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VanRoekel Speech: Higher Performing Government Makes for Better Business Landscape

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The government is taking strides toward implementing cloud first initiatives and in conjunction with FedRAMP, there is a big opportunity to get smart about consolidation, according to federal chief information officer Steven VanRoekel.

VanRoekel made these comments at a Dec. 16 conference in Washington sponsored by ACT-IAC and the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

VanRoekel said that in order to create a “21st century government,” agencies need to promote more robust cybersecurity standards, embrace the efficiencies of cloud computing, better share resources across agencies and continue consolidating data centers.

Among those efforts are the recently launched FedRAMP guidelines, which outline how agencies must acquire cloud services from contractors beginning in June. The General Services Administration will also issue separate guidance for contractors detailing how to get cloud products and services certified for federal use. No date for that guidance has been issued yet.

In a question-and-answer session, David McClure, associate administrator of the GSA’s office of citizen services and communications, said FedRAMP makes the process for securing government contracts more rigorous.

“We want this build right, that’s why you’re seeing a very gradual rollout,” added McClure. In a Dec. 8 White House blog post, VanRoekel defined FedRAMP as a “do once, use many times” framework. Since FedRAMP is still relatively new, VanRoekel said industry should play an important role in its evolution.

“Industry can help us as we walk, crawl and then run in the FedRAMP process,” said VanRoekel. He indicated that streamlining processes could speed up the migration of databases from legacy systems to internet-based cloud storage.

McClure said implementing FedRAMP can establish baseline standards for federal security and improve communication between agencies and industry. He said this can help keep companies aware of changes in cloud acquisition policy and help them comply with new regulations.

VanRoekel wants more dialogue and collaboration between the private and public sectors when agencies seek out contractors for technology services. VanRoekel wants to add language to contracts that makes contract bids for one agency eligible for use in other agencies. VanRoekel wants contractors to be aware of this possibility before pursuing projects.

While government initiatives and efforts aim to streamline processes for contractors, they also look to improve agency performance.

VanRoekel said that agencies have previously pursued projects through a waterfall method, with heavily front-loaded design and development w0rk. In this system, by the time a project is implemented, VanRoekel said, it can already be out of date.

VanRoekel wants to create a process where information technology projects can be finished within the same fiscal year they are proposed and eliminate redundancies.

The Agriculture Department recently took its 21 email systems and reduced them to one or two. VanRoekel cites this reduction as an example of what needs to be done across federal agencies. He coined this consolidation as moving big projects into little projects. VanRoekel also singled out the Commerce Department‘s strategic sourcing initiatives, which he said could allow the department to reduce its 18 computer purchasing contracts down to a handful.

These current government initiatives are all “in line with innovation” to VanRoekel, since a “higher performing government” creates a “better business landscape.”

VanRoekel also asserted that actions need to be taken to break big projects down into more manageable parts.

While he did not provide any current examples of success for this initiative, he believes that by breaking down projects and streamlining the contract process, there will be “opportunity on the small business side.”

VanRoekel wants streamlined processes to create the “right types” of opportunities for businesses. He hopes to organize the government system in such a way that clarifies opportunities and ways to best achieve tasks at hand.

VanRoekel said his initiatives are a result of observing moments where a partnership is needed between government and the private sector.

While the government did not originally jump into widespread technology adoption, VanRoekel believes it should take measures to speed up the process now that U.S. citizens expect more of these services from public bodies.

In the process of crawling, walking and running in the federal IT transformation, VanRoekel’s goal is to reinvest savings from data center consolidation and streamlined processes and back into federal IT.

Click on the links below to watch VanRoekel’s full presentation:

Notes: The videos are credited to ACT-IAC. ExecutiveGov writers Gino Troiani and Ross Wilkers contributed to this story.

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