Kundra's successor: Can the next federal CIO deliver?

So now it’s time to cook the meal.

Outgoing Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has dreamed up a government IT reform menu of audacious lines, but he won’t be sticking around long enough to see if it can actually be pulled off and plated, as they say on those cook-off reality TV shows.

That job goes to Steven VanRoekel, former Microsoft and federal agency executive, who takes on an extremely tough order in an increasingly bleak fiscal environment. It will probably require all of VanRoekel’s leadership and motivational skills to keep the situation from becoming his own “Hell’s Kitchen.” And some question whether VanRoekel, who with his wife has been a generous donor to Democratic causes, has enough head chef skills to deliver.

In fairness, Kundra had started some of the dirty prep work by chopping several underperforming IT programs, and he didn’t mince words about what VanRoekel must do. "Focus coupled with ruthless execution delivers results — that's the most powerful lesson I've learned," Kundra said during a briefing to announce VanRoekel's appointment.

The Obama administration was looking for someone who could execute Kundra’s plans, Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer, told John Foley of InformationWeek. “This is not a situation where we're asking someone to come in and make radical changes,” Zients said. "It's continued execution."

On the plus side, VanRoekel has two years of experience as an innovator who helped implement elements of Kundra’s vision when he served as a managing director at the Federal Communications Commission. VanRoekel oversaw migration of the FCC website's infrastructure from local servers to the cloud, converted it to open-source code, and began numerous crowdsourcing discussions with IT developers and the public.

But does VanRoekel, who was chosen for the CIO job over other much discussed possible candidates such as Veterans Affairs Department CIO Roger Baker and Homeland Security Department CIO Richard Spires, have the needed leadership experience, asks Jill Aitoro at the Washington Business Journal.

VanRoekel has “yet to be at the helm, dictating policy to a group as disparate as the federal government’s agencies and wielding influence over budgets, defining how agencies should spend billions in IT dollars,” Aitoro writes.

Foley called VanRoekel’s lack of CIO experience impossible to ignore, particularly in the current climate.

“Driving change will be twice as difficult at this point in the political cycle,” Foley writes. “With President Obama in the second half of his term and budget cuts looming across government, the federal CIO will have to apply all of his motivational and collaborative skills to keep agency CIOs and federal IT managers and staff working toward common goals.”

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group