Transportation CIO Says She Doesn’t Want Any More Money

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Vicki Hildebrand said she can find funding within the department and doesn’t plan to tap the Technology Modernization Fund anytime soon.

As federal programs vie for a piece of the $100 million Technology Modernization Fund, at least one department leader is saying her agency doesn’t need it.

“I don’t want any money, I don’t need any money,” Vicki Hildebrand, Transportation Department CIO, said during a panel Thursday hosted by Foreign Affairs and the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center. “I know that is not a very common thing that you hear from people in government. We have a lot of spend out there; we need to spend more wisely.”

She cited the number of help desks scattered across Transportation's components as just one area where the department can consolidate. That funding could then be put toward modernization efforts.

Hildebrand also pointed to the government procurement process, which she said lends itself to higher prices than private sector acquisitions. Prior to joining Transportation in October, Hildebrand spent 30 years at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, ultimately serving as vice president for customer and partner advocacy.

“I was rather surprised when I got here from the private sector that the government gets charged more than the private sector. And sometimes for services that aren’t quite as good,” she said. “I think we have to shake things up a little bit because we are spending more money on things than we need to. I’m looking for some of that funding, as well, to reinvest.”

As for the Technology Modernization Fund, which currently has $100 million to put toward modernizing critical government systems: “I’m excited it’s there. I know what the intention is. I may tap into it. But I’m not ready yet,” Hildebrand said.

While Hildebrand plans to use repurposed funds for Transportation’s central modernization efforts, she does see some value in outside money.

“I might also think about it as an opportunity to try something that might not have a guaranteed outcome,” she offered. “We don’t necessarily have dollars to do the kind of trial and error they do in private industries. I don’t know whether that would be accepted or not—I haven’t fielded that at all. But I think if we truly want to modernize, we need to try some things that haven’t been tried and true out there.”