FCW Insider


The most influential federal IT leaders since 1987: A short list

Who have been the pivotal leaders of the federal IT community in the last 25 years?

As part of an upcoming special issue, Federal Computer Week, which hits the quarter-century mark this year, is looking at the people, policies and technologies that have had a formative influence on federal IT.

Formative is the key term. In flipping through issues from the early years of FCW, we have come across a lot of story lines that were big news at the time but did little to shape future policies or programs. How many stories did we write about Desktop IV protests? And the Clipper chip? But wait: One might argue that the Clipper chip was important to later debates about technology, privacy and law enforcement... You see the difficulty.

Assessing the legacy of individuals is even more challenging. While policies and technologies often remain influential for long periods of time, morphing in response to the changing environment, the accomplishments of IT leaders are often forgotten after they leave the scene and others step onto the stage.

Our goal is to identify the five, or perhaps ten, individuals whose fingerprints can still be discerned today, even if the current generation of leadership is unfamiliar with their names.

We’ve created a short list of people that seem to fit the bill. We’d like to hear what you think. How do you rate these individuals? Who doesn’t belong on the list? And who is missing? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

* Rep. Jack Brooks. The Brooks Act, the Competition in Contracting Act and the paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 were seminal pieces of legislation that still influence federal IT and acquisition policy, even though they have been superseded.

* Lynn McNulty. One of the early advocates for information security.

* Steve Kelman. During his tenure as head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Kelman was a relentless advocate for innovation in acquisition, helping agencies learn new ways to leverage their buying power.

* Colleen Preston. First as counsel for the House Armed Services Committee and later as deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition reform, Preston took on the herculean task of revamping a defense acquisition process that was woefully ineffective and amazingly resistant to change. She made it happen.

* Paul A. Strassmann. During his time as director of defense information, Strassmann helped to create a new culture at the Pentagon, convincing DOD leaders up and down ranks to see information technology as a strategic management resource.

* Adm. Arthur Cebrowski. Cebrowski crystallized the concept of network-centric warfare, a concept that continues to shape the Pentagon’s IT strategy, even if it the term has fallen out of favor and the technology has gone beyond what Cebrowski could have imagined.

* Dendy Young. A dark horse, perhaps. But it might be argued that during his tenure at Falcon Microsystems and then GTSI during the mid-1990s, Young served as the crucial middleman between federal agencies, who were eager to take advantage of a new generation of commercial software and hardware, and IT vendors who were not ready to invest their own efforts in the federal market.

* John Koskinen. Koskinen was the Clinton administration’s point person on Y2K, which consumed a lot of the federal government’s time and money during a four-year stretch. The question is: Did it matter in the long run?

* Rep. Tom Davis. At a time when a lot of congressional leaders were resolutely clueless about technology, Davis recognized that IT was an essential component of government operations.

* Frank P. Pugliese Jr. Pugliese oversaw the rapid expansion of the GSA Schedule contracts, fueled in part by the addition of IT services, which gave agencies a new way to jumpstart projects. He also helped make the Federal Supply Service a sustainable operation.

* David Brailer. Brailer, the first national health IT coordinator, was the evangelist who through his personal vision and charisma spread awareness of health IT outside the clinical realm and into such fields as public health, health reform and population health studies.

Let us know what you think. If you'd rather not comment publicly on people, e-mail us at letters@fcw.com.

Posted by John S. Monroe on Apr 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM35 comments


Pivotal policies of the past 25 years: What say you?

Think back over the past 25 years and figure out what policies have been pivotal in the shaping of federal IT.

We’re asking because Federal Computer Week is 25 years old this year. As part of an upcoming special issue, we’re going to examine the people, policies and technologies that have shaped the landscaped during that time. We’re looking for people and ideas that still hold sway today, not yesterday’s passing fads.

We’ve identified a few policies we think have been among the most significant, but we’d like your help. Look over the list below and then, in the comments, tell us what ones you think we’re missing, which ones we’ve named but should not have, and any other thoughts you have about what makes a policy pivotal.

Our ideas so far:

Procurement reform: Although it’s not a single policy, a number of procurement reform measures have changed the system in ways that still affect the ways in which the government buys products and services.

The President’s Management Agenda: The George W. Bush administration instituted this effort to apply metrics to government performance in ways that led to running agencies more as businesses are run. The Barack Obama administration has continued using the concept, as shown by the TechStat and PortfolioStat programs.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996: Perhaps best known for creating the office of the agency CIO, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 actually contained a full set of IT management reforms, including the creation of a capital planning and investment control process linked to budget formulation and a mandate for agencies to rethink their business processes and improving them when possible before investing in information systems.

Homeland security: In the wake of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration not only established the Homeland Security Department but also kick-started numerous initiatives to improve information sharing across the federal government and with state and local agencies and the private sector. The work goes.

The Federal Information Security Management Act: Part of the E-Government Act of 2002, this effort to apply standards and best practices consistently across government put a new framework around agencies’ approach to security that has been refined over time. But what about the E-Government Act itself? Should it be on our list? If so, why?

Cloud-First Policy: This is a new one, but it could shape federal IT buying for years to come, shifting the preference away from agency-based dedicated systems to shared services, consolidation and remotely hosted applications.

So, let us know. Do we have the right list? Tell us why or why not, and what you’d add or remove.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Apr 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM1 comments


Pivotal policies of the past 25 years: What say you?

Think back over the past 25 years and figure out what policies have been pivotal in the shaping of federal IT.

We’re asking because Federal Computer Week is 25 years old this year. As part of an upcoming special issue, we’re going to examine the people, policies and technologies that have shaped the landscaped during that time. We’re looking for people and ideas that still hold sway today, not yesterday’s passing fads.

We’ve identified a few policies we think have been among the most significant, but we’d like your help. Look over the list below and then, in the comments, tell us what ones you think we’re missing, which ones we’ve named but should not have, and any other thoughts you have about what makes a policy pivotal.

Our ideas so far:

Procurement reform: Although it’s not a single policy, a number of procurement reform measures have changed the system in ways that still affect the ways in which the government buys products and services.

The President’s Management Agenda: The George W. Bush administration instituted this effort to apply metrics to government performance in ways that led to running agencies more as businesses are run. The Barack Obama administration has continued using the concept, as shown by the TechStat and PortfolioStat programs.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996: Perhaps best known for creating the office of the agency CIO, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 actually contained a full set of IT management reforms, including the creation of a capital planning and investment control process linked to budget formulation and a mandate for agencies to rethink their business processes and improving them when possible before investing in information systems.

Homeland security: In the wake of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration not only established the Homeland Security Department but also kick-started numerous initiatives to improve information sharing across the federal government and with state and local agencies and the private sector. The work goes.

The Federal Information Security Management Act: Part of the E-Government Act of 2002, this effort to apply standards and best practices consistently across government put a new framework around agencies’ approach to security that has been refined over time. But what about the E-Government Act itself? Should it be on our list? If so, why?

Cloud-First Policy: This is a new one, but it could shape federal IT buying for years to come, shifting the preference away from agency-based dedicated systems to shared services, consolidation and remotely hosted applications.

So, let us know. Do we have the right list? Tell us why or why not, and what you’d add or remove.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Apr 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM1 comments


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