New federal CIO looks to execution, not invention

Tony Scott  (Photo: VMware)

Tony Scott was appointed to the position of U.S. chief information officer in February.

Federal CIO Tony Scott plans to use the last two years of the Obama administration to make sure the multiple IT initiatives announced in the past couple of budget cycles are put on solid footing for the future.

"We don't need to invent a bunch of new things in the next couple of years, but we really need to land the planes that we've launched," Scott said at the March 24 AFCEA Bethesda budget preview breakfast.

Scott, a trained pilot, comes by his metaphor honestly. And if Scott's goal is to act as the chief air traffic controller for federal IT initiatives, there are a more than a few planes on final approach.

The push to digitize government services and the creation of new cadres of digital services experts to guide those efforts is a leading item. Scott wants the upstart U.S. Digital Service to be seamlessly integrated into federal agencies to work on public-facing government services, but Scott also wants to "expand the talent in that organization to focus on core infrastructure areas." For Scott, improving the citizen experience means "making sure that at the end of the day, you don't have to have an org chart for the federal government to figure out where to go on a website to get the things you need."

Scott plans to continue the PortfolioStat review process to improve efficiency in the $80 billion federal IT budget. Scott is a former corporate CIO, with stints at Disney, General Motors, Microsoft and most recently at VMWare, and he knows the challenges of managing budget pressures imposed from above.

"Giving CIOs a dollar target is often the wrong thing to do," he said. "If you give us a dollar target, we'll figure out how to cut costs in the short run, but perhaps not drive sustainable value in the long run."

Cyber is another ongoing priority. A big challenge on this front is talent, Scott said. At VMWare, Scott recalled, recruiting a chief information security officer was one of the toughest human resources challenges he faced.

"The demand for talent in that space is off the charts," he said. At the same time, Scott said, this period in history might be remembered as "the decade of cyber," because of the challenges faced by governments, and other large enterprises and institutions in protecting their digital assets. Scott applauded efforts across the government to defend networks at the perimeter, but spoke to the need to wade into digital asset management, to better understand "a lot more of what we're running in our data centers and understanding how it all works together," he said.

Scott also outlined a disciplined path to the cloud for federal agencies. He sees opportunities for big gains in efficiency and productivity, but getting there requires a plan. A lot of legacy applications are going to be left behind. "It's not a case of lift and shift," he said. A big priority is to identify common services or platforms that every agency and organization uses and can be scaled economically to the cloud. But it's also important to be up front about what is not going to move to the cloud.

"We have to be deliberate about killing off stuff that's not going to survive the move to the cloud. We're great at launching new things. Getting rid of the old stuff is part and parcel of that journey," he said.

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 and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

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


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