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Vivek Kundra’s Retirement Reception and the Role of the Federal CIO

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August 26, 2011
FedCyber Wire
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Vivek Kundra in 2009

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On Wednesday, August 17, I had the pleasure of attending a retirement reception for the former Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. At the reception, Kundra and those who worked closely with him from both government and industry reflected on the exciting dynamics in the federal IT space today. A key theme was how how before Kundra was appointed the first Federal CIO, few people were sure what a Federal CIO would do or why we needed one, but after his term, they were left wondering how we could ever live without one.

But what role did Vivek Kundra really play, what need did he fill, and what is his legacy? Several speakers mentioned his notable list of accomplishments, such as his bold 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management, but most speakers kept coming back to his work to encourage a real public-private partnership in the federal sphere beyond the buzzwords.

As soon as Kundra came into office, he noticed how far government IT lagged behind private standards. This was in part because many in the public sector saw the relationship between government and industry as “hero and villain” when really, contractors don’t wake up in the morning looking for ways to doom the republic any more than public servants do. He was proud of his work to streamline relations with industry, adopt private sectors best practices and learn as much as possible about enterprise IT from the business world. Both representatives of the private and public sectors felt that he had succeeded, though even Kundra believes there is still work to be done and, according to him, the new CIO, Steven VanRoekel is the man to do it. VanRoekel is a former MicroSoft executive, and, having come from a successful career in industry, is well suited to continue taking strides to bring the public and private IT worlds closer. As Kundra noted, the list of qualified potential candidates for his role was extensive, and simply choosing somebody who came from industry rather than government is an encouraging sign for government IT.

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