Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel, speaking publicly for the first time to the government IT community since being appointed last August, laid out a redirected vision for how the federal government needs to move forward using information technology, and highlighted his primary imperatives heading into 2012 that call for making “little things big and big things little.”
VanRoekel outlined several imperatives Friday for his office in the coming year that build on, and to some extent, recasts the policies of his predecessor, Vivek Kundra. Specifically, he stressed his desire to:
- Shift the balance of discussions on doing more with less, by trying to concentrate greater attention “on the more,” by investing in technology creatively, rather than focusing primarily “on the less,” he said, such as reductions on the number of data centers in government.
- Put greater attention on the productivity gap in a 21st century government relative to gains in the private sector. “Shifting to the cloud will not only free up capital to improve productivity, but will also give us ancillary benefits,” such as the ability to improve collaboration, he said. He also stressed the importance of rethinking how mobile technology can be used, saying the government’s 10 to 15 year strategy of relying on BlackBerry devices is “at an inflection point,” adding it’s time to “consider doing new things.”
- Increase efforts to use technology to interact with and serve business and citizens, and look for ways to use veterans more effectively in the workforce.
- Continue to understand that “around all of this is cyber security.” He reinforced the importance of FedRAMP program, a just-released security vetting initiative, as a crucial step toward moving agency IT systems into the cloud. “Let’s do great innovation in many things,” he said, “but make sure it has cybersecurity built in.”
- Drive new ways to structure IT investment, and new modes of IT governance and delivery, most notably, finding ways to develop multi-year funding for IT programs.
Speaking at a presentation held at the Ronald Reagan Building by trade groups ACT-IAC and AFFIRM, (video available) VanRoekel also sketched out areas of improvement he wants to see federal agencies–and industry–focus on in the coming year, saying he has already begun meeting with federal chief financial and chief human capital officers, not just CIOs, to make his case.
Among them is getting agencies to focus even greater attention on return on government investments as a pivotal way to redirect IT funding, which largely goes toward ongoing operations, and rechanneling that capital to develop new technology enabled services.
He also stressed the desire to see agencies focus on sharing more services, taking smaller or many siloed services and “making them big,” by consolidating and sharing them; and moving away from big monolithic projects and “making them small,” building them in smaller, more modular chunks.
He said IT has historically “followed the money,” from appropriations committees to agency missions, which has led to systemic duplication of IT, citing how the Department of Agriculture, for example, has 21 email systems, when one would suffice. He also said there are “hundreds of contracts” that perpetuate the problem.
VanRoekel advocates instead a “shared-first” approach, getting agencies to focus on reducing the duplication of commodity IT internally, consolidating purchases, and spurring greater buying efficiencies. Implicit in that is the desire to put new attention on capital expenditures–investing in new mission-related services–instead of operational expenditures.
Part of that effort is gaining traction, he said, with the decision to have agencies, rather than the Office Of Management and Budget, lead IT TechStat sessions, which analyze the spending and schedule performance of major agency IT projects.
VanRoekel concluded by urging contractors in the audience to continue providing feedback to his office, saying “this is our moment,” and by helping the government “evolve FedRAMP” as an important mechanism to also “evolve the cloud.”