Jan 06 2022

5 Tech Questions Facing Washington in 2022

Hybrid work, cybersecurity, budgeting, automation technologies and a new infrastructure law will all be hot topics in federal IT.

The world is unpredictable and getting more so all the time.

That sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, but it’s true. Take 2021, for example. Who would’ve predicted that, after years of effort, the nation would actually have a major infrastructure law? Or that flip phones would be back?

I’ll leave it to prognosticators smarter and braver than I am to predict what might happen in 2022. What does seem clear, at least from a big-picture technology perspective, is the list of major questions facing the federal government as we enter the new year. Work to address these questions will be high on the agendas of government agencies and their private sector partners throughout the next 12 months.

Here are what I see as the top five. 

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1. What Will the Federal Workplace Look Like?

2022 will be an important time for defining what the federal workplace will look like for years to come.

As a McKinsey report puts it: “As the federal government prepares for the next normal in work, leaders must consider a number of pressing questions. What is their vision for the work, workforce, and workplace? Should they bring employees back? How can they communicate policies? What might the real-estate footprint — and the larger workforce environment — look like? What can they learn from the private sector and early movers?”

On June 10, 2021, a joint directive from the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the General Services Administration urged agencies to offer employees more flexible schedules and remote work, depending on their needs, for the near future and even permanently.

It will be interesting to see in 2022 how government agencies and the contractors that support them will address the evolving workplace from a process and technology standpoint. 

RELATED: How will hybrid work evolve in 2022?

2. How Will the Cybersecurity Executive Order Be Implemented?

In May of 2021, President Biden issued an executive order that declared that the nation “faces persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns that threaten the public sector, the private sector, and ultimately the American people’s security and privacy,” and called for “bold changes and significant investments” in deterring attacks. 

Three months later, the administration began to add more specificity around the order, announcing that the National Institute of Standards and Technology will collaborate with industry and other partners on a new framework to improve supply chain security. The administration still has a lot of work ahead of it: developing zero-trust network architecture plans for agencies, proposing software supply chain guidelines and more. 

The new year is guaranteed to be filled with an array of additional guidance and proposals to carry out the executive order. This will keep stakeholders very busy.

EXPLORE: What comes next on zero trust in federal IT?

3. What About the New Infrastructure Law?

The law signed by the President on Nov.15 of last year includes $65 billion to build out high-speed universal broadband across the country. It’s a significant investment that should go a long way toward universal broadband for all Americans.

But complicated decisions lie ahead. For example, what is the best way to expand broadband? Is it laying more “future-proof” fiber-optic cable? Is it other types of fixed wireless like cable? Is it municipal broadband? Is it 5G fixed wireless access services? How can the public and private sectors best collaborate?

These questions will need to be addressed in 2022, and how they’re answered will decide the rate of progress in closing the . 

DIVE DEEPER: How will agencies evolve their networks jn 2022?

4. Is Budget Volatility the New Normal?

This is really an academic question. The answer is: of course. It feels like ages ago that the federal appropriations process unfolded in traditional, annual cycles. In today’s political climate, a series of continuing resolutions — temporary measures to finance government activities for a limited amount of time, often to avoid shutdowns when lawmakers can’t agree — has become the rule.

Unpredictability has always come with the territory in working for or with the government, but budget volatility has added a new layer that won’t disappear anytime soon. Government agencies and vendors will need to continue to adapt in 2022 and consider that there could be more frequent periods of time when government funds are limited or nonexistent.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how automation will make agencies more efficient.

5. Will Artificial Intelligence and Automation Gain More Traction?

Many federal agencies are committed to leveraging intelligent automation for a range of benefits, from making digital services faster and more responsive for citizens to relieving employees of rote, low-value work. 

For example, the federal government in the past few years has been increasingly adopting robotic process automation, a technology that uses software robots to automate highly repetitive tasks that people would otherwise perform manually and free them up for higher-value work.

It’s generally agreed that consistent uptake of automation technologies across the federal government remains a work in progress. In 2022, however, we’re likely to see more agencies go beyond dipping their toes in the automation waters and dive in on a broader scale. There’s greater push for it at the highest levels of government, and the benefits simply have become too strong to ignore.

As these five points show, while it’s impossible to predict specific events coming our way in 2022, it’s easier to identify the broad trends likely to shape the year. We look forward to seeing how they play out.

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