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The Government CIO 50: Vision, Influence, And Results

The top IT execs in federal, state, and local government are using new technologies and hands-on project management to drive change in the public sector.

What makes for a top CIO in government? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but technology vision, clout among peers in other agencies, and an ability to show tangible, measurable results are qualities common to the Government CIO 50, InformationWeek’s second recognition of leading CIOs in federal, state, and local government.

The public-sector IT execs on our list often do those things with one hand tied behind their backs. Their budgets, especially at the state and local levels, tend to be flat or declining. Antiquated systems devour their limited resources. And entrenched processes and bureaucracies can stymie their best IT transformation ambitions.

The Government CIO 50 are finding ways to plow through such obstacles in their pursuit of higher returns. One of the CIOs on our list, Roger Baker of Veterans Affairs, uses metrics-driven reviews to assess IT initiatives at the agency, making adjustments where needed and pulling the plug on others. At the General Services Administration, CIO Casey Coleman introduced Gmail and Google Apps, saving the agency an estimated 50% on e-mail costs over the next four years.

Some of the Government CIO 50, such as Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, are known for their far-reaching policy influence. Others have lower public profiles, but are heavy hitters in their own right. Al Tarasiuk, the former CIO of the CIA, was recently named CIO of the U.S. Intelligence Community, where he’s developing standards and an IT architecture for information sharing across the 17 agencies and organizations that comprise the coalition.

Our list includes IT leaders who are driving change in local and state government, such as New York City IT commissioner Carole Post, who is managing the consolidation of the Big Apple’s data centers and IT infrastructure, while introducing new desktop tools and cloud services for city employees.

Government agencies have long been a step behind the private sector in technology adoption -- Kundra calls it as the “tech gap” in government. Many of the CIOs on our list are taking steps to change that by deploying a newer generation of tools, including smartphones, software as a service, VoIP, and the latest Web and collaboration software.

For years, government CIOs have taken on big, complex IT projects that all too often buckle under their own weight. The Gov 50 are shifting away from long-term, monolithic IT projects to faster, nimbler ones. FBI CIO Chad Fulgham, for example, is applying agile development to hustle the agency’s delayed Sentinel case-management system to the finish line.

In federal government, the expectations on agency CIOs keep piling up: the Open Government Directive, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, cloud computing mandates, TechStat project reviews, the shift to continuous monitoring for cybersecurity. What more could possibly be required of them? In December, Kundra introduced a 25-point IT reform plan to be carried out over the next 18 months. The CIOs on our list aren’t just first-class leaders; they must be great managers, able to juggle priorities and meet deadlines.

Arriving at our final list of 50 wasn’t easy. The editors of InformationWeek Government spent weeks researching the movers and shakers in government IT, comparing notes, and quibbling over qualifications. More than once, capable candidates were added to the list, then dropped when we weren’t blown away by their accomplishments.

Which leads me to an observation: Many government CIOs do a poor job of touting just what they and their teams have achieved. In the age of open government, they would better serve their organizations -- and their careers -- if they put more effort into informing the public of the important work they’re doing.

That said, it’s clear that tech execs are making a positive impact at all levels of government, and the Government CIO 50 are the best among them. Our complete list follows.

InformationWeek’s Government CIO 50:

Gen. Keith Alexander, Director, NSA, U.S. CyberCommand; Rosio Alvarez, CIO, Lawrence Berkeley Lab; Lonny Anderson, CIO, National Security Agency; Frank Baitman, CIO, Social Security Administration; Roger Baker, CIO, Veterans Affairs; Dave Bowen, CIO, FAA; Robert Carey, Deputy CIO, Dept. of Defense; Michael Carleton, CIO, Health and Human Services; Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO, White House; Brook Colangelo, CIO, White House; Casey Coleman, CIO, GSA; Regina Dugan, Director, DARPA; Stephen Fletcher, CIO, Utah; Chad Fulgham, CIO, FBI; Adrian Gardner, CIO, Goddard Space Center; Terry Halvorsen, CIO, Navy; Vance Hitch, CIO, Dept. of Justice; Andrew Hoppin, CIO, New York State Senate; Jerry Johnson, CIO, Pacific Northwest National Lab; Chris Kemp, CTO for IT, NASA; Joe Klimavicz, CIO, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Michael Krieger, Deputy CIO, Army; Vivek Kundra, Federal CIO, OMB; Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, CIO (nominee), Army; Lt. Gen. William Lord, CIO, Air Force; Bernard Mazer, CIO, Dept. of Interior; Bill Oates, CIO, City of Boston; John Owens, CIO Patent and Trademark Office; Todd Park, CTO, Health and Human Services; Carole Post, Commissioner of IT/Telecom, New York City; Nitin Pradhan, CIO, Dept. of Transportation; Ron Ross, Senior Computer Scientist, NIST; Kristin Russell, CIO, Colorado; Howard Schmidt, Cybersecurity Coordinator, White House; Grant Schneider, CIO, Defense Intelligence Agency; Henry Sienkiewicz, CIO, DISA; Chris Smith, CIO, Agriculture; Richard Spires, CIO, Homeland Security; Bobbie Stempfley, Director, Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division; Jeff Stovall, CIO, Charlotte, N.C.; William Strecker, CTO, In-Q-Tel; John Streufert, Deputy CIO of Information Assurance, Dept. of State; Teri Takai, CIO, Dept. of Defense; Al Tarasiuk, CIO, Intelligence Community; Ed Trainor, CIO, Amtrak; Harold Tuck, CIO, San Diego County; Chris Vein, U.S. Deputy CTO for Innovation (former CIO, San Francisco); Jerry Williams, CIO, Housing and Urban Development; Jim Warren, CIO, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; Jeffrey Zients, Chief Performance Officer, OMB

Want to learn more about what the Government CIO 50 are doing to drive IT innovation, efficiency, and new levels of performance? We provide detailed profiles on each of these IT leaders in our InformationWeek Analytics report, “The Government CIO 50.” You can download the report, at no cost, here.

Federal agencies must eliminate 800 data centers over the next five years. Find how they plan to do it in the new all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government. Download it now (registration required).

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