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U.S. CIO VanRoekel Outlines What's Next For Fed Tech

In his first public speech since taking his post in August, Obama's CIO said he will build upon his predecessor Vivek Kundra's work to create innovation.

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel outlined a technology-centric "future-ready" approach to federal IT that aims to build upon the work of his predecessor while creating innovation all its own in his first public appearance in his post.

Speaking in Silicon Valley Tuesday, VanRoekel reiterated many of the goals of former CIO Vivek Kundra, whom he replaced in August, including continuing to consolidate federal data centers and implementing cloud computing according to the "cloud first" mandate issued by the government earlier this year to cut costs and create efficiencies.

But VanRoekel--who spent 15 years at technology giant Microsoft before taking a position at the FCC in 2009--also emphasized his own goals for federal IT. Those goals include using the latest technologies and methods beyond cloud computing and resource consolidation to transform federal IT.

"Building on the progress of the last two-and-a-half years, my focus going forward will be to drive innovation in government and make investments in technology that better serve the American people," he said, according to a transcript of his prepared remarks. "We will use technology to improve government productivity and lower barriers to citizen and business interaction with the government, all while bolstering cyber security."

The federal government long has been faulted for its outdated approach to implementing technology. Although Kundra began to change that, particularly with his focus on using the cloud to replace legacy software and hardware, VanRoekel said he will take this work even further through a plan he called Future First.

[Wondering which government agencies have jumped into the cloud? The Department of Homeland Security became the first to sign up for infrastructure as a service. See How To Build a Government Cloud.]

"Much as our 'Cloud First' policy changed the landscape of IT spending, 'Future First' will jump start the government's adoption of new technologies and approaches," he said. "I envision a set of principles like 'XML First,' 'Web Services First,' 'Virtualize First,' and other 'Firsts' that will inform how we develop our government's systems."

Taken together, these initiatives will provide a "new default setting" for how the federal government implements new IT solutions, he said, setting up a new blueprint that will be "continuously updated" so the government is at the forefront of technological advancements rather than behind the curve.

VanRoekel asked for help from the private sector and academia to come up with a definitive Future First plan, the end goal of which—as with Kundra's IT strategies--is to help the feds achieve better ROI, increase productivity, and improve engagement with the public.

VanRoekel hopes leveraging these new technologies will serve a dual purpose. Not only will they help transform the government both internally and in its external engagements, but they also will help federal IT professionals become a "future ready" workforce by learning the latest innovations in technology to "help close the productivity gap," he said.

He also encouraged an expanded use of telework policies--passed as the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 last year--and the latest innovations in mobile devices and collaboration tools to get the federal IT workforce on par with its colleagues in the private sector.

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