“Crawl before you can walk. Walk before you can run.”
That’s how Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel framed his strategy to achieve his 2012 priorities in his first speech to government IT contractors in Washington, D.C.
He said agencies would have to do “more with less,” but he wanted to emphasize the “more.” Certain IT initiatives now in their infancy would allow the government to be more productive with fewer dollars, he said.
FedRAMP, the much-discussed new way for agencies to use apples-to-apples comparisons to choose cloud-based systems that have met cybersecurity standards, could help agencies shift to the cloud, save money, and become more productive, he said.
“I think this will light the fire under cloud computing in the federal government and gives us a way to really ignite this phenomenon,” he told members of the American Council for Technology – Industry Advisory Council Friday.
Another way to do that is through eliminating and consolidating duplicative or unnecessary resources. Of the more than 1,500 dot-gov web addresses, 54 percent are live sites, VanRoekel said.
The rest are inactive, under development or redirect users to other sites, he said.
“This is an opportunity for us, not only to get smart about the way we consolidate web sites in the federal government and direct citizens to the resources they need,” he said. “But also think about how we save resources. Many times, many of these systems are running on different platforms and we’re using computing resources to do that when they don’t have to. We can actually pull them into one effort.”
The federal government has a tendency to stay the path, whether because it has already invested a lot of money or because it seems to be the path of least resistance. But the U.K. government, VanRoekel said, had just consolidated its websites into just two — one for business and one for consumers.
“We definitely want to get smart about this and this about how we get citizens what they need, when they need it and in the best way,” he said. “I think there’s a data strategy, an app strategy and a Web communication strategy.”
VanRoekel also promoted his “share first” policy, which has gained momentum since he announced it in October. Many of these action items are “low-hanging fruit,” he said.
Fore example, the Agriculture Department used to have 21 email systems, he said, and each Commerce Department bureau had its own computer-purchasing contract.
“You see this across hundreds of contracts and agencies” he said. “Everywhere you go, you see on the commodity side, diversity like crazy in these places.” The “shared first” strategy he launched last week encourages agencies to simplify their IT purchasing, he added.
“We need to move little to big,” he said. “Take those 21 email systems and move them to one. Take those 18 or so PC-buying contracts and consolidate those to a couple that give you the flexibility you need.”
VanRoekel said the other half of his strategy was going from “big to little” with technology that supports mission-critical tasks.
Rather than delve into multiyear projects that have more chances of being waylaid by politics or unforeseen developments, agencies should work one bit of the puzzle at a time, he said.
“We need to move these big missions into little components that deliver value on their own, can be done within 90 days or so and, more importantly, can be done within fiscal year constraints,” he said. “In 2012, you’re going to see us going after some of these, picking off what would traditionally be very big projects, diving in and thinking about how we break them down into smaller components.”
These strategies, he said, would help maximize agencies’ return on investment. He called on the audience to be “tech evangelists,” especially to Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers should know, he said, “Technology isn’t really a solution to anything in government, but it’s part of the solution to almost everything.”
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 8-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.