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Steven VanRoekel

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel emphasized a shared-services model for federal technology last night during his first major speech since taking office in August.

Speaking at the Churchill Club in Palo Alto, VanRoekel said the federal government is launching the “Shared First” initiative that will look for opportunities to shift to commodity information technology, leverage technology, procurement and best practices across government and build on existing investments.

“By doing more with less, we can drive savings across government and use those savings to reinvest in services that benefit the American people,” VanRoekel said.

Doing more with less and maximizing the return on investment of IT investments was one of several focus areas VanRoekel laid out. His others include closing the productivity gap, improving citizen and business interaction with government, cybersecurity and changing the way government invests in technology.

“The beauty of innovation is that it is an endless resource,” VanRoekel said. “Throughout our history, America has always been able to draw upon the ingenuity and creativity of the American people when times are tough. Now is the time to come together in service of the President’s vision of building a 21st century government that works better and more efficiently for the American people. Whether you work for the government or for the private sector, we are all citizens. And we all have a role to play in bringing the spirit of innovation to the work of building a better government.”

When it comes to shared-services, VanRoekel pointed to the government’s data center consolidation initiative – that recently expanded its scope to create efficiencies even faster with the government planning to close 962 data centers by the end of 2015, exceeding the original goal of 800, and 472 by the end of next year. In total, that initiative could result in $3 billion to $5 billion in savings.

The same goes for cloud computing, he said.

“Cloud moves us away from a capital-intensive model and toward a more flexible operational model where agencies only have to pay for what they use,” VanRoekel said. “And shifting to the cloud doesn’t just save money – it often provides better service, including the ability to scale up rapidly in real-time to meet increased demand.”

VanRoekel also called on government, industry and academia to help formulate a “Future First” initiative that will help the government continuously architect for the future, using things like modular development and open standards to run projects in “lean startup mode.”

VanRoekel said this could lead to a number of “first” principles like XML First, Web Services First, Virtualize First and others.

“They will effectively establish a new default setting for architecting solutions government-wide, and they 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,” he said.

To help define these “Future First” principles, VanRoekel asked feedback be sent to him at futurefirst@cio.gov.

Transcript of full remarks:

Keynote Remarks by Steven VanRoekel, Federal Chief Information Officer