White House Issues Federal IT Reform Plan

Last Thursday the national Chief Information Officer (CIO), Vivek Kundra, issued an implementation plan for reforming federal information technology. It’s a very detailed effort, and some parts of the plan will require Congressional authorization. The full plan is available online.

As Mr. Kundra explains in a blog post, the plan comes as part of an ongoing effort by the Office of Management and Budget to take a close look at federal information technology projects to try and rein in cost overruns and other wasteful spending. The results he lists so far are notable:

The bottom line is that we?ve reduced lifecycle cost by $1.3 billion, and cut the time for delivery of functionality down by more than half, from two to three years down to an average of 8 months.

In reviewing 38 total projects, we have significantly accelerated delivery in 12 projects, with increased functionality coming online every few quarters rather than every few years, and reduced the scope or terminated 15 others, achieving a total of $3 billion in lifecycle budget reductions.

The plan represents an acceleration of present efforts to review, change or terminate existing projects, many of them within the next 18 months. Perhaps the most significant part of the plan is a shift of computing to ‘the cloud,’ where each agency would move three services it provides to the cloud within 18 months (2 of them within 12 months). Depending on the nature of the services and anticipated demand, the clouds used could be commercially available, developed and operated by the federal government, or in conjunction with state and local agencies. Ensuring security of these clouds and the privacy of the associated data should be foremost on the minds of agency staff as they effect this transition. Unfortunately, privacy is not mentioned in that section of the plan.

The move to the cloud represents the biggest technology shift in the plan. Most of the plan is focused on management reform, either through changes to the processes of federal information technology (IT) management; adjustments in hiring and training of IT professionals; and better coordination of technology cycles, the federal budget, and procurement practices. It’s this last category that will require the most collaboration with Congress, and represents perhaps the biggest challenges and the biggest savings for the government.

The parts of the plan that do not need Congressional approval will move forward right away. You should be able to monitor at least some of the progress via the CIO’s website as well as various information technology dashboards either currently established or soon to be developed. Some of the deadlines for the plan are six months from now, so this should be a busy area of activity almost immediately.

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