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FEMA Sees Cloud Benefits in Tech Programs

The cloud empowers FEMA to address efforts around climate, resilience and readiness.
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A FEMA geospatial information specialist provides critical information in preparation of Hurricane Delta’s landfall in 2020.
A FEMA geospatial information specialist provides critical information in preparation of Hurricane Delta’s landfall in 2020. Photo Credit: FEMA/Manuel Broussard

Cloud computing helps the Federal Emergency Management Agency reduce risk by optimizing its resources, noted Deputy CIO Monica Langley.

During an FCW Workshop on public safety this month, Langley said scalability is a huge benefit of cloud modernization at FEMA.

Cloud services reduce turnaround times from months to days and cuts costs for the agency. Cloud modernization efforts also enable FEMA to automate some cloud applications, recover quickly during crises, and provide stability for testing new ideas and experimenting with new technology, Langley said.

“Experimentation and technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning are easily achievable by leveraging the cloud. If a pilot is not a success, the infrastructure can be shut down without the agency being charged additional costs,” she said during the event.

Once FEMA added cloud access points, it decreased latency by reducing the time data travels to cloud. The agency also adopted continuous authorization to operate (cATO), embraced robotics process automation (RPA), and worked with industry partners to develop AI and machine learning capabilities.

“Currently there are over 100 emergency programs that go through a risk-based process, and despite challenges in 2020 and previous years, the agency is on trajectory to meet metrics by March 2022,” Langley said.

FEMA now has sufficient cyber experts that allow them to quickly address security needs. They’re also building a strong cybersecurity foundation to allow more functionality in business and services for users seeking emergency assistance from the agency.

“We are working with regional leaders and the 50 states on how local officials can quickly gain access to FEMA services in a protected manner,” Langley said.

FEMA’s cloud strategy for 2022 continues to build on the IT roadmap launched in April 2020.

Immediate priorities include “migrating our legacy systems to the cloud, offering cost saving and stability, enhancing digital equity by making more services available to citizens and evaluating and adopting further technology,” Langley said.

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