Open Gov

VanRoekel: More data coming from feds in fiscal 2014

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel took his message of innovating with a flat budget to the federal contracting community when he delivered a broad outline of the federal IT budget and previewed new initiatives at an AFCEA event April 19.

VanRoekel said he hopes to make open data the default setting of the federal government and advised vendors to think about how to collect and disseminate data so that agencies could make it available to public users in a nonproprietary way. He cited real estate listing networks Zillow and Trulia, the credit card protection firm BillGuard, and health website iTriage as examples of private firms that are using open data to unlock business opportunities.

“The steel factories of old are starting to become the data factories of the future,” VanRoekel said.

He also announced that agencies’ reporting requirements for PortfolioStat are being tweaked in the program’s next iteration. Agencies will now need to supply only three collections of data a year instead of 30 because officials have eliminated duplication and variations of similar questions.

VanRoekel’s office is also looking for ways to codify the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance on giving agency CIOs more budget authority. According to FCW’s reporting, the issue of CIO authority over departmentwide budgets might be part of the reason Department of Homeland Security CIO Richard Spires has been on leave for more than a month. Neither VanRoekel nor acting DHS CIO Margie Graves, who was also at the event, would discuss the Spires case and instead directed inquiries to their press offices.

Graves was part of a panel of agency CIOs who addressed concerns that as much as 70 percent of agency IT budgets are devoted to paying for the operations and maintenance of existing programs, leaving relatively few resources for new projects. Graves said that “the ever-increasing O&M monster is accelerating” the demand for change among federal IT agencies, and the solution is to move from a capital expenditure model to budgeting for operational expenses.

She said DHS is looking to vendors to provide solutions that are flexible enough to withstand surges in demand and are not owned and operated by the government. “That is the conversation we’re having with industry,” she said.

Cheryl Cook, acting CIO at the Agriculture Department, also spoke at the event, and said state governments represent an often-overlooked resource for data center consolidation. Her agency maintains remote operations in agricultural regions, and Cook said state departments of agriculture are likely partners for IT colocation.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 David Ready Portsmouth, VA

It seems to me that if the government IT community (all depts and agencies) would agree on a front-end and back-end data encryption / security process based on open systems concepts the government could ditch a significant amount of overhead for legacy programming and utilize industry standard programs by doing strategic public / private partnerships for program licensing, training and support, and move into 21st century( at least the early 2000's). Some of the programs the government relies on at departmental levels are closed, proprietary and designed to limit the sharing of any data even to legitimate users within the department's own boundaries , much less out to other govenrmental units and the private sector. The idea that it should take up to a year to get a data input form changed to correct a lapse in programmer logic; or to add a needed data element to a file entry to allow good cross linking of data and to reduce duplication of entry in applications is absurd but seems very typical.

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