White House wants 'disruptive' shift in IT strategy, Kundra says

Federal CIO chides industry members "invested in the status quo"

The White House is pushing for dramatic change in federal information technology strategy away from infrastructure ownership and toward provisioning of services, which will require new approaches and collaborations, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said at a federal CIO panel discussion today.

“There is a huge shift in federal IT,” Kundra said at the AFCEA Bethesda panel event. “We want to make sure the shift is disruptive.”

The trend encompasses not only moving e-mail systems to the cloud and consolidating data centers but also eventually will affect large enterprise systems and information security by 2012, Kundra said.


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The change may be difficult because at the current time, while a few industry members are on board and driving the changes, many other industry members “are invested in the status quo,” Kundra told the audience, which consisted primarily of federal contracting industry members.

“We want the federal government to move away from asset ownership and shift to service provisioning,” Kundra said.

The General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department moved their e-mail systems to the cloud, which saved $6 million and $15 million, respectively, he said.

The new philosophy is being applied to the start-up of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Kundra said. “How do you build up an agency with zero asset ownership?” he asked.

Richard Spires, CIO of the Homeland Security Department, said DHS is looking for consolidation and cloud opportunities as it deals with ongoing budget cuts. “We are starting small but aggressively to move away from the traditional model,” he said.

So far, the department has provisioned a private cloud for 100,000 e-mail addresses, including headquarters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, he said.

Data centers also are being consolidated, and another possible area of consolidation in the future are the 16 common operating pictures that are in operation throughout the department. “We probably do not need 16. Ideally, you would not need more than one,” Spires said.

Spires noted that consolidation efforts are requiring a new degree of cooperation across agencies, which is not always easy to achieve because of limitations on his authorities. Roger Baker, CIO of the Veterans Affairs Department, suggested that having a CIO with centralized authority for the IT budget at the VA has helped implement consolidation and efficiency measures.

For example, with cybersecurity, Baker said that before joining the VA, he worked at another federal agency for which authority for system security was decentralized. More than 100 individuals at the agency were generating regular cybersecurity paperwork assuring him that their systems were secure. Nonetheless, as CIO at the other agency, he lacked confidence that the systems were truly safe, he said.

To improve the situation at the VA, Baker said he authorized purchase of an application that gives him visibility to all 315,000 computers and devices on the VA's network, allowing him to track the security status in a continuous fashion.

Having central CIO authority also has helped him implement program management changes and a more agile development, he said.

“If you consolidate under a CIO, you have can have incremental development, save money, deliver faster and the customers are happier. If you do it, it will work,” Baker said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Mon, Apr 4, 2011 FDAmanager Silver Spring MD

Vivek Kundra has revealed himself as yet another hardware guy who misses the point. These guys try to save pennies but cost more oevrall IT dollars. Hardware has always been chump change when it comes to overall IT dollars. What goes IN the box is the real cost. For the benefit of non-IT leadership reading this: Facebook started with less than $2K in hardware- what cost was the development of what those boxes ran. All the agencies I interact with (FDA, ATF, HUD, DoD) have seen their costs for development go WAY UP after server consolidation, especially to contractor hosted data centers (e.g. CHDC site in Virginia). Yes these harware CIOs claim victor and then move onto to their next conquest. The reprogramming alone during these consolidations eat up much more $$ than any projected savings. Afterwards, we see the time needed for development and complications sky rocket as it requires far more coordination and scheduling during promotions of code for each release. All development projects must now stand in line so projects can't do things in parallel any longer to progress slows down too. We had to scale our expectations way back. We now have developers sitting on their hands waiting which is a first for us. Hardware driven leadership always propose to save a few pennies on new hardware (relative to development costs) but in the end, don't. However, they cost us BIG when it comes to increased development dollars to develop and maintain what goes on INSIDE their boxes or clouds or whatever new hardware paradigm they might be hawking at the moment. Please-will someone in non-IT federal leadership wake up and call these turkeys on their promises.If Congress really wants to save money- this MUST be a target.

Wed, Mar 23, 2011 Paul Olympia Washington

How many different clouds are they talking about? 1. SIPR 2. NIPR 3. Coalition Network. Or are they talking about .gov .mil .us consolidation? Or are they talking about the consolidation of Departments like DOD, Homeland Security, Justice, Executive, State Dept., etc. etc. under one top CIO so they can come up with the good ideas history has shown that they were not good ideas. Since 1990 Information Technology in the Army has gone from de-centralized to centralized and back to decentralized, so now it's time to go back to centralized again. Hey it's the good idea fairy going at it again.

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 Beel VA

JD, you are SO right! I'm glad someone finally let the cat out of the bag. Thank you.

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 FedSecurityGuy

Mr Vivek Kundra's cloud strategy is somewhat inconsistent with, and in conflict with, the Federal government's Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) initiative. I've never heard Mr Kundra discuss how the two will work in tandem. Quite frankly, it's very obvious that Mr Kundra really does not have security as a high priority in his stack of priorities. Very sad for all of us to spend all this money on this previous OMB directed initiative called TIC, if the current Federal CIO is not behand the initiative. Explain yourself Mr Kundra....which initiative should we struggle to support this year?

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 Old Timer Washington

I have never seen a centralized organization agile enough to keep up with technology changes. You end up operating at the least common denominator.

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