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Tell Us How You Really Feel: Industry Offers Insight into OMB’s Federal IT Reform

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Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Photo: executivebiz.com

When federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra laid out the government’s plans for federal IT management reform last week, industry leaders took note.

And many have reacted with optimism about the plans, which aim to give federal IT a boost and close the gaps between it and the private sector.

The biggest hurdle will likely be changing agency culture, said Bob Dix, vice president of government affairs and critical infrastructure protection at Juniper Networks.

“Whether or not CIOs have the appropriate authorities, are respected and whether or not the administration and leadership can overcome these culture impediments will be the main challenge,” he told Federal News Radio. “By going to shorter-term initiatives, there is chance to move in that direction.”

Tom Davis, director of federal government affairs for Deloitte & Touche LLP, told Nextgov, many parts of the plan were common-sense steps.

“But changes take time,” he added. “Even getting the workforce part implemented is a tough issue. It takes a long time to find them, to train them and get them up and running. It’s easier on paper sometimes than it is to attract them and keep them. But I applaud the fact that they are addressing this.”

Tim Young, a senior manager with Deloitte Consulting, agreed.

“Overall, I think these IT management reforms are a step in the right direction,” he said according to Federal News Radio. “They are consistent with commercial practices of iterative deployment of cloud technologies . . . and the need for transparency and accountability of performance. Many of the reforms were based on the lessons learned from prior attempts.”

The plans also call for enhanced budget authority for agency CIOs.

“What’s interesting to me is the whole issue of empowering agency CIOs,” Dix said. “We’ve been talking about it every since time I was on Hill with the Government Reform Committee. If there is an ability to follow through and get buy-in from at the secretary and deputy secretary level, there is an opportunity to make difference.”

A pillar of the plan is OMB’s new “cloud-first” strategy, which sets a default position of cloud computing for the agencies. In the next three months, agencies must identify three “must move” services to shift to cloud platforms and fully migrate at least one in a year’s time.

“That is not just a technology issue, it affects so many of business processes of the government,” said Mark Forman, a former OMB administrator and currently a partner with KPMG. “It offers cost savings and quality of service improvements for citizens.”

Another facet of OMB’s plan calls for a “myth-busting campaign” to clear up confusion surrounding communication between the government and companies during the contracting process.

“It’s their mission to scare people into not communicating,” said Paul Brubaker, a senior director for Cisco Systems, of overzealous government workers. Brubaker asked Kundra and Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Dan Gordon to include ethics officials and inspectors general in their communications efforts.

“We have got to have our people be comfortable with using authorities they already have to listen to industry without giving anybody an unfair advantage,” Gordon responded. “We can do this.”

Andy Robinson, chair of the Industry Advisory Council, echoed those remarks.

“None of it seems undoable,” he told Federal Computer Week. “I didn’t see anything that struck me as impossible to accomplish. Industry is ready for it to happen.”

Also, in attendance at the White House IT forum were: George Schindler of CGI, Joe Doherty of ACS, IBM’s Chuck Prow, Ted Davies of Unisys and CACI’s Dale Luddeke.

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