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As most Capitol Hill professionals can attest, Congressional staffers are stretched pretty thin these days.  With today's 24/7 news cycle, seemingly constant international crises and partisan politics reaching fever pitch, there's plenty of work to go around in Congressional offices.  With that said, there are other factors that contribute to the heavy workloads on the Hill.  Staff turnover and stagnant pay has become a real problem in Congress and has led to a widening gap in institutional knowledge.  A study from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found that there are fewer House staff and fewer legislative support agency personnel now than at any time since 1979. The effect of this lack of support staff is felt most acutely in the staffs for the Congressional Research Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Congressional Budget Office who have lost 45% of their combined staff from 1975 to 2015.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that on average each House member represents about 200,000 more constituents today than they did 30 years ago, while the average Senator represents 1.6 million more. 63% of the DC staffers polled by the CMF stated that they wanted to find another job, most often due to the fact that salaries have gone unchanged (and in some cases decreased) in the past two decades. With a competitive and thriving market for former Hill talent, staffers can easily find higher pay in the private sector. Because of this, the average age for a DC-based Hill staffer is only 31.  Fortunately, most professionals on the Hill are called to this line of work not because of the financial benefits, but due to the unique opportunity to make a true difference in the direction of the country.  In fact, 94% of Congressional staffers choose to stay in their jobs rather than test the private sector, “because they believe what they’re doing is meaningful”.

This gap in experience and education is making it more and more difficult for Members to get the information they need for important legislative actions like determining voting positions and drafting new bills. More and more Congressional offices are turning to lobbyists, interest groups and private sector resources for help, allowing these groups to exert a unique influence in the halls of Congress.  Most Members of Congress would probably agree that relying on outside experts for legislative guidance is not always ideal. 

Fortunately, there is an option to provide fair, accurate and unbiased data to Congress when staffers don't have the bandwidth or expertise. Quorum Analytics provides the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information on an intuitive, web-based platform, allowing easy access to bills, votes, Tweets, Facebook posts, press releases, floor statements, hearing schedules and transcripts, committee reports, Dear Colleague letters, CRS reports and much more. Bill text comparison allows Congressional staff to effortlessly highlight additions, subtractions, and modifications to every bill so they never miss a thing as the bill makes its way to the floor.  Integrated Legislative outreach allows staffers to easily help the Member prepare for meetings and update colleagues, making it easier to find and share what’s most important.  Quantitative legislative targeting provides actionable insights to help you identify active Members, affected constituents and key relationships, providing you with key demographic data to allow you to make more informed legislative decisions.  With those available features and the fully functional mobile app, it’s never been easier to provide the best possible and most informed service for your constituents.

Leidos is pleased to be the exclusive reseller of Quorum Analytics on Capitol Hill and we'd love to provide a short demo to show you how Quorum Analytics can be your legislative team's best friend.  Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a demo.

On Monday, April 1st, President Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era bill known as Section 222. Section 222 of the Communications Act was initially intended to create an affirmative right to privacy in our communications and was due to be in effect through 2017. In March of this year Congress enacted a rarely used procedural move known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to initiate a repeal. How does this affect you? Well, let’s start with the basics:

What is Internet Privacy?

Internet Privacy is your right or mandate to personal privacy of your information via the internet. This can involve browsing history, personal data, demographics, purchasing history and more. Today, Internet privacy has a different connotation than standard privacy concerns and typically pertains to user information. The 1997 Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) defined information privacy as "an individual's claim to control the terms under which personal information--information identifiable to the individual--is acquired, disclosed, and used." At present, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not required to obtain an individual’s consent before accessing and selling a user’s information.

What was the bill going to do?  What are the consequences of the repeal?

The new regulations under Section 222 would have required Internet Service Providers to receive consent from users before selling their information, protecting the individual’s privacy from telecommunications carriers with unique access to our communications and our personal information. These new regulations would have adapted Section 222 to apply to broadband companies in a way that, since the founding of the bill in 1996, they had not. The CRA repeal of these new regulations removes some restrictions on ISP’s access to information, and was clearly a priority for ISP companies, given that they spent nearly $8 million dollars lobbying Congress to pass the repeal. “Historically, regulations have treated data as the property of the consumer,” GeekWire wrote. Under the new bill, “it will be viewed more like the property of internet providers.” In theory, anyone from insurance companies, airlines, banks, and retailers to political parties or governments could buy data profiles of consumers. The CRA repeal also essentially hamstrung the previous regulations by including caveats to make it more difficult for the FCC to pursue similar regulations in the future.

But there are benefits to the repeal of Section 222. The proliferation of public information about users could make it easier for companies to more effectively reach their target audiences, cutting through bothersome, irrelevant ads and saving businesses millions in lost advertising dollars.  In theory, if advertisers can more effectively find their customers and spend less money doing so, prices could drop in a variety of industries, especially those with heavy eCommerce presences.  Also, the ability for ISPs to use consumer data could allow them to more evenly balance advertising and usage, allowing you more time surfing without being barraged with ads. 

However, in could be quite a while before we know the true effect of the repeal of Section 222.  In the two months since the repeal was signed, roughly a dozen state senators have taken up measures in enhance their state’s internet privacy laws and protect constituent’s privacy. Many Members of Congress have vocally protested the repeal and the issue is unlikely to die down anytime soon.  Stay tuned!

De-Mystifying FedRAMP

April 11, 2017

If you work in—or anywhere near—government IT, chances are you’ve heard the term FedRAMP a few times in the last year or two.  Or more likely, you’ve heard the term a few dozen times…this month.  FedRAMP is quickly becoming a buzzword among public sector professionals, particularly those in highly technical or security-centric roles.  In this post, we’re going to try to pull back the curtain and explain, in layman’s terms, what FedRAMP means and why it’s so important.

What is FedRAMP?

FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services.  In other words, FedRAMP is a government-sanctioned stamp of approval indicating that a cloud service provider has met a specific set of stringent cybersecurity and performance benchmarks.  When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise.  Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments.  When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe. 
 

Why Does it Matter?

Considering the nature of the work and the sensitive information so often involved, it goes without saying that cybersecurity is vital to every day government operations.  It’s also true that faster processing speeds, increased computing elasticity and on-demand cloud-based solutions are becoming more and more attractive to government agencies.  Cybersecurity experts at the NSA, DoD, GSA and in the private sector agree that this migration toward the cloud will continue to grow expontentially in the coming years.  With that in mind, these experts have concluded that a standardized replacement for inconsistent, costly cloud assessment techniques is vital to maintaining a secure government IT infrastructure across the country.  That replacement is FedRAMP.  And for the last several years, government agencies are legally required to select FedRAMPed solutions if they wish to migrate core systems to the cloud.

 

How Does it Work?

Every cloud service provider that seeks FedRAMPed status for its products and services is required to undergo a comprehensive, three-step evaluation process, sometimes spanning a year or more. 

1.       Security Assessment.  The FedRAMP security assessment uses a standardized set of requirements in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) using a baseline set of NIST 800-53 controls to grant security authorizations to cloud service providers.
 

2.       Leveraging and Authorization.  Government agencies view security authorization packages in the FedRAMP repository and leverage the security authorization packages to grant a security authorization at their own agency for an individual cloud service provider.  This step is known as the Authority to Operate (ATO).
 

3.       Ongoing Assessment & Authorization.  Once an authorization is granted, cloud service providers are subject to a series of stringent, ongoing assessments and authorizations in order to retain FedRAMPed status.

 

How Does Leidos Digital Fit In?

As of April 2017, Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer a new way for government agencies to purchase IQ, our industry leading CRM solution.  IQ FedCloud and IQ GovCloud are now available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform and can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K.  To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!