A Year Of Change In Federal IT

on December 09, 2011 at 9:18 AM

As technologists in the private sector know, when money is tight, it’s often technology that enables us to do more with less. In a lean fiscal environment, organizations look for ways to take existing resources and use the latest advances and tools to do the seemingly impossible: improve and expand services while cutting costs. It is no different with the Federal Government. To deliver on the President’s commitment to an effective and efficient government, we are leveraging the latest advances in technology to save taxpayer dollars and cut waste. We are working aggressively to meet the challenge of doing more with less, and we are seeing real results.
This article was originally published as a blog post Dec. 8 on the White House website.
By holding underperforming IT projects accountable, we are identifying efficiencies and eliminating waste to deliver better technology solutions sooner, and at a lower cost. This year we took our rigorous Techstat accountability sessions and open sourced the model, giving agencies the tools to turnaround or terminate failing projects at the agency-level. As a result agencies identified nearly $1 billion in efficiencies, bringing the grand total of Techstat efficiencies to $4 billion in less than two years. You can read more about that in the TechStat Report published today.

Having the right people matters too. In order to ensure we have the experienced and talented managers we need to oversee these large, complex IT investments and maximize the return on taxpayer dollars at every step in the process, we created a new role for IT program managers with more rigorous requirements. We also launched the Presidential Technology Fellows Program this fall to attract new talent to the federal IT workforce by reducing barriers to entry for talented young IT professionals.

In order to make the most out of the investments we make in technology we need to be smarter about the way we spend our money. We set our sights on data centers – the energy hogs of federal real estate that spread rapidly (and inefficiently) over the last decade. At the end of 2012, the Federal Government will have closed over 472 data centers. And this year we expanded the initiative to include data centers of any size and plan to close nearly 1,000 data centers by the end of 2015.

We are also buying smarter – and starting to leverage the bulk purchasing power of the Federal government to get the best prices for American taxpayers. Many agencies, bureaus, and components have similar needs and instead of buying technology and services like hundreds of separate medium sized businesses, we should be sharing services to save tax dollars. This year we launched Shared First to encourage agencies to do just that and we announced one such initiative. Over the next year we will push agencies to look to more shared solutions through the Shared Services Strategy, which will provide the roadmap for agencies to do so.

Never before have we been able to leverage such tools to do more with less. With the cloud-first policy and cloud migrations under the IT Reform plan, cloud computing has become an integral part of the government’s IT DNA. With our Cloud First initiative, agencies identified 79 services to move to the cloud in order to reap savings and service improvements. This year, agencies successfully migrated 40 services to the cloud and were able to eliminate more than 50 legacy systemsin order tosave taxpayer dollars while expanding capabilities. As part of this effort, agencies created six services in the cloud that they weren’t previously able to provide. With the ability to expand capacity at a moment’s notice without having to procure new servers, add new data centers, and hire new staff, the cloud is key to the Federal government’s ability to be flexible as demands change.

As the government migrates to the cloud, we are committed to doing so in a way that is cost effective and ensures the safety, security and reliability of our data. Up until now, each agency has individually gone through multiple steps that take anywhere from 6-18 months and countless man hours to properly assess and authorize the security of a system before it grants authority to move forward on a transition to the cloud. Handling each of these transitions separately without a set of common standards and best practices not only costs us valuable staff time it also poses a burden that can deter contractors from competing for our business and wastes millions of taxpayer dollars.

Today we are launching the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), (see: Breaking Gov’s coverage) which will fundamentally change the way cloud is secured and procured within the Federal Government. FedRAMP enables agencies to deploy cloud technologies, while realizing efficiencies of scale to substantially reduce costs and transition time.

Collaboratively developed over the last two years with input from agencies, the CIO Council and working bodies such as the Information Security and Identity Management Committee (ISIMC), State and local governments, the private sector, academic experts and non-governmental organizations, FedRAMP introduces an innovative policy approach to developing trusted relationships between agencies and cloud service providers.

With FedRAMP, we have established a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services which every agency will be required to use. This approach uses a “do once, use many times” framework that will save cost, time, and staff required to conduct redundant agency security assessments so no one has to reinvent the wheel. Last year, agencies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these types of activities. Thanks to FedRAMP, the government can expect to save 30-40% of these costs when using a solution that has been put through FedRAMP.

As I reflect on my first 120 days as Federal CIO, it is astounding to consider all of the incredible work each agency has accomplished within the IT Reform Plan and elsewhere. I was very lucky to have stepped into an office with an agenda that had significant momentum and leadership partners that were driving aggressive reforms across each of their agencies. We have a great vision for the future of Federal IT that builds upon these accomplishments, but the accolades for the difficult and numerous accomplishments that have occurred over the past year rests firmly in the hands of each Agency, each CIO and the thousands of Federal workers who have executed on the reforms over the last year. I look forward to continuing to build upon these achievements together to enable our government to deliver for the American people more efficiently and more productively.

Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer