OMB chief tells Trump team IT modernization is key

Shaun Donovan 

Outgoing OMB chief Shaun Donovan wants his successor to continue with IT modernization efforts launched under the Obama administration.

The outgoing director of the Office of Management and Budget is urging his successor to continue the federal government's work on IT modernization and maintain its emphasis on shared services, new paths to procurement and digital services.

"It will be critical for OMB's Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer to continue to drive significant changes in governance, budgeting, financing, monitoring, and policymaking practices to most effectively support modernization and digitalization work across government on an ongoing basis," OMB Director Shaun Donovan wrote in a Jan. 5 exit memo.

The document was one in a series prepared by cabinet chiefs to highlight the record of the Obama administration and offer advice for the future.

In mid-December, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to head OMB. Mulvaney does not have a long record on IT issues, but his time in Congress suggests an interest in cutting spending, outsourcing to the private sector and shrinking the federal workforce by attrition.

Donovan's letter said the Obama administration, through OMB's many IT initiatives, has leveraged technology and innovation to "produce a smarter, savvier, and more effective government for the American people."

Donovan contended that the Obama administration's approach to tech and IT modernization is working, saving nearly $4.7 billion over the past eight years.

He urged the incoming OMB director to continue to build Digital Service capabilities and support the General Service Administration's Technology Transformation Service, which includes the "fee-for-service consultancy"18F.

The fee that agencies pay to 18F for its work, Donovan wrote, "uniquely positions 18F to be able to scale to meet demand."

TTS, said Donovan, is also moving in other key areas, such as developing common, reusable products and platforms that can be applied across government. Those products and platforms include the platform-as-a-service and the universal login system, which will let the public access multiple government agency services with a single, secure account.

Donovan also advised the incoming director to "aggressively advance tech procurement reform and hiring/workforce reform."

Those efforts, he said, include 18F's Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement, the Department of Homeland Security's new Flash marketplace, GSA's efforts to reduce the barriers to entry for new federal contractors and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy's work to provide formal guidance to agencies on how to acquire agile software development services as a "commercial item."

More cloud-based service offerings, common in the commercial world, should be made more accessible and usable by government agencies, Donovan said.

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

Fri, Apr 7, 2017

Shaun ruined the finances of HUD. Over $350 billion dollars of mistakes. And his budget was $50 billion. How is this even possible?? What a mess. I wouldn't take his advice if he recommended a restaurant for me to try.

Sat, Jan 14, 2017

Through decades of work with the Federal Government here in Washington, I have seen many initiatives with great intention but failed to achieve their objectives. Where did Donovan get his 4.7 Billion number from? I would like to believe it and wish there was a reference. OMB gets rollups from department level and far too few departments are able to identify long term results of technology decisions. If you want to understand transformation, read the book "Leading Change"

Fri, Jan 13, 2017

Shawn was a good placeholder, but made little progress against the Great Wall of Resistance to Change. Trump crew is going to want to simplify. People who know the Trump pathfinders in this area suggest they will discard or sidestep the many programs that are stumbling in development and are costing far more than budgeted or are many years late. COTS will be king. The Trump people will understandably trim contracts from the usual suspects and even penalize the career feds who planned these contracts and than provided ineffective oversight. Be prepared for a rough ride

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