In his first major policy speech, the new Federal CIO, Steven VanRoekel, announced that he's going to build on his predecessor's “cloud first” initiative and expand it in significant ways.
“Future First,” as VanRoekel dubbed it, envisions a set of principles that appear intent to move the government to the front of the line when it comes to adopting new technologies.
“Much as our 'Cloud First' policy changed the landscape of IT spending, 'Future First' will jumpstart the government’s adoption of new technologies and approaches,” he said in his written remarks. “I envision a set of principles like 'XML First', 'Web Services First', 'Virtualize First', and other 'Firsts' that will inform how we develop our government’s systems. ... [T]hey will be continuously updated as new technologies emerge to ensure that our government is at the frontier of advancements that yield a higher return on our IT investments, increase productivity and improve the way the government interacts with the American people.”
In addition, VanRoekel announced a “Shared First” initiative to get agencies throughout the government to continue cutting waste and duplication by moving to “commodity IT, leverage technology, procurement and best practices across the whole of government, and build on existing investments rather than re-inventing the wheel.” You can read his speech here.
All of these sound like good ideas that have the potential to overhaul government processes, streamline interactions, and save money. They are sufficiently commonsensical that one wonders why they haven't been adopted sooner.
The devil is in the details, though, particularly with “Future First.” Much of the government's perceived “technology gap” is not because contracting officers have shied away from what's new, it's because the procurement process itself takes so long that it hasn't been able to keep up with advances. In most cases, it takes a contracting office two or more years to finalize a major opportunity and by that time, the technology has evolved.
Perhaps “Flexibility First” would be a good premise to include in these new initiatives.