ELC 2013: VanRoekel Aims for “The Art of Possible”

The federal CIO lays out IT priorities for 2014 and addresses issues with healthcare.gov.

 Federal IT efforts in 2014 will revolve around four priorities laid out by Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in a keynote speech at the Executive Leadership Conference: people, innovation, delivery and protection.

In pursuing these focal areas, the government would be pondering, “What is the art of the possible? What should we be doing in government?” VanRoekel said.

The goal with regard to people is to attract and retain top personnel, train and deploy them effectively and the manage them to achieve federal goals. VanRoekel stated that government has a great number of talented, dedicated workers and that retaining them in the current political and budgetary climate is a serious challenge.

Innovation in government should be driven by a quest to serve the public better, and agencies should look to build on their successes, VanRoekel said. “We need to think about government as it serves its customers, the American people and American businesses,” he said. “If you’re doing a great job in customer service, let’s scale it.”

VanRoekel said he has been encouraged to innovate by President Obama, who asked at a recent meeting why a person can’t track a passport application online the way a Federal Express customer can track a package.

Agencies should strive to deliver better results while they also improve the efficiency of their efforts, VanRoekel stated. He added that agencies should deliver projects via modular development. “Monolithic failure cannot be the norm in government,” he said. “We need to reduce the size of our projects then tie the successes together.” Doing so would reduce the risk associated with federal efforts to the size of each individual project, rather than a massive single project.

Protecting federal systems will be a top concern, and the 2014 federal budget includes $13 billion for cybersecurity. Among the focal areas will be securing federal networks, protecting critical infrastructure and improving incident response.

In addition to detailing the 2014 priorities, VanRoekel’s speech also addressed problems experienced by the healthcare.gov website. He stated that the effort to establish an online health insurance marketplace was incredible complex, linking a variety of legacy systems – including mainframes – to the Internet.

He said the main goal of healthcare.gov is to get the site fixed and to meet citizens’ expectations of it. The effort must be aggressive and must focus on continuous improvement, he added.

“I promise you, our expectations are even higher than those outside of government,” he stated.

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Oct 30 2013