Kundra departure puts IT progress at risk

Vivek Kundra has been a forceful leader for change in federal IT, say many observers. What will happen to the efforts now under way when he leaves the federal CIO post in August?

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s departure from government is going to be a serious blow to federal IT programs, if the first wave of reaction to the news is any indication.

Most of the work Kundra started is “at risk of ending abruptly,” said John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation.

Wonderlich praised Kundra’s work to strengthen the Office of Management and Budget’s role as a publisher of government data. “While OMB is still largely unwilling to force agencies to share more information, Vivek built the Data.gov and the IT Dashboard as tools to aggressively pursue transparency that affects how the government works,” Wonderlich said.


Related stories:

Budget cuts hit e-gov efforts hard

IT reform push: Six months later

Data.gov migrating to a cloud platform


OMB Director Jake Lew announced on June 16 that Kundra will leave his government post in August to become a joint fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Steve Ressler, founder and president of GovLoop social network for federal executives, said he believes Data.gov will be Kundra’s greatest legacy. “It truly took open data to the next level and sparked a movement that spans across many countries and across state and local government,” Ressler said.

However, “with the electronic government fund being cut, and Congress hesitant to codify important transparency requirements, we risk seeing Vivek's successes become temporary gains,” Wonderlich said. “That's why we're hoping the White House chooses a successor for his position who shares his belief that technology can be used to change government for the better, by making it more transparent and accountable.”

Congress recently reduced the e-government fund to $8 million for fiscal 2011, from $34 million enacted last year. The fund covers projects that include USASpending.gov, Data.gov, Performance.gov and the Federal IT Dashboard. Kundra recently announced that due to those cuts, the FedSpace social network for federal employees would be canceled and the other programs would continue to operate but with reduced spending for future capabilities.

Kundra was “probably the most visionary CIO we’ve ever had,” said William Eggers, public sector research director for Deloitte. “He pushed the envelope on cloud computing and modularization, helped make the US a leader in data democracy and put a spotlight on the dismal track record of many large federal IT initiatives. Vivek will be a very hard act to follow.”

“He set a new standard for the next CIO,” said Paul Brubaker, CEO of Synteractive.

The CIO needs to have an in-depth knowledge of government operations, including intergovernmental relationships, as more arms of government — even state and local entities -— become more closely tied through technology, Brubaker said. Further, the next CIO has to be creative, innovative and willing “to take on the antibodies of change.”

In the 1990s, Brubaker was one of the congressional staff members who helped draft the Clinger-Cohen Act. Kundra's work as CIO included advancing the principles of that law, and "I think he got it right," Brubaker said.

Mark Forman, co-founder of Government Transaction Services and former administrator of e-government and IT at OMB, said he thinks Kundra's departure will not be detrimental to progress of IT reform. The Clinger-Cohen Act and the E-Government Act of 2002 lay out the key directions for a federal CIO, and the Obama administration could find a capable replacement, he said.

"I'm hopeful the administration will find a replacement that will bring the same form of vision, energy and understanding on how to fulfill [the position's] responsibilities," he said.

Also, although Kundra is giving up his government power, his new position at Harvard will be an excellent "perch" to provide feedback and insight to the administration, Forman said.

Jerry Williams, CIO of the Housing and Urban Development department, said Kundra provided the federal IT community with a clear vision for streamlining the delivery of service improvements across government. "His legacy of defining incremental improvements and managing project teams to meet identified goals should and likely will continue due to the momentum that he has created," Williams said.

Another of Kundra’s key accomplishments was the 25-point IT management reform plan, said Jamie Gracia, president and CEO of Seville Government Consulting. Gracia said he is confident the government won’t retreat from the plan after Kundra leaves.

"Vivek Kundra's 25-point plan was revolutionary and bold, and by and large it was received positively," said Steve Kousen, partner and vice-president of federal engineering and cloud computing services at Unisys. 

The work by the American Council on Technology/Industry Advisory Council on the plan will become more vital, though, said Gracia, who is a member of the ACT/IAC Acquisition Shared Interest Group.

Kousen also said Kundra's work implementing the administration's cloud-first policy won't be wasted. It will continue, albeit with new leadership. "The cloud computing business model is here to stay," he said. "The economics have proven that."

Gadi Ben-Yehuda, social media director for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, noted Kundra’s support for cloud computing and work to move government systems to the cloud. Ben-Yehuda worked for Kundra when Kundra served as CTO for Washington, D.C.'s government just before landing the White House job.

Although Kundra moved quickly, not everything came to full fruition, Ressler added. “Government procurement is a tough nut to crack and while Kundra made strides, it's not something that can be fixed overnight. I really liked the concept of Apps.gov but it just hasn't taken off yet and become a robust resource to easily purchase simple solution. I look forward to seeing how it develops over time.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), issued a statement, saying Kundra's departure "is bittersweet. On the one hand, I am happy for my friend Vivek to have this new opportunity and challenge; on the other hand, his leadership over the past two years in enhancing the federal government's transparency and technology efforts has been remarkable, and he will certainly be missed."

Carper credited Kundra's efforts with saving more than $3 billion in IT-related spending. "His departure makes it all the more important that we pass the Information Technology Investment Act that I recently introduced with Senators Lieberman, Collins, and Scott Brown. The bill takes Vivek's reforms and pushes them even further to make sure we are getting the best results for taxpayers' dollars."

Steve Kelman, FCW blogger and columnist and Weatherhead professor of public policy at the Kennedy school, said Kundra’s impending arrival there is “really cool news. Now he'll have more time for Facebook. Maybe we can write a blog together."

President Barack Obama appointed Kundra to the federal CIO position in 2009.

Reporters Alyah Khan, Alice Lipowicz, Matthew Weigelt and Rutrell Yasin, and News Editor Michael Hardy, contributed to this report.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.