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Federal CIO smackdown – too harsh, not harsh enough? – Plus your 7 gov stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • If you were scrolling through government publications in the wake of the Tuesday’s State of the Union, you were probably not surprised to see headlines decrying the lack of mentions of feds or government reforms in the speech. Besides a reform to contractor pay and a new focus on permitting challenges, actual government reforms were hard to find. But maybe we (govies) weren’t looking for the right things.

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: The federal CIO smackdown – too harsh? or not harsh enough?

There is ripples running through the government IT of Steven O’Keefe’s smackdown of federal CIO Steve VanRoekel, which we mentioned earlier this week.

As a reminder, O’Keefe, the PR/marketing gadfly, under the headline: RIP VanRoekel, suggested that the federal CIO was a narcoleptic. “Is Steven VanRoekel asleep at the switch – or did he expire already?” O’Keefe wrote.

It is impossible to determine what O’Keefe’s motives were — he has told friends he just felt it needed to be said. If so, it has spurred an interesting discussion and assessment of the VanRoekel tenure.

There are some who generally agree with the O’Keefe assessment and have asked what VanRoekel has done — they generally ask, ‘What’s the VanRoekel vision for government IT?’

Yet more of the comments felt that the O’Keefe was harsh and too personal, and may actually mask the broader questions of what the government IT agenda is.

Two comments from my Facebook page.

One from Bob Gourley, the former CTO of the intelligence communities:

“I have too much empathy for people in the hot seat to write a piece like that. Those federal IT jobs are hard ones. We don’t have to pretend there is great progress when there isn’t, but I also don’t think it helps to make the attacks personal like that. I don’t know anyone else who could have done more.”

And a comment from somebody at DISA:

Not fully fair. First…how did O’Keefe get the “sprawl” idea and growing numbers of Federal data centers at a time when the Sequestration hammer was slamming down constantly…and Continuing Resolutions ruled? And what credit does Mr. Van Roekel get for covering others’ bases as OMB leadership slipped and slid around constantly? He was Acting Deputy Administrator for the Agency since May 2013, for goodness sakes. When I tried to find where the “teeth” were for FedRAMP, it was difficult if not damned near impossible to determine who signed off on it that had authority to speak for all of OMB in an OMB Circular / OMB Directive manner (e-Gov is a third-tier administrator…and “Federal CIO” is just a fancy title for “eGov administrator,” and, that oversight/mistake may finally have been band-aided over when Director Burwell included “thou shalt” language on page 9 of the FY 2013 Reporting Instructions for FISMA and APM). True, since the Mark Forman’s and Karen Evan’s of the e-Gov world have been replaced with people unfamiliar with the rigors of Federal governance, OMB has been a bit of a mess…but Mr. Van Roekel is not all bad…let’s not demonize the poor bloke.

I hope the discussion about the strategy for government IT continues — and that there is a management agenda from the White House. What should that agenda be?

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: Fed-worker retirement eligibility to skyrocket by 2017. “The federal workforce is building toward a potential retirement wave in coming years, with more than a third of career federal employees projected to be eligible for collecting their end-of-career benefits by September 2017, compared to just 14 percent at the same time in 2012.”

  2. Federal Times: PKI helps secure Forge.mil. “The Pentagon wants to expand its online community of program managers, software developers and others who have a role in acquiring information technology.”

  3. Federal Times: OMB urges more focus on results in awarding grants. “The Office of Management and Budget has declared itself open to innovative, evidence-based approaches to grant-making, and is inviting federal agencies and their non-federal partners to step forward and show them how.”

  4. FCW: The economics of a national cyber immune system. “White House cyber czar Michael Daniel does not buy into the Hollywood doomsday hype of the so-called cyber Pearl Harbor. But he does wish it wasn’t the bad guys pulling in blockbuster revenues in today’s real-world cybersecurity battles, while governments rack up billions in bills.”

  5. Federal News Radio: Air Force secretary sees ‘systemic’ problems in nuclear workforce. “Just a little more than two months into the job, the new secretary of the Air Force said it’s already clear to her that there are “systemic” problems in the service’s management of the personnel in charge of manning and maintaining land-based nuclear weapons.”

  6. Gov Tech: Feds Consider Overhaul of Tech Project Approval Process. “The U.S. chief technology officer will have expanded power to review major federal IT projects if draft legislation being discussed on Capitol Hill becomes law.”

  7. Governing: Video: 5 State Mentions in Obama’s 2014 State of the Union. “In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made five references to working with states — on natural gas regulation, carbon pollution standards, early childhood education and the minimum wage plus he gave a shoutout to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear for his work implementing the Affordable Care Act.”

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

The Wall Street Journal: Government Reforms Open the Door for Cybersecurity Startups: Federal government tells agencies to seek out startups. The General Services Administration called for government agencies to consider new technologies from startups outside their traditional contractor circles. “Access to that innovation is super important,” said Emile Monette, a senior advisor for cybersecurity in the GSA’s Office of Mission Assurance. “The government’s buying practices are not the most nimble.” The recommendation came in a GSA reform report based on President Barack Obama’s February 2013 executive order for improving the cybersecurity of the government’s infrastructure.

Wired: Meet the Ex-Microsoft Exec on a Quest to Save Obamacare: Last year Kurt DelBene left Microsoft Corp., where he ran the company’s Office business, after turning down a personal offer by CEO Steve Ballmer to take on a new role. Now leading HealthCare.gov, Mr. DelBene has taken the tech management skills that made him a success at Microsoft to Washington, D.C. “In a sense, his move east is symbolic of government’s growing need to reach beyond the Beltway for the sort of technical expertise honed over years in the private sector,” Wired says. “Consumers expect websites to work, and they get mad when they don’t.”

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