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The Labor Department is in the conceptual stage of developing an enterprisewide cloud platform to integrate and modernize the department’s various IT abilities, like mobility and data sharing.

During a panel Thursday in Washington, D.C., Labor Chief Information Officer Dawn Leaf described the idea behind the project — called the Digital Government Integrated Platform — and how using the cloud will better enable the more than half of the department’s employees who work in the field. The idea, though, is just in its infancy, completely dependent on funding for the department, which Leaf called “relatively underinvested.”

Laid out in the department’s 2015 Congressional Budget Justification, the Digital Government Integrated Platform is Labor’s system to consolidate IT tools needed by many of its subordinate agencies, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Leaf said during planning for the fiscal year 2013 budget, many of those agencies requested the same IT tools for increased efficiency.

“They wanted improved data modeling … they all wanted to apply mobility and mobile computing to their applications,” she said. “They also wanted to add other media to their traditional brick-and-mortar systems, which is traditional data entry.”

The budget justification also mentions a virtual desktop infrastructure as a key element in the system. “These information technology infrastructure services will leverage existing and new future investments in cloud technology, collaboration tools, and shared services to provide a DOL-wide solution,” the document says.

The next time budget planning came around for 2014, the same thing happened, Leaf said. The idea for the integrated platform came, she said, when “we actually did an internal estimate of the cost difference between each agency buying and integrating them separately, and us as a department trying to identify those capabilities in a common, integrated platform that we could deliver in one.”

Deciding on the latter, DOL is looking to the cloud to provide the requested data sharing, mobile computing and digital asset management. But because cloud computing is still in its infancy and its definition can be inconsistent from agency to agency — despite the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s interpretation — the platform faces some tough challenges.

“It’s going to be complex because instead of working with a single service provider and integrator, now we’re going to be working with a list of them trying to find out those right sets of services for DOL applications,” Leaf said. However, she thinks NIST’s Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap will be critical to their success because it supports interoperability and standards in the cloud, which should make it easier to work with different providers.

For now, Leaf said they’re working on the project incrementally, starting by adding the newest features first and then working backward.

“If you’re building out something that’s new, or you’re replacing an enterprisewide service, it’s pretty straightforward,” she said. “When you get to the messy area, the Digital Government Integrated Platform for us … the natural place to start in terms of what we want to work on, the new capabilities, is to choose the capabilities that we don’t already have up at the enterprise level and try to find a way to satisfy those commercially, whether it’s cloud or not.”

In the budget justification, $4.8 million is designated for the Digital Government Integrated Platform for 2015.