Kurt Roemer

COMMENTARY

What four things should we keep after Kundra leaves?

Vivek Kundra has exerted profound influence as the first U.S. CIO. So much so, when he announced he would be leaving the position in August, people naturally wondered whether a successor could be found with similar depth of vision, energy and ability.

With the Cloud First initiative and the “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management,” Vivek proved himself to be a patient listener, a fast learner and, above all, a catalyst for innovation and meaningful change.

What will — or should — remain of the IT governance programs and polices he set in motion?

The new U.S. CIO will undoubtedly bring a fresh perspective to help reshape and strengthen ongoing programs, and develop new policy initiatives that improve the governance and use of IT resources. As the new CIO and the Federal CIO Council chart the path forward, they must preserve certain basic elements of Kundra’s approach that have been essential for deploying secure, robust information technologies in support of agency operations and missions.

These elements are:

  • A focus on measurement. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” the adage says. The measurement of the performance and progress of federal IT programs, both old and new, is important to ensure they achieve their goals. Transparency and accountability should also continue so that information and results are available for everyone to see. This enables agency leaders to use measured performance, rather than hunches and habits, to guide the way forward.
  • A commitment to cloud computing. Kundra recognized the revolutionary capabilities of cloud computing as a new business model that enables unfettered access to information — anytime, anywhere and by any device. His Cloud First policy is helping agencies make the important shift to cloud computing, which will deliver enormous efficiencies and unlock countless opportunities for collaboration and expansion of services, and enhance civilian and military missions. It should be noted that Kundra supported public clouds as well as private clouds, and encouraged agencies to explore both avenues. As with other initiatives, he advocated a thorough evaluation of alternatives in terms of costs, benefits and risks.
  • A robust FedRAMP program. Kundra understood the security risks and concerns associated with cloud computing. Therefore, he worked hard to ensure that the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program addressed meaningful (but evolving) security assurance for agencies adopting cloud services. FedRAMP is a great example of transparency, as the program has been strengthened through a public comment process and the specification of continuous security monitoring processes to measure real-time compliance against federal security policies. By addressing the continued integrity of cloud security (which is often stronger than existing controls among smaller agencies), the evolution of FedRAMP will enable the government to confidently deploy cloud technologies and services.
  • Strong White House support. As the first federal CIO, Kundra established a strong role for information governance within the federal government. He was successful because he had direct access to the president and support from top officials within the Office of Management and Budget. This wasn’t the only reason for his success, of course, but it was essential. The next CIO also will need continued OMB support and, at crucial junctures, the president’s ear, to continue serving as the champion of information governance.

Under Kundra’s leadership, federal agencies have dramatically improved how they acquire, manage and use information technologies to achieve mission goals. The federal CIO community has strongly endorsed the 25-point reform plan.

Based on extensive conversations with my counterparts in the federal IT contracting community, I believe industry also overwhelmingly supports the reform roadmap. If we maintain the basic elements of Kundra’s information governance approach, I am confident government and industry can work together to achieve our shared vision of IT programs and services.

Doing so, all of us can enhance collaboration, service delivery and mission effectiveness while dramatically lowering government’s costs.

“The future picture for Federal Government IT is exciting,” Kundra wrote in the 25-point plan.

I heartily agree.

Reader Comments

Wed, Jul 27, 2011 Washington, D.C.

Well said. These are all important and essential for continued progress in federal IT initiatives. Let's hope the federal CIOs continue supporting these elements, as they did under Vivek Kundra. A unified CIO leadership, along with White House support, is crucial for success.

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