While a surprise choice to many in the government IT community, VanRoekel, 41, is a familiar face in the Obama administration.
He took on the role of managing director of the Federal Communications Commission in 2009 until June of this year. He was just settling into the US Agency for International Develop as executive director for citizen and organizational engagement, before being named to the federal CIO post, replacing Vivek Kundra, who is leaving office Aug. 12 to take a fellowship at Harvard University.
During his two year tenure at FCC, he was involved in the agency’s efforts to consolidate its two data centers into one, and the agency’s website to a cloud computing platform.
Prior to moving to the public sector, VanRoekel spent 15 years working at Microsoft for 15 years, as a senior director for Microsoft’s Windows Server business, director of the company’s Web Services unit, and served as a strategy assistant to Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates.
The news, which had been scheduled to be announced today by the White House, broke earlier in the day when VanRoeckel confirmed a report in The New York Times about his move via his Twitter account. That was after Twitter followers noticed that VanRoekel had changed his user name from VanRoekel from stevenvfcc to stevenvDC and his profile was revised to read “United States Chief Information Officer @ Executive Office of the President, according to a report in The Washington Business Journal.
“This is not a situation where we’re asking someone to come in and make radical changes to priorities or to the strategic agenda,” federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, told reporters Thursday. “It’s continued execution in getting proven results,” he said.
That agenda includes the “25 Point IT Implementation Reform Plan” announced by Zients and Kundra in December, which calls for moving federal IT systems to the cloud, where possible, and dramatically reducing the number of federal data centers.
Among the comments about VanRoekel were those from Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who wrote in a White House blog post today:
“The President’s announcement today that Steven VanRoekel will be our nation’s next CIO comes at an important moment for our nation. As OMB works closely with the President and Vice President on the Campaign to Cut Waste, information technology (IT) is at the center of our efforts to save money, eliminate waste, and do more with less.
Over the last two and a half years, the Administration has made unprecedented strides (PDF) in transforming how the government manages and uses information technology to deliver results for the American people. From moving to more efficient cloud solutions and shutting down hundreds of duplicative data centers to reducing planned IT spending by $3 billion and bringing unprecedented transparency to IT spending. That progress has been the direct result of having a President who recognizes the opportunity to harness advances in technology to make government work better and more efficiently for the American people. That’s why President Obama appointed the nation’s first Federal Chief Information Officer to implement the Administration’s technology reform agenda.
As the nation’s first Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra has left a lasting mark on Federal IT – from opening up data in new and innovative ways, to rooting out waste and duplication in IT spending, to steering the Federal government toward more energy efficient and cost effective technologies. And in this time of budgetary and fiscal challenges, sustaining and expanding on those efforts is more important than ever.
That’s why I am pleased that the President has appointed Steven VanRoekel as our next federal CIO. Steve is the right person to continue our efforts to make the government more efficient and more responsive to the America people. He brings a lifelong passion for technology to the position, having spent his entire career in technology in both the public and private sectors.
Under his leadership, I am confident that we will continue to build on the remarkable gains that we have made in changing the way the Federal government manages IT.”