITCD planning team met with large and small groups of the Goddard family, and followed up to be sure that recommendations had been properly captured and articulated.  

With the completion of the first full drafts of the strategy and roadmap, we are now returning to the individuals, groups, and organizations from which the initial recommendations emerged.  It is gratifying to hear how many great new ideas have been spawned through this socialization process.  It is also gratifying to hear how many of the concepts we captured in the initial drafts are being validated by their originators.

A central theme of the strategy and roadmap documents is to “create, maximize, and extend the value of Goddard IT investments.”  As we face the prospect of significant FY-11 budget constraints imposed by the new Congress, I think this approach will serve us well as we attempt to sustain our capabilities in difficult financial times.  Thanks to all who have contributed – and continue to contribute – to the Goddard IT strategy and roadmap!

Doing More with Less: Improving the acquisition of IT systems

Sometimes, the simple act of knowing that you are doingthe right thing can be energizing…

The latest announcement from OMB on improving theacquisition of major IT systems by the Federal government gave me a sense of déjàvu linked with a sense of pride in my team here at NASA Goddard Space FlightCenter. In a recent briefing to ACT/IAC (http://www.actgov.org)Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, communicated the goals of the new effort. They closelyresemble the goals and principles that Goddard’s Information Technology communityhas devised to guide IT investments for the foreseeable future. Our ITStrategic Implementation Plan and IT Capability Roadmaps respond to enterprisegoals, encompass Center needs, and mirror the OMB endeavor. I am pleased to seesuch alignment of effort across the Federal space.

The OMB goals are simple, and address key pain points thatfederal agencies wrestle with daily.

Provide additionaltraining in the area of acquisition management and create a new career path forprogram managers in the Federal government.

The responsibility for acquiring and managing services isa weighty one.  Those who areresponsible must be developing their own skills and responsibilitiesconstantly, keeping up with the technological rate of change itself.  Our workforce has to be prepared notonly to manage these increasingly complex services, but to use them fully.

Require agencies toestablish integrated and co-located project teams before embarking upon majorIT acquisitions.

Analysis and communication of requirements sometimesneeds a truly human touch and understanding of the customers’ needs. Beyondthat, the teams must work as an integrated whole so that the product or serviceis truly fit for purpose.

Enhance the abilityof government and industry to communicate and collaborate more effectively.  Sharpen thegovernance and accountability processes for monitoring major IT acquisitions.

Through ACT/IAC these high level conversations betweengovernment and industry regularly take place, but these discussions need to happenat all levels within the IT organization to include contracting officers,COTARs, project managers, task managers, and the boots-on-the-ground technicalexperts themselves.  We have animmense amount of talent and loyalty within our organizations on each side ofthe public/private divide. We need to make better use of the talent at hand,and establish governance structures that allow us to tap this expertise moreeffectively.

Ensure that agenciesare taking advantage of existing IT solutions wherever possible in lieu ofembarking upon major development and acquisition projects.

Replicating services isn’t terribly useful orcost-effective, and it does not expose novel ways of solving a problem. Why notadopt processes and technologies that have many kinks worked out, especiallyones that already exist within our own enterprise? The age of open standards ismaking borrowing much more possible as the barriers of institutional differenceare replaced with designs that allow for federation, scalability, and tighterinformation security. 

In the past, it was often too expensive to collaborate inorder to make wise decisions; now, it is too expensive not to. I look forwardto seeing these recommendations play out nearly as much as I anticipate greatchange and excitement within the IT community at Goddard. The possibilities arethere; even the sky isn’t the limit anymore.