Management of Change

Can the federal government get its IT groove back?

compass innovation

In the wake of the debacle and a rash of security breaches across what was once thought to be among the most secure networks on earth, the U.S. government is becoming better known for its IT failures than its successes -- and that needs to change, according to the chairmen of ACT-IAC's Management of Change conference.

"We want to redefine 21st-century government," said MOC Industry Chair Allen Ashbey, who is director of business development at Sapient. "The federal government used to be known for creating the Internet, sending people to the moon. It could do anything. That perception has changed." And those high-profile failures have eclipsed the sometimes exceptional work that federal IT workers do.

MOC Government Chair Sanjay Sardar told FCW that this year's conference, which runs May 18-20 in Cambridge, Md., seeks to address six primary areas in which the federal government can strengthen its IT hand: agile development, risk taking, continuous diagnostics and mitigation, open data, open and flexible government, and government as integrator. Panel discussions on those topics fill the agenda.

After the conference, Sardar, who serves as CIO of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said he hopes attendees will volunteer to address those issues by joining "innovation pods" aimed at focusing efforts beyond the two-day conference and developing concrete solutions. Those efforts could include frameworks or pilot programs to address the six topic areas led by government and industry volunteers.

"We're looking for activists," Sardar said. "It comes down to how much you're willing to put in [to change things]. When people see things going badly, they want to fix them."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Thu, May 22, 2014 Stan

Troy. Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes with some FCW articles the posting is almost instantaneous and sometimes, as with this one, days, and occasionally, never. You have a daily news paper and if comments take over a day to get posted, folks have moved on and lost the opportunity to read what others think. Readers take the time to read your paper and then if they desire, share their views. But rarely do readers have the time to go back on a topic of interest to see if any comments were posted. Trying to help.

Wed, May 21, 2014 Troy K Schneider, FCW editor-in-chief United States

Two points of clarification, Stan: First, it's not the reporter moderating comments, but me or one of the other FCW editors -- usually me. Second, what a commenter thinks is censorship is almost always just a lag-time in reviewing and approving comments. That's not a great thing either, but it's logistics, not an agenda. We do filter some comments -- see this 2013 blogpost for a rough outline of when and why: But if it's not profane, filled with suspect URLs or utterly off-topic, it's going to get approved.

Wed, May 21, 2014 Stan

Mark, why do you even ask for reader comments when you don't post them? The article approaches the subject from one viewpoint and readers can't share other viewpoints. If this is up to FCW standards, I'm done with FCW. I will make contact and make sure my subscription is canceled. Not worth it any more.

Tue, May 20, 2014 Stan

The real problem is money. IT is one of those areas all managers love by what it can do, and hate because of what it will cost. So for decades the govt has not upgraded its IT infrastructure and now where are we? We as a nation have run out of taxpayer money to upgrade our own infrastructure. We sent people to the moon, right? Why haven't we since? Money. Why was NASA's Constellation to return to the moon permanently cancelled by Obama in 2010. Why? Money. The solution is real simple to getting the govt's IT mojo back. More money. The problem is the govt already spent it and now we will spend years if not decades getting back to where we were if that's even possible. And don't give me this, "we don't need more money, we just need more intelligent managers and a better program". This is one area that throwing more money at the problem will yield the desired result: recovering that lost govt IT mojo.

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