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3/12/2009
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Fed CIO Kundra Aims To Rationalize Budgets

In an interview, Vivek Kundra talks about cloud computing, an approach he will likely use to reduce costs and simplify government IT infrastructure.

The walls of Vivek Kundra's office in the Old Executive Office Building are notably bare, except for two side-by-side posters taking up a huge swath of one wall, each loaded with color-coded bar charts and graphs detailing the U.S. federal IT budget. That tells a lot about the nation's new CIO: There's a lot of work ahead of him, and he's a total data junkie.

Named the federal government's top IT operations and strategy leader this month, Kundra now needs to get his head around the federal government's $71 billion in IT spending. He's been spending weekends reading through budgets and IT project proposals, and he has a 30-person team analyzing the IT spending of each government agency "line by line," he said in an interview Wednesday.

As CTO of Washington, D.C., Kundra took a similar approach, with a team of analysts tracking tech projects daily like they were watching a stock portfolio.

Kundra said citizens should measure his work by how well he connects them to government services and information. Two Web sites will be early test cases for how well he delivers on President Obama's stated goal for increased government transparency. Recovery.gov is supposed to publicize stimulus package spending, and Data.gov -- not yet live -- will do the same for all sorts of public data, similar to Washington, D.C.'s Data Catalog.

Kundra won't yet make any promises about cuts, though, even as his team combs budgets for wasteful projects. He said IT spending is needed to make the government more efficient. Yet Kundra said he'll kill IT projects that aren’t making the grade, which he can do through the Office of Management and Budget, where he reports to OMB director Peter Orszag. "Spending money on technology is good, but at the same time we want to make sure we have outcomes for those investments," Kundra said.

Look for him to push the government into cloud computing in a much bigger way, an approach he hopes can help change government IT cost structures and simplify government IT infrastructure.

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