Federal CIO Outlines Next Steps

With Obama's first term in the rearview mirror, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel is looking for ways to continue to improve federal IT even in the face of looming budget cuts.
Front and center among OMB's efforts is PortfolioStat, a series of face-to-face, data-based reviews of agency IT portfolios attended by an agency's IT leadership and other top managers. The first series of PortfolioStat reviews uncovered $2.5 billion in potential IT saving, according to OMB.

"We don't have a [legal] entitlement problem," VanRoekel said. "I think we have a governance problem, and that's why PortfolioStat has the deputy secretary, sub-agency CIOs, the head CIO, the CFO, the Chief Human Capital Officer, all the C-levels sitting around a table saying you have to think about things different."

OMB plans to expand PortfolioStat this year by "moving up the stack" from duplicative commodity systems -- its initial area of focus -- to other areas of IT. "The team is going out and thinking not only about how many email servers is this department running, how many this, how many that, but also how much should email cost, so that we can try to set baselines and figure out how to maximize savings and ROI," VanRoekel said.

PortfolioStat has done more than uncover the most obvious cost savings, VanRoekel said. It's also helped OMB categorize agencies based on their level of IT maturity. The different types include "Wild West" agencies where every sub-agency does its own thing, agencies that are rationalizing commodity IT, agencies that are rationalizing mission IT, and those that are service oriented. Understanding the differences should help IT strategic planning, according to VanRoekel.

The Digital Government Strategy, launched last May, is another area of focus for VanRoekel in Obama's second term. The strategy seeks to improve the delivery of government services by making more data available through Web APIs and to mobile devices. The strategy guides federal IT teams to use government-wide contract vehicles for mobile procurements, ensure digital services adhere to customer service improvement guidelines, and "optimize" citizen-facing services for mobile use.

VanRoekel's other key concern is cybersecurity. Under a program called CyberStat, he plans to participate in meetings with agency officials that focus on objectives such as adoption of HSPD-12 cards, multi-factor authentication and continuous monitoring technologies. The Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration have issued a $6 billion procurement to provide continuous monitoring as a service to other agencies over five years.

FedRAMP, a program to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing in federal government, will see "a pretty steady clip" of new vendors receiving authorization to provide those services, VanRoekel said. The program could be expanded to cover mobile devices and services next.

Security checks of mobile devices and services "don't generally keep up with the pace of technology," VanRoekel said. The concept of a FedRAMP-style mobile program would be to manage security authorizations centrally for use across agencies. Devices and services that make it through the program would get a stamp of approval saying in effect, "this is trusted across the federal government," said VanRoekel.

The Obama administration still has four years of hard work ahead, but VanRoekel is already thinking about the outcomes he would like to see in federal IT. They include "a government that can build modular, agile solutions that can be shared across agencies and is super-efficient, all in a low-cost environment." He also wants to federal government to be an appealing place to work for talented IT workers.

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