Agencies on track to implement White House IT strategy, CIOs say

Meeting the goals of 25-point plan for moving applications to the cloud will require leadership push, according to federal panelists.

The Obama administration's recently-unveiled information technology roadmap is helping agencies push forward toward their IT goals, according to leading government chief information officers who spoke at a conference roundtable on Wednesday. But much work remains to be done before declaring success, the CIOs warned.

"We're very proud in the first 97 days of what has been done," said Vivek Kundra, federal CIO, addressing the annual Interagency Resources Management Conference. In December, the White House introduced a 25-point plan to improve information technology governmentwide. The plan encourages agencies to take advantage of Web-based computing services to reduce data center operations. It assigned agencies 25 goals and required they identify within three months three "must move" services, transitioning one of those services to the cloud within a year and shifting the remaining two within 18 months.

"There were some concerns that maybe this was too ambitious," said Woody Hall, the discussion's moderator and CIO of General Dynamics Information Technology. "But all of you have actually embraced this -- these are real initiatives being implemented."

Even so, the CIOs said by no means can the new plan succeed without significant and sustained effort on the part of agency managers.

"I've listened to lots and lots of briefings on great ideas," said Henry Sienkiewicz, CIO of Defense Information Systems Agency. But many of them are never fully implemented, he warned.

Kundra and other panelists said groups such as the Chief Information Officers Council, which Kundra heads, will keep up the pressure on CIOs to make implementation a priority. Its focus on proven strategies, he added, should make the plan's aggressive 18-month timetable easier to execute.

"Every single point on the 25-point plan we've successfully implemented somewhere in the government." Kundra said. "We developed a plan that is focused on implementation."

But CIO support for the roadmap is not enough, said Darren Ash, deputy executive director for corporate management in the Executive Director's Office of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The entire agency leadership will have to stand behind the plan, he said.

Some agencies have more work ahead of them than others.

"We're all entering this [process] at a different place," said Agriculture Department CIO Chris Smith. "Some [agencies] may be strong on program management, but not [as strong] on the acquisition side" of IT management.

Ash urged CIOs to solve their IT problems through cross-agency collaboration. Sharing "has been a difficult thing for most government agencies," he said, but it is also one of the "big potentials for making [the plan] work and succeed."

Ash also sought to put the IT issues in context, saying that, ultimately, implementing the plan is as much about saving money as it is about sound management. "We cannot continue to operate the way we have always done business," he said. "We can't afford it."