SBA scaled rapidly to administer pandemic relief. Scaling down will be harder on its IT

The agency lacks a cloud-based platform capable of expanding and contracting during and after disasters, said CIO Keith Bluestein.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
( / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr)

After nearly quadrupling the number of personnel supporting COVID-19 loan assistance programs, the Small Business Administration must now prepare its IT infrastructure for the possibility of workforce downsizing, said CIO Keith Bluestein.

SBA will “ostensibly” contract at some point and needs a cloud-based platform capable of not only scaling down but up, in the event of another crisis, Bluestein said during an ATARC webinar Thursday.

The White House solicited industry for laptops and other mobile devices that allowed SBA to rapidly onboard about 6,000 employees in less than 60 days to support the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans efforts. But scaling up is easier than scaling down, and potentially back up again.

“Now that we know we’re here, how do you backfill to make sure that you have that infrastructure that is elastic and resilient?” Bluestein asked.


The cloud is the answer. But the Office of Management and Budget‘s Cloud Smart strategy directs agencies to migrate to the cloud wisely.

SBA is currently in the process of deciding how best to harmonize its siloed business activities, which aren’t yet optimized for the cloud, so it can ultimately contract and expand its IT infrastructure as needed, Bluestein said.

Only with a solid cloud-based platform in place can SBA build out IT workflows quickly in the event of a disaster like a hurricane, rather than standing one up mid-crisis.

“I will tell you I don’t have that,” Bluestein said. “I’m looking to build that at SBA.”

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