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3/16/2011
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Report Cards Planned For Federal IT Reform Plan

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra says the White House will issue twice-yearly assessments of how well the government is implement his ambitious 25-point plan for federal IT reform.

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The White House plans to give detailed updates every six months, beginning in April, on how well or how poorly the federal government is implementing the 25-point federal IT reform plan of federal CIO Vivek Kundra. The twice-yearly report card will help the public hold the government accountable, Kundra said Wednesday during a panel discussion at an event in Washington, D.C.

"For too long in Washington, you have had these beautiful reports on the state of federal IT, but nothing gets implemented," Kundra told attendees at the General Services Administration's annual Interagency Resources Management Conference. "We wanted to make sure nothing we proposed hadn't or couldn't be done, and we want to make sure the public holds us accountable for what we accomplish or don't accomplish."

The 25-point plan, created by Kundra and the Office of Management and Budget with collaboration from past and present federal CIOs, Congress, and the private sector, was released in December. It includes detailed timelines for significant changes in federal IT governance and procurement as well as infrastructure and systems.

Among the changes proposed are added budget and management authority and flexibility for CIOs, deliverables for data center consolidation and cloud computing, and efforts to bolster IT project management and acquisition practices and workforces.

Kundra said he's tasked his own team at OMB with monitoring the plan's success, and the federal CIO Council -- which has seen a recent overhaul to make it more operationally focused, according to Kundra -- with pushing forward the plan's execution. "We're trying to reform and refocus the CIO Council on this initiative," he said.

Almost 100 days into the effort now, several of the points have already been or are beginning to be tackled. For example, the White House issued its cloud computing strategy, began a myth-busting campaign about acquisition risks, and identified about $20 billion in federal IT spending that could eventually shift to the cloud.

OMB also has released detailed plans to let agencies produce their own version of OMB's TechStat statistics-based IT project review sessions. Eight agencies have begun implementing their own mini-TechStats, including the Department of the Interior with its iStat and the Army Corps of Engineers.

However, the plan is ambitious and not without risk. Some of the biggest challenges will be cultural, Kundra said: Each agency has a different mission, and each agency is at a different evolutionary phase in terms of its IT management (some are consolidated with powerful CIOs, others diffuse).

Ensuring that agency CIOs and high-level IT managers work closely with agency executive leadership also will be a challenge. "I don't want this to be seen as a CIO-driven initiative," said Darren Ash, CIO of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "If it is, it won't be successful. It needs to be a leadership initiative." Defense Information Systems Agency CIO Henry Sienkiewicz seconded that perspective, saying that the key challenge will be to show leadership and users the value of the plan.

In terms of the actual deliverables, acquisition is an important piece of the plan's puzzle. Kundra said that he's been meeting regularly with Dan Gordon, the head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and speaking with members of Congress about possible reforms. Agencies such as the Department of Agriculture also have begun focusing on streamlining IT acquisition, while others like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have developed IT-specific acquisition groups.

Cloud computing also plays a strong role in the plan. Many agencies have begun thinking about cloud computing, including which services they'll move to the cloud first (the 25 point plan requires agencies to declare which services they'll soon move to the cloud). The Department of the Interior is launching an effort to bust myths about cloud computing.

Another major feature of the plan is IT management reform. The Department of the Interior recently gave much more power to its CIO, and Kundra hints that the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Housing and Urban Development could be next.

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