Interior's CIO gets more power

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra highlights Interior initiative

The Interior Department is taking steps to transform its delivery of IT services and the agency’s CIO has been given new oversight responsibility to lead that work. Interior’s move to align IT resources under its CIO comes as the White House is aiming to strengthen the role of agency CIOs governmentwide and reform IT management.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra credited Interior for “leading the way” in redefining the role of the department CIO in a blog post last month on the government’s official CIO website.


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At the start of the Obama administration, Interior employees couldn’t send a departmentwide message because of the department's IT siloed infrastructure, consisting of 210 data centers and 9,000 servers, Kundra wrote in his Dec. 17 post.

Meanwhile, the department is seeking to improve its IT infrastructure by implementing new policies ordered by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month.

Kundra highlighted the main points of the Interior program, including improving customer service, more flexibility for employees and managers to choose mobile technologies that meet their needs, and one e-mail system delivered through cloud computing for the entire agency with enhanced features. 

Interior’s IT transformation is projected to save the department $100 million each year from 2016 to 2020, totaling $500 million in IT savings, according to Kundra.

The department currently spends approximately $1 billion a year on IT and much of that money is spent on redundant IT services offered across the department, Interior CIO Bernard Mazer said in an interview.

The new policy outlined in Interior secretarial order 3309 enables the agency to reduce redundancies, Mazer said.

“There is great opportunity to become more customer-focused, while offering more modern technologies, more efficiently and cost effectively,” he said.

Mazer said the administration’s focus on reforming IT management is consistent with Interior’s internal goals and objectives to significantly change the way IT services are delivered.

“The role of the CIO has been elevated, in part, as a result of infrastructure consolidation initiatives that highlighted the amount of redundant IT functions within the department,” he said. “Breaking down barriers to remove redundancy and implement an IT transformation requires leadership from a single CIO.”

Under the new order, the Interior CIO will have oversight, management, ownership and control of all IT Infrastructure assets. The CIO also will establish and periodically revise a position description for bureau assistant director for information resources, which are the positions replacing the bureau CIOs. The new policy does not allow any bureau, office or subordinate organization in Interior to designate a person with the title of CIO or deputy CIO.

The CIO will further have the authority to review and approve all IT procurement and expenditures over micro-purchase levels before funds are obligated. 

Mazer said he is essentially responsible for ensuring agency compliance in areas like IT security and records management. As part of his new duties, he will be streamlining those activities and aggregating them into a singular focus.

“The role of the CIO is changing to be very closely integrated into the other business processes of the organization,” he said. “I have insight into all of out IT investments, and can intermediate multiple layers within a business process.”

He said last month’s secretarial order is the beginning of the department’s efforts to implement a new business model for delivering IT products and services.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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