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#131 Digital Transformation in Federal Government

on Wed Mar 29 2023 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

with Darren W Pulsipher, Mark Valcich,

Keywords: #compute #people #technology #automation #ai #cybersecurity #innovation

In this episode, Darren interview Mark Valcich director and GM of Federal Civilian Public Sector at Intel. Mark's years of experience shine as he describes the current trends in digital transformation in the federal civilian government.

Mark has worked with the federal government for over 20 years and has seen firsthand how agencies embrace new technology to improve their services to citizens. One trend he has noticed is a focus on customer experiences, such as using mobile passport applications by Customs and Border Protection. Despite the challenges of delivering large-scale initiatives in constantly changing environments, Mark sees many opportunities for the government to accelerate its mission by adopting new technology.

COVID has accelerated innovation within the federal government and exposed gaps in areas such as VPN connections and security for remote workers. Agencies continue to innovate, focusing on cloud technology and improving customer experience. Education and communication are critical in making informed decisions about where to place workloads and implementing cloud technologies. Despite concerns that bureaucracy may slow innovation, innovation’s benefits continue to drive innovation within the federal government, including cloud, edge computing, cybersecurity, and secure supply chain areas.

Multi-Hybrid Cloud

There is a growing trend of multi-hybrid cloud usage and the various challenges that come with it, such as security and data management. The importance of having a well-structured plan for digital transformation projects was emphasized with the need for early success. Another innovation is edge computing, which translates to getting insights from information at the edge faster without needing a connection. Several organizations are currently working to figure out how to leverage edge computing power to improve their services. Some use cases include water sensor monitoring in agriculture and optimizing mail delivery routes for the US Postal Service.


When automation and cybersecurity are combined, they can accelerate an organization’s ability to react to threats, deploy new capabilities, and provide better services to their constituents. The work shortage arising from baby boomers retiring will require automation to address this issue. One example is how automation improved the inspection process at the border for produce and flowers, resulting in faster processing times and longer shelf life.


The current IT/OT environment is a constantly evolving threat landscape, with bad actors continuously innovating. Intel is innovating and creating hardware security technology that encrypts data to protect against nefarious actors. Cybersecurity is top of mind for the Federal government, as noted by President Biden’s recent press release emphasizing critical infrastructure protection as the number one cybersecurity issue. Essential management of infrastructure in the US, given the country’s unique state structure and the involvement of various entities like local municipalities and private power companies. The Critical Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guides cybersecurity and sets standards for secure systems across federal, state, and local levels.

Secure Supply Chain

Another critical vulnerability exposed by COVID-19 is the geopolitical risks and cybersecurity threats to the supply chain. Intel’s transparent supply chain allows customers to verify the integrity of components, which is crucial in ensuring hardware and software security. With these measures in place, the US is taking steps towards bolstering its industrial and national security.

The supply chain is not just for physical assets; software, firmware, and hardware all play an important role in supply chain security. All components have attack vectors and require secure software, building materials, component verification, and device integrity for validation—an executive order around software and materials, which Intel is adhering to on their new processors. Intel provides hardware security technologies and transparent supply chain capabilities as part of a zero-trust architecture.

Podcast Transcript


Hello, this is Darren

Pulsipher, chief solution,architect of public sector at Intel.

And welcome to Embracing

Digital Transformation,where we investigate effective change,leveraging people processand technology.

On today's episode, Digital Transformationin the Civilian Federal Governmentwith special guest Mark Vaile chat.

Mark, welcome to the show. Hi, Darren.

Thanks for having me today.

Good to see you.

So Mark is our general managerof Federal Civil.

Is that right? Federal Civil.

That sounds wrong.

Yeah, the federal civilian departmentsand agencies.

Everything except for DODin the intelligence community.

And that's. That's huge, Mark.

Yeah, Yeah. See?

So, Mark,tell us a little bit about yourself, mymy viewers, as to get to know youa little bit better.

Sure. Yeah.

So I've been here at Intel for 23 years,going on 24 years,and I've had several jobsstarted in our cloud business,which we we incorporateall the learnings into our xeonsand now we've got the best cloudprocessors out there.

And I worked at itfor about four or five yearsas a data analyst and enterprise architectbefore getting back into sales,which is where I was before joining Intel,

I joined our reseller channel organizationand led our federal channel effortsfor a couple of yearsbefore swapping jobswith one of my counterparts, Dave Everett,and taking on the civilian accountexecutive job,and did that for about six years.

Up until last year when I beganmanaging the team, callingon the federal civilian government,which includes federal healthcare, the VA, HHS and VHA.

It includes the space and energy accounts,nascent Department of Energy,and also law enforcement, DHS, DOJand the State Department

Diplomacy Mission,as well as the Citizen Services account.

So Post Office, Treasury, Transportation,and severalother departments and agencies within U.S.federal government.

That's a huge job. Mark

Yeah, it's exciting.

Let me tell you, lots of opportunityto help our government agencies understandthe value of new technologyand to embrace that,to help them accelerate their missionand get, you know, bettertime to mission insights,as well as providing the I.T.utilitiesthat the departments need to run on.


Email and office applicationsand other enterprise,you know, kind of what we would callthe mundane type of things,but the things that keep everythingrunning, right, they do.

And let me tell you, if emails that runin that that creates a major problemfor a lot of missioncritical agencies like FEMA, right?

I mean, they they useand we all do use that toolto to run our business to some extentor to different extents.

And yeah, thatthose utilities need to be up and running.

So. All right.

So Mark,because you have such a broad viewof our federal government,which you do right, because you'reyou cover so many different agencies,what kind of trendsare you seeing over the past,let's say the past three or four years?

What trendshave you seen over the over that time,kind of a broad brush across everything?


So federal agencies are in the midstof a significant digital transformationand they've got the formidabletask of continuously deliveringon large scale operational goalsand initiativesin environments with everchanging conditions and requirements.

So, you know, they've got to continueflying the plane and changethe wheels and change the enginesand change the frame.

And transform is probably a better wordto improve the way that they're ableto deliver their servicesto their constituents.


Like citizensand to provide a customer experienceso customersappearance has been a big focus.

As a matter of fact, you know,

I just flew back from out of countryand my plane was delayedand I was waiting in the airportand someone said to me, Oh,have you seen the new Customs and Border

Protection mobile passport application?

And what is it?

What is that? Oh, I've used that.

That's super cool.

So I downloaded it sitting in the airportand when we hit the groundin Houston, I was uploading my passport,entering the namesand filling out that old paper formthat you had to do by hand.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then very tight connection.

And guess what?

We got the cut the lineand we went to a very short lineand got through customsin about 5 minutes.

Thanks to that new mark.

Don't tell everyone.

I don't want everyone to bein the short line with. That's right.

That's right.

No, that's a very that'sa very good use case.

I've seen similar thingshere in California with the DMV.

Mm hmm.

And I think COVID kind of forced the hand.

Have you seen COVIDhave have a huge effect onon the civilian sideof federal government as well?

Yeah, I think COVID, you know, just like

Pat Gelsinger says at Intel, you know, ittook ten years of innovationand collapsed it down to one or two years.


And we're seeing similar thingswithin our federal agencies.

You know, another example is, you know,guess what?

My passport was going to expireand he needed to get it renewed.

And I thought to myself, oh, no, no,

I got to schedule time.

I got to go get a picturetaken at a pharmacy.

I got to go to the post office.

Well, I went to their Web siteand they had this new beta versionof renewing your passport online.

Shrunk the time required down to minutes.

Didn't even need to leave my home.

And that, you know, is a resultprobably of, you know, trying to cover it.


Trying to avoid having to interactwith people and, you know, do thingsmore automatically using systemsthat are available to us through our,you know, Intel based PC.

So so do you do you think thatwell well, let's go back

COVID accelerated a lot of things.

Did it exposeanything in doing that as well?

Yeah, Well, I mean, specifically thingslike VPN connections right therethat the utilities that it providedwere sufficient for occasional workfrom home.

But, you know,they needed to be more robust andbe able to supplysupport the capacity needed with everybodyworking remotely.

And then also securityusers. Right.

So there are intelligence analystswithin the civilian government andthere were issues with them being ableto work remotely, which have actuallybeen satisfied with some new capabilitiesthat leveraged software and hardwaresecurity and enable a robust,secure connection that is is CSC capable.

So yeah, it exposed some gaps.

A couple of those I mentioned.

And then, you know, stepsthat we're putting in placeto actually address those gaps.

So so do you think we've we've overcomea lot of those those gaps from the initial

I remember when COVID hit, it was likespend as much moneyas you can to keep the business goingor to keep the service going or whateverthe case was, was right.

I mean, wewe did everything we possibly could.

Now we're kind of in thislull, right?

Do we still see innovationhappening as fast?

Has it slowed way down?

And now we're just put the bureaucracyback in and slow everything down?

Where do you see things going?

Yeah, I would definitely say that.

My observationis that innovation has continued and,you know, that's being drivenby the executive orders.

Executive order aroundcybersecurity is one of themthat is driving continued innovationaround cybersecurity and secure supplychain.

There's also a big driveto improve customer experience.

So let's talk about innovation Andif if organizations, agenciesare being more innovative,where are they being innovative?

Where they headed?

Because if we need to be in front of thatright to help themand guide them along to this innovation.

So where where are those areasthat you see innovation happening?

Yeah, there's a great demand for you know,first it was called cloud firstand now we have cloud smartwithin the U.S.federal governmentthat persists and continuingto see innovationand actually embracing cloud smart in thatcloud is in a place that you go.

It's a architecture that you embraceand allows you to take advantageof a lot of the economies of scalethat are available, and that could be donein a multi hybrid cloud world.

So it can be done on prem,it can be done off prem.

And you know, what we see isis continuing to have tocommunicate and educate folks on you know,what is the right performance,what is the right security,what is the right cost modelin trying to make a decisionon where you put a workloadand implementing those cloud technologiesthat allow you to moveyour workloads, you know, with easebetween cloud providersand between your on prem systemand the offering system as well.

You know, when you when you brought thatup, it reminded me ofyou and I going to was a Departmentof Homeland Security. Yes.

In that awful buildingwhere you get lost really easily.

I can't remember the name.

Was it the Roosevelt Building or somethinglike that or It's the GSA building.

The GSA building? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We walked in there and confusedwhere we were.

I was confused. You knew your way aroundand we talked exactly about this.

And this was, what, four years ago?

It was pre-COVID,you know, and it's great to see peoplestarting to adopt this multi hybrid cloudand all of the aspects of itthat that you have to dealwith security, data management,all those sorts of things are realthings that are happening now, right now.


I mean, you know, that just showsthat it takes timeto architect changeand to implement change, right?

And it's a journeyyou know, it's something that doesn'thappen in a quarteror sometimes even in a year.

But you need a plan,you need an architecture, you need a plan,and you've got to move out in the planand hit your milestones along the way.

And, you know, that'swhat's these these large scaledigital transformationprojects are extremely important.

And you need to be ableto measure yourselfwith some early successeson a multiyear journey.

And we're startingto see some of those successes play out.

So I like I like that.

So measure early successesinstead of saying, oh, in five yearswe're going to have this big old hugething, have some early milestonesthat you can hitand check the box off and say,

Yeah, we're doing well.

You know, I like that. All right.

So cloud is one of the big innovations.

That's what I heard.

What's another big innovationthat you're seeing or a big concernthat needs to be addressed? Yeah, some ofsome of the otherlatent needs that we're starting to seecome up as as needs is edgeedge computing and doing a better jobat getting insightsout of the information on the edge fasteras opposed to having to waituntil there's a connection.

And you could do the backend data processing, you know, just movethose inferencing modelsright out to the edge.

You're still going to do some trainingand update the models on a regular basis,but put the power of the insights rightout the edge into the operators hands.


And we see Homeland Security expressingthose needsas well as otheras well as other agencies.

All right.

So give me some idea, because we hearthis inference at the edge.

I even talk about it.

Give me some practical use cases for that.

But what does thatwhat does that mean, edge?

I mean,is it a sensor sitting somewhere or.

I mean, what I mean,how how profound or how big is the edge?

Or what does it include?

Yeah, Good, good, good, good question.

There's a there's a few examplesthat are still being worked on,so probably too early to talk about them.

But in in essence, it's taking togethermultiple sensors, information,fuzing them togetherand being able to get insightsout of two pieces of data.

So if you think about aagricultural use case,having a water sensormonitor deployed within within a farmsetting in multiple locationswill, you know, give you the datathat you need in order to understand,you know, you know, how how much waterto be applying in the fields,in the farms, as an example.

I like that one that came to my mind, too,was the US Postal Postal Service.

They have.

How many edge devices do they have?

You know, every single vehicle has.

And in the post I noticethe postal people carry around a device.

Now they said I just deliveredthis, right? Yep.

Yeah, that everything that's incredible.

That is a goodthat is a good example at the post office.

And there are several use cases wherethey're actuallyusing technologyto move the mail through the mail plantsand to manage or automate theirtheir logisticalsupply chainas well as all of the routing of themail delivery trucks and especially asthe workforce force,which is the baby boomer workforcetoday, is retiring.

And there are a lot of maildelivery clerksthat have the best optimizedroute up there in their head.

And when they retire, how do you transferthat knowledge to the new person?

And that's being donethrough through automation and,you know, optimized mail delivery routesthat are available on the edge deviceand are being modeled through backend systemsto provide, you know,real time routes for the delivery of mailto save money on fuel, to save timeso that the mail clerks start outdelivering, you know, passedpast the dark when it comes,they can get their work done duringnormal hours quicker, more efficientlyand when to take their smoke break.

Yeah, yeah.

I've seen

I've seen it launch and things like that.

I think this is reallycool because you brought up another areathat I'm starting to see as well,and that's automation.

Yeah, automation, as you mentioned,it's a really important innovationthat people are starting to. Yes.

Take more advantage of,like you said, because the workwe're going to have a work shortageand we're already starting to have it.

I mean, there already is a work shortageand it's it's going to get even worseas the baby boomers retire.

Right. So, yeah.

And you know, another automationexample for you ishave you everhave you ever gone to the grocery storestore and brought home flowers or fruit?


And then a day or two later,fruits of the fruits bad,you got to throw it awayor the petals are falling off the flowers.

You just scrape off the bad partsand eat the rest.

Come on.

Well, there was an issue withhow that produceand flowers was coming into the countryand taking too too much timeto to get inspected and process.

Oh, at the border. Right.

The border, Yeah.

So that was addressedthrough an automation project.

And instead of the inspectorsgoing out with a clipboard and paperand checking containers,and then at the end of the day,getting back to their computer terminaland entering the informationand IT processing,they went to a real timedigital applicationand running on a curvy pro tablet.

And the inspectors were walking out nowwith that tabletand doing real timeinspection and, you know, clearingor processing of that produceand those flowersand that resulted in themgetting on those store shelves quickerand therefore, you know, your flowersnow lasting longer when you get them homeand so is your produce.

So yeah, that's really coolbecause that you just touched on edgeautomation and process re-engineering,right?

So we're seeing this is what really trulyis a digital transformation, right?

I'm really I'm getting rid of stepsin the process.

Very cool.

Very cool examples.

What about security?

What are you seeing in security?

Mentioned earlier, the executive order,the latest one that came out aroundsoftware bombs and around cybersecurity.

Are you is that the only forcing factorthat's forcing security?

Are we seeing other things that arethat are contributing to that?

Yeah, I think the threats that we've seenover the past several yearshave resulted in the focusand the executive order.

And this is an area wherethe federal government has prioritizedfor the past yearthe adoption of zero Trustand also the recent releaseof the National Cybersecurity Strategy,which urged agencies to implement zerotrust in order to bolstercybersecurityagainst these constantly evolving threats.

So, you know, one way that Intel looksto helpis by providing security,hardware, security, technology that workswith the software security technologyand providesa deeper in depth capability.

You know, one of the examples isthe encryption of data in process, right?

For years,we've been encrypting data in transit.

We've been encrypting data at rest.

Well, what happenswhen you have a bad actor on your system,which, you know, we've seen evidenceof that happening quite a bit withwith all of these nefarious activitieshappening in the cyberworld.

Well, guess what? They could see that dataas it's being processed.

Well, you know, you have the abilitythrough confidential computingbased on Intel's SGXsoftware card extensions,to actually encrypt that data in process.

So if the nefarious actor is lookingat it, trying to read it, guess what?

They can't see itbecause it's all encrypted, right?

So these are wayswhere, you know, number one,the threatlandscape is continuing to evolve.

The bad actors areare continuously innovating.


This isn't just about enterprisesand governments innovated, innovating.

This is about the criminalsinnovating, too.

And you have to keep up.

Otherwise they're going to get ahead.

And, you know, we're going to continueto see issuesand threatsand exploits in the environment.

I noticed there was a press releaseby Joe Biden, President Biden,beginning of March, about it.

The cyber security.

And the number one issue he saidwas critical infrastructure protection.


So in in the federalcivilian side, governmentwho manages critical infrastructureor is it managed by the statesor I mean, who's whowho's looking over that over this wholeyou know,we're a weird country, right, Becausewe've got 50 independent states, right?

Yes. You know,like to do their own thing. So, yeah,

I mean, who's managing that?

Who's helping out with all that? Yeah.

So you've got stateand local municipalitiesthat manage partsof the critical infrastructure.

You've got private companieslike power companies that manage,you know,portions of the power power grid.

And they there's guidancebeing provided by homeland security,by the critical infrastructure system,by the SES,a group within within DHS,which is a critical infrastructuresecurity agency,fairly new agency within DHS.

It's been growing a lotand they provide guidanceon critical infrastructureas well as the manufacturing sector.


You know, even Intelgets guidancefrom from SES and collaborateswith with DHS around cybersecurity.

And then they also set the standards for,you know, what what a secure system isand what the with the specs of a securesystem are for all the agenciesin the federal government as well as stateand local and and tribes as well.

So a lot of work being done by SES Finestis another important research agency.

And then there's also the Officeof Science Technologywithin DHS that does research.

NEST has been doing great workfor several years and there's examplesof Intel working with Nestand the National Cyber Cyber Center,the NCC, the National Cyber Center,

Cybersecurity Center of Excellence,and we've been able toprove out reference architecturesfor various things.

One of them,the more recent one that is exciting is

ESP 834 A, B and C,which demonstrates a way in a zerotrust fashionto validatethe integrity of the componentswithin a system, CPUas well as other components.

And this is importantbecause cybersecurity isn'tjust focused on the securityof the of what's running on the systems,but the security of the.

You need to also focuson the security of the componentsthat are in those systems,which is another attack vector, right?

So this goes into that secure supplychain concept, right?


I need to know what I'm running my stuffon. Yes.

All right, Mark, So tell me a little bitmore about the secure supply chain.

You mentioneda little bit that it's importantto give me where where do we stand?

Where do you thinkwe stand with this as a country?

Yeah, I think, you know, thisgoing back to COVID as well.

I think, you know, COVID exposedgeopolitical risks with supply chain.

And then on top of that,there are cybersecurity risksthat have been identified based ongeopolitical adversaries around the world.

And that's really driving the needfor a way to balance a supply chainacross geographies for, for example,the semiconductor supply chain, more thanand less than well in the teens.

It is manufactured here in the U.S.that is imbalanced, right?

You know, if there are geopolitical issuesthat are going to occur in Asiathat prevent semiconductorsfrom being exported,that's going to impact everythingin in our economy and actually becomesan issue of industrial security and U.S.national security.

So it's it's the supply, right.

So if our supply is cut off,we can't we can't produce.

That's that's a key aspect.

That'swhy the CHIPS Act was so important. Right.

Getting the CHIPS Act passed, Right? Yep.

What about ourwhat aboutour technology being produced in Asiathat we're using?

Is there any threat at all at malware ornefarious thingsbeing put into our productsas they're coming back to usfrom from other countries?

I have a concern orand I'd say that could happen anywherethat a products manufactured, right.

Therefore, you know, if you've got a wayto verify the integrity of a supply chaincomponent that will provide youwith,you know, a way to solve that issue andthat capabilities available today, it'spart of Intel's transparent supply chain.

That's part of all of the Xeonserver processorsthat we manufacture for cloud providers,as well as on prem data centers.

And it's part of all of our core

VPRO processors that are availablein laptops and desktops.

So you're telling me that Intel, I can

I can see whereall the components came fromand I can guarantee they haven't changed.

Is that what I just heard? Yeah,absolutely.

That's that's pretty slick.

Now, that's on the hardware side too.

I care about the software side.

I probably I know.

That's why I brought it up.

Yeah, absolutely.

Both Yeah, both are important.

Both. Both are absolutely important.

And they, they,you know, if you're looking at supplychain security, you need to look at both.

You can't look at one,you know, you need to look at boththe software,the firmware as well as the hardwareall have attack vectorsand you know, all I needto have the ability to provide,you know,a secure software, build a materials,as well as the abilityto validate secure component verification,device integrity, which is whatwe could do with transparent supply chain.

Yeah, I know there's a,there's an executive order aroundsoftware go materials as well.

By Q2 we need to start having that.

Good news is Intel is is adheringto that on our on our new processorscoming out including the software,the firmware and and other thingscoming out which is really cool.

In fact, I was

I was just reading an articlerecently about there was this one opensource componentthat's used in like 80%of all the software written in Node.js.

Like everyone uses this thing. Yep.

And it's written by one guy.


Is that a little scary? And, and he said,

I'm tired ofeveryone making money off of me,so I want some money or,you know, I'm going to hold this thinghostage.

And guess what?

People ponied up money and gave him money.

Did you know?

But that's another aspect of supply chainon the software side,

I don't think we totally realize that opensourceis a good thing, but you kind of knowwho's actually developing that open sourceand is it a thriving communityor is it one or two guys?

It used to be a thriving community.

Maybe it's not anymore.

So there's a lot of aspects to supplychain I think we have to look at.

Yeah, that's a good point.

All right, Mark, this has been wonderful.

I think you've given ussome great insight intowhat's going onin the federal civilian government.

Any last words for our listeners?

Well, it's been a pleasurespeaking with you today, Darren.

I appreciate the time.

And, you know, just rememberthat Intel offersa host of hardware security technologiesas well as transparentsupply chain capabilitiesthat are available, you know,today andthat can be leveraged as part of your zerozero trust architecture.

So appreciate the timeand I hope everyone has a great day.

Hey, thanks a lot, Mark.

Thank you for listeningto Embracing Digital Transformation today.

If you enjoyed our podcast,give it five Stars on your favoritepodcasting site or YouTube channel,you can find out more informationabout embracing digital transformationand

Until next time, go outand do something wonderful.