The appointment of new federal chief information officer Steven VanRoekel comes at a challenging time for President Barack Obama. The national economy continues to be weak. Congress plans to cut trillions from the federal budget. And in the time leading up to the 2012 election, American voters remain cynical about the ability of the government to address important policy problems in an effective manner.
In an era of deficit reduction and public cynicism, the tasks facing federal officials are to determine how to do more with less and persuade voters the government can become smarter and more effective. There are going to be fewer dollars for virtually every federal program so it is important to figure how ways to innovate and perform more efficiently.
Former CIO Vivek Kundra sought to do this through encouraging agencies to move software applications to the cloud, consolidating federal data centers, improving transparency, and improving the information technology procurement process. It is important to continue this progress even as agencies are forced to downsize their operations.
As shown in the private sector, government administrators should use technology to cut costs, improve worker productivity, and streamline operations. This is not just a matter of using technology in more innovative ways, but changing the operations and culture of the public sector. Public officials must improve its data mining activities to identify fraud and abuse in Medicare, Medicaid, the Defense Department, and other domestic programs.
New software gives managers better tools to evaluate how money is being spent and whether it is fulfilling intended goals. If it is not, programs need to be modified or eliminated. The most important weapon in Mr. VanRoekel’s arsenal may be the scalpel as he goes through the federal government’s $80 billion IT budget.