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Government Prepping Cloud Computing Guidance

As a report warns agencies won't move forward without clearer policy, White House readies comprehensive cloud strategy and cybersecurity rules.

Federal agencies in charge of the Obama administration's cloud computing push intend later this year to issue a comprehensive government cloud computing strategy and new cybersecurity guidance for federal cloud computing, officials said in Congressional testimony on Thursday, as a new Government Accountability Office report urged the government to develop more final guidance.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the administration is making it a point to take a "deliberate approach" to cloud computing, beginning over the past year with working groups, summits, and establishment of a program management office and some pilot efforts.

Now, Kundra said, the Office of Management and Budget is moving toward a comprehensive cloud computing plan that will be in place by December. The new strategy, Kundra said in a written response to the GAO report, will include a five- to 10-year plan, but will need to evolve over time based on market evolution.

According to the GAO report, OMB will ensure its strategy addresses security challenges, including agency-specific guidance, the appropriate use of standards, and the division of cybersecurity responsibility between agency and provider.

In addition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working on formal guidance, which will be available for comment in September, to address cloud computing security issues lacking in existing NIST documentation on federal cybersecurity requirements. NIST recently released a similar document dealing with virtualization.

"Both federal and private sector officials have made clear that existing guidance is not sufficient," the GAO report said. The report recommended that NIST "issue cloud computing information security guidance to federal agencies to more fully address key cloud computing domain areas that are lacking in SP 800-53, such as virtualization, data center operations, and portability and interoperability, and include a process for defining roles and responsibilities of cloud computing service providers and customers."

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