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Q&A: GSA's CIO Coleman Talks IT Modernization

The CIO of the U.S. General Services Administration discusses cloud computing, plans for funding innovation with a flat IT budget, and the potential for equipping federal employees with new consumer technologies.
InformationWeek: Federal CIO Kundra has taken notice that the number of federal data centers has doubled over the past 10 years and some agencies are consolidating data centers. Is that something that's happening at GSA?

Coleman: We'll definitely be looking at our data centers to see if there's a business case for consolidation and, if so, how we do that. Like other agencies, we have multiple data centers, probably with some rationale, but that's not to say that as technology has evolved we can't take advantage of that and do some consolidation.

InformationWeek: But at this point, you don't have specific plans to reduce from X number of data centers to Y number?

Coleman: That's correct.

InformationWeek: In what way is your team involved in the Obama administration's open government initiative?

Coleman: With the Citizen Services Office, we're supporting the open government dialog that is mandated in the Open Government Directive. Each agency has been mandated to stand up a dialog capability for the public to comment on their open government plans and data. We, with Citizen Services, are standing up IdeaScale, a collaboration and dialog tool, and 23 out of the 24 cabinet agencies are or will be using it. It makes sense. It's a capability that's time bound, it's not indefinite in nature, and it makes more sense for us to do this in a shared fashion than for each organization do its own. My office is working to make sure that it's a secure solution for the public to use.

InformationWeek: The federal IT Dashboard was new last year, and it has forced some agencies to adopt new tools and processes to get that information and make it available. Have you had to do that?

Coleman: We've been working on IT project and program management for years now: training and certifying our employees on project management, making sure that we had software development lifecycle processes standardized and that we were using tools like Rational to capture the work that we're doing and to give some rigor to our software and application development. Because of all that, we were not behind the curve when the IT Dashboard came out. We were in a pretty good place to report and feel good about the work that we're doing in each of our projects. Each has its own risk and budget issues, but if you look at our dashboard scores, they're all green or yellow. At this point, we don't have any reds.

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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer