IT Careers

IT can have 'transformational impact': Spires

Richard Spires

DHS CIO Richard Spires believes IT can revolutionize government. (DHS image)

Outdated IT skills can be a liability for federal employees, according to speakers at a recent event that was part of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management’s speaker series. But, they said, managers would rather help employees update their skills than lose talented workers.

The speakers, including Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires and General Services Administration CIO Casey Coleman, spoke with enthusiasm about the influence of technology on the government's operations.

“I believe IT can impact this government more than anything else we do,” said Spires. “There is no doubt we can have a transformational impact if we do this right."

Lisa Schlosser, Deputy CIO of the Office of Management and Budget, was another speaker at the event, held Nov. 14, and Tom Temin of Federal News Radio moderated.

Spires said his agency is in the midst of migrating 200,000 e-mail accounts to the cloud – joining at least one million federal e-mail accounts already there – and talked up DHS’ Development and Test service, which establishes on-demand testing and application management tools. He called it a “game-changer,” saying that even though it just rolled out, it’s already saved DHS $12 million.

Spires said the DHS has taken a “very aggressive” approach in implementing PortfolioStat and following the OMB’s lead on the Digital Government Strategy, but he agreed with Schlosser and Coleman that it has not been easy.

“This stuff is hard,” Spires said. “Not just technically, but organizationally, culturally – there are barriers we need to break through. We’re making good progress in many areas. Now, in time of austerity, is the time to run and make this happen.”

Schlosser said the OMB will continue to focus on mobile solutions and Web-identity management, and said the next “innovation of cloud” will be “looking at information systems.”

Coleman said GSA’s cloud utilization will save millions of dollars over traditional e-mail systems and said the agency has a “continuity and agility” it didn’t possess before.

But then, when Coleman described the challenge of managing the agency’s legacy systems, a member of the audience asked how managers should handle employees whose jobs aren’t needed anymore – like people who managed e-mail servers.

“We’re not looking to push anyone out the door who is capable,” Spires said. While the agency may not need the outdated skills anymore, talented people can be retrained, he said.

“We need this pressure down through the ranks to drive this change because we will never get close to the productivity you see in the private sector under the heterogeneous model we use now," he said.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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