Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle

Susan Nunziata, Director of Editorial | 2/10/2014 | 12 comments

Susan Nunziata
Federal and state CIOs are setting the roadmap for 2014-2015 by focusing on innovation and strategic thinking. That sounds great, but there are major tactical obstacles to be overcome first.

US Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel said the prevailing theme throughout his 2015 budget proposal is technology and innovation. According to an article in E2 sister publication InformationWeek, the 2015 federal IT budget is likely to remain at about $82 billion, in line with recent budgets.

Speaking at a February 6 event in Washington D.C. that was sponsored by the Institute for Innovation, VanRoekel implied that the Obama Administration's efforts to adopt cloud computing, embrace open data standards, and improve IT security "are moving a sector of the economy."

State CIOs are generally in alignment with these efforts, at least based on the 2014 Federal Advocacy Priorities released by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) on January 23. State CIO priorities include:

  • Collaborating to secure the public sector
  • Building a nationwide public safety broadband network
  • Improving information sharing
  • Implementing grant guidance reform

It's interesting to note that most of these priorities closely resemble NASCIO's 2013 Federal Priorities list. In fact, in a prepared statement, NASCIO president Craig Orgeron, CIO of the State of Mississippi, noted:

    While progress was made in 2013 with the release of federal grant guidance reform and a sweeping Executive Order on cybersecurity, there is still a long road ahead. Congress has yet to act on this vital issue, and the Administration must continue to work with state partners to modernize and secure government information technology.

This should come as no surprise, given the typical pace of change in government -- especially when it comes to federal and state collaboration. Throw in the fact that the federal government has faced some pretty major IT debacles -- including the trouble-plagued launch of Healthcare.gov, the NSA scandal, and the problematic Federal Datacenter Consolidation Initiative -- and it's pretty clear that the office of the federal CIO is no cakewalk.

VanRoekel's plate has been especially full. Not only has he been serving as federal CIO since 2011, but in May 2013 he was also named acting deputy director for management at the US Office of Management and Budget. Still, it doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially when it comes to issues like cybersecurity and public safety networks.

NASCIO identifies key areas it says must be addressed in order to meet its Federal Advocacy goals:

  • Mature identity management: Build robust, interoperable trust frameworks to ensure we know who is truly accessing sensitive data.
  • Build the public sector IT workforce: Recruit and train more qualified information technology professionals in the public sector at all levels.
  • Promote common data standards: Information exchange between intergovernmental partners requires adopting common models, such as the National Information Exchange Model, and creating security overlays.
  • Collaborate on broadband: Between the creation of the FirstNet public safety broadband network, and reforms to the E-Rate Broadband for Schools and Libraries program, there are significant stakes already laid out for both state and federal government in seeing these efforts through.

How far do you think we'll get in 2014? Will state CIOs see any progress on their goals? Will VanRoekel be able to achieve the level of innovation he espouses? How does the US federal IT situation stack up against that of other nations? Tell us what you think in the comments field below.

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— Susan Nunziata, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageLike EnterpriseEfficiency on Facebook, Director of Editorial, EnterpriseEfficiency.com

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batye   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   3/1/2014 4:57:43 PM
Re: Federal State CIO face Uphill Battle
almost the same problem we have in Canada but with more political agenda involved... it look like everyone trying to pull blanket only to cover themself and do not care about rest... it like never ending battle....
Susan Nunziata   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/27/2014 5:19:49 PM
Re: What a challenge
@kstaron: Yep, I think that's why so many of the priorities listed by the NASCIO members are similar to last year's priorities. And I have no doubt many of these will be on the 2015 and 2016 priority lists and beyond.

Any incremental advances will be the best we can hope for in terms of progress.
kstaron   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/27/2014 1:45:19 PM
What a challenge
Having this all laid out this looks like quite a challenge to deal with in the next (I was going to say two years but who am I kidding) few years. Simply havinig what limited knowledge I have of government red tape and budget concerns, I'd be amazed with any progress they do make. This is a huge undertaking.
Susan Nunziata   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/26/2014 6:34:16 PM
Re: Federal State CIO face Uphill Battle
@tekedge: you're right, they do deserve a round of applause. It's easy to find fault with government IT, but the individual people on the front lines most likely aren't the ones to blame given the politically charged atmosphere in which they are trying to function.

Walk a mile in their shoes, as the saying goes.
tekedge   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/20/2014 5:53:06 PM
Federal State CIO face Uphill Battle
The healthcare.gov debacle showed how it works for the IT people in government. Unless we stand in their shoes we may never appreciate how they work with limited resources and also battle redtape and bereaucracy.! Kudos to all the CIO who work for the government!
Henrisha   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/12/2014 2:54:22 AM
Re: Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle
Good point, Zerox. I think the relation between asking for tax cuts and budgets is an interesting one, and no doubt it's something that most folks don't really consider as they don't really associate one with the other completely. 
zerox203   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/12/2014 12:03:59 AM
Re: Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle
@Sara/everyone,

Well, thanks for your kind words as well. Certainly, it only takes one step into any office anywhere (public or private), to be reminded that criticizing is much, much easier than doing, and we should bear that in mind at all times. I think this is an especially good point that strangely often goes unconsidered when we talk about public IT:

"doing the best they can with the IT they do have, making do with less staff, and pushing the envelope to bring some government agencies to the cutting edge of IT."

If any of us thinks about our last project, we'll find ourselves wishing we had a little more staff, a little more money, and a little more time. Cut what you had just about in half, and you have what many public IT managers are dealing with every day. When we vote to cut taxes, we're cutting their budgets. Of course there's a time for it, but the notion that people far away from you that you've never met can vote directly to slash your budget is a unique concern the rest of us don't have to face. I've certainly come to give these folks more credit in the last few years based on E2's coverage.
Zaius   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/11/2014 11:57:08 PM
Re: Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle
The efforts that go unrecognized for some years will decrease the motivation of those people putting the effort. Well, everyone loves to be recognized and applauded.
CurtisFranklin   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/11/2014 10:49:12 PM
Re: Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle
@zerox203, in our hyper-partisan political climate it's all too easy for people to forget that humans sit inside the offices trying to do the jobs for which they've been hired. For most of us, the best outcome is for those humans to succeed -- to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible. I join you in a wish that they do just that in 2014 -- and that they might be recognized for the effort!
Sara Peters   Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle   2/11/2014 5:35:30 PM
Re: Federal, State CIOs Face Uphill Battle
@zerox203  I'm so glad you're getting all of that out of some of the posts here at E2. As Susan said, it's good for us to remember that there are some real people working in government who are committed to doing the best they can with the IT they do have, making do with less staff, and pushing the envelope to bring some government agencies to the cutting edge of IT.
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