Hurd on the Hill: State of the Cloud

September 23, 2015
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns
Texas’ Role in our Digital Future

I’m going to share a secret with you that many folks in Congress don’t know.

Washington, D.C. is not the center of the universe.

While some of my colleagues may find this fact shocking, some of us know that the real work is being done by real people in what I call the ‘real world’. This week, I got to show some of the folks I work with in Congress what’s happening in the real world. In this case, it was my hometown, San Antonio, Texas.

As you may know, I serve as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It’s fantastic that the real world, practical skills I learned in the CIA and used as a senior advisor for a cybersecurity firm are now being utilized in Congress. Even better, I’m able to help form policy that will not only benefit our nation’s digital infrastructure, but also put the focus on parts of our district that are playing an instrumental role in shaping our digital future.

Though Committee hearings are usually held in committee hearing rooms in the various House office buildings back in D.C., as Chairman of the IT Subcommittee, I decided to change things up a little by hosting a hearing at the University of Texas San Antonio about, “The State of the Cloud”.  This is an important issue for both the public and private sectors of our nation. The federal government needs to move to the cloud far more quickly than it is. This will have the dual impact of driving down costs and improving security. This is one of the ways we can reduce the size and scope of government, while making it more effective and more efficient.

Witnesses included professionals who work every day on this issue – John Engates, the Chief Technology Officer at San Antonio’s own Rackspace; Alan Boissy, the Product Line Manager at VMware, the fourth largest software company in the world; and Mark Ryland, the Director of Solutions Architecture at Amazon.  Also joining us from the public sector were Dr. Mauli Agrawal, the Vice President of Research at UTSA, and Mark Kneidinger, the Director of Federal Network Resilience in the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications for the Department of Homeland Security.

I confess that part of my goal for this hearing was to show off the cyber industry in San Antonio. Though we have long been known as Military City, U.S.A., we are also becoming known as Cyber City, U.S.A.  Outside of D.C., San Antonio is home to more cyber professionals than anywhere else in the nation.  We have remarkable companies like Rackspace who are on the cutting edge of technology.

The University of Texas San Antonio is setting the standard for public/private partnerships in the cyber industry and I was very proud to partner with them for this hearing.

I invited DHS to join us because it’s imperative that they expand their digital presence outside of D.C. and it’s obvious that San Antonio would be a perfect fit.

 The recent OPM hack highlighted that most federal agencies are behind the curve when it comes to using current technology to keep our data secure from the people who would do us harm. As the IT Subcommittee chairman, I have direct oversight of this issue and I’m looking for ways to fix this problem. This recent hearing was a chance for me to look for answers from the people who work every day to solve it, while highlighting the important role San Antonio is playing in this brave new frontier.