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12/8/2011
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Federal CIO: Project Oversight Saves $1 Billion

Agencies have delivered on 14 of the 25 points in the feds' year-old plan to clean up government IT, reports U.S. CIO.

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The feds are making steady progress on a 25-point plan to reform IT introduced a year ago Friday, having already delivered on 14 goals of the plan and realizing nearly $1 billion in savings from one of its key initiatives, U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel said Thursday.

VanRoekel held a press conference Thursday to provide an update on the plan, (PDF) launched last December by his predecessor Vivek Kundra to drastically improve the inefficient and costly way the government has implemented IT for more than a decade.

Among the more high-profile of the points of progress VanRoekel reported were a plan to consolidate more than 800 data centers by 2015, moving to a strategy that considers cloud computing first when implementing new IT projects, and introducing a technology-fellows program that will introduce "a new class of professional young people" into the federal IT talent pool, he said.

[ Government is making plans to secure U.S. network infrastructure against attacks. Learn more: White House Sets Cybersecurity R&D Priorities. ]

Some parts of the plan still need work, however, and three goals are actually behind schedule. Those include plans to develop standup contract vehicles for commodity IT services and two others that involve participation from Congress, which VanRoekel said is slowing them down. Specifically, one is to create IT budget models that align with modular development and another would consolidate commodity IT spending under agency CIOs.

Despite this, VanRoekel's update was generally positive. As part of it, he unveiled the formal launch of the Federal Risk Assessment Program (FedRAMP), which has been in the works for awhile and should accelerate and provide a secure basis for the feds' adoption of cloud computing.

FedRAMP provides common security requirements for cloud implementation on specific types of systems. It also provides ongoing risk assessments and continuous monitoring, and carries out government-wide security authorizations for vendors providing cloud services and infrastructure that will be posted on a public website.

FedRAMP is a multiagency effort, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), and the General Services Administration (GSA) all playing key roles.

DHS will be responsible for providing provisional authorization of cloud-based services during the authorization process, while NIST has been working to develop security standards for FedRAMP. The GSA will house the program's management, ensuring it's working as intended.

FedRAMP will help the feds realize 30% to 40% savings of IT costs government-wide, investments that currently are going to providing the same services to specific cloud projects, VanRoekel said.

"We spend millions and millions on these processes today," he said.

Now that FedRAMP is in place, the feds' adoption of the cloud should move along more quickly. So far agencies have moved 40 services to the cloud, with another 79 to be migrated by June 2012, VanRoekel said.

However, how well FedRAMP will work depends on its execution, said one vendor that provides cloud services to the government.

"Ultimately, the success of FedRAMP will be determined by how well these new standards are applied, which will require continued collaboration and evolution," said Andras Szakal, VP and CTO of IBM U.S. Federal in an emailed statement.

While the impact of FedRAMP remains to be seen, TechStat--a program that reviews IT projects based on performance and enacts improvements accordingly--appears to be one of the early successes of the federal IT reform plan. Originally an initiative of the Office of Management and Budget, the program was handed off to agencies, which so far have realized nearly $932 million in cost savings by engaging in TechStat reviews, VanRoekel said.

Of that savings, the feds saved $20.8 million by halting projects that weren't working; $30 million by accelerating the delivery of others; $120.5 million by terminating projects; $151.5 million by reducing project scope; $153.9 million by improving governance; and $455 million by identifying and eliminating duplication.

The initiative has been so successful that VanRoekel said he is "personally committed to running TechStats on high-priority projects."

While FedRAMP and TechStat were remnants of the work of his predecessor, VanRoekel also provided an update on an initiative of his own, Shared First.

He unveiled Thursday the first draft of the feds' Shared Services strategy, which outlines how agencies should promote the sharing of technology, process, and people to streamline IT, as well as look for ways to consolidate commodity IT within their own organizations.

The draft--which is available on the federal CIO Council website--is open for public comment on the areas feds should examine for sharing across agencies, with email being one VanRoekel said is at the top of the list.

Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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