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Federal CIO Kundra Reveals IT Reform Plan

A project-management best-practices portal and a technology fellows exchange program with the private sector are included in the 25-point implementation plan.

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As part of a continued effort to enact sweeping IT reform across the federal government, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra Thursday unveiled a 25-point plan of execution for how it will be done.

The plans include a service for federal agencies similar to the Open Table restaurant-reservation system so they can order IT capacity from each other's data centers; a best-practices portal for sharing project management successes government-wide; and a technology fellows program so IT experts from the private sector can take temporary positions with the federal government to share their knowledge.

The 25 points of the execution plan, which is available online, are specific action items for five previously stated goals for changing the grossly inefficient way feds have been deploying IT for more than a decade, Kundra and Office of Management and Budget director Jeffrey Zients said in a White House press conference Thursday.

Those goals, which Zients announced in November, are: applying light technology and shared services; aligning the budget and acquisitions process with the technology cycle; strengthening program management; streamlining government and increasing accountability; and increasing engagement with the IT community.

The online reservations service for sharing data centers -- which Kundra envisions happening in the next 12 to 18 months -- is part of the shared services goal, he said.

Plans also included under that umbrella will change the way IT projects are funded. Rather than continuing to "throw good money at bad money," the government will only approve funding of major IT programs that meet certain criteria, he said.

The criteria for programs are to have a dedicated program manager and a fully staffed integrated program team; to use a modular approach with usable functionality delivered every six months; and to use specialized IT acquisition professionals.

While these criteria -- in particular the first -- may seem like no brainers as requirements to receive federal funding, "you'd be shocked at the ones that don't" meet them, Kundra said.

The government also plans to launch an online platform to get vendors engaged sooner in the technology acquisition process, Kundra said.

He said he wants to change the current clandestine culture of federal requests for proposal (RFPs) for technology acquisitions, in which "some people believe you're going to go to jail if you talk to vendors before the RFP," he said.

The platform will help vendors "know what the government wants to buy, not after an RFP hits the street but before," Kundra said. This also should allow smaller, more innovative vendors to take part in federal bids, not merely the same core group of government contractors.

During the press conference, Zients also outlined some progress on the OMB's review of 26 IT projects that were over budget, over deadline, or both. The OMB revealed a list of the high-priority projects in August.

The OMB already had completed the review of two projects in October and has now completed 16 more, Zients said. Of the 16, one -- a Department of Homeland Security project to handle flood-insurance claims -- has been terminated. Seven have accelerated their delivery of meaningful functionality and eight have been scaled back both technologically and financially to increase the likelihood of their success, he said.

For the 16 projects as a whole, the OMB has cut delivery time by more than 50% and reduced lifecycle budgets by $1.3 billion, Zients added.

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