White House Hires Former Microsoft Exec as Federal CIO

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill Gerneglia

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The White House has named a new Chief Information Officer to succeed Vivek Kundra.  

Former Microsoft exec Steven VanRoekel, an Obama supporter who attended the inauguration, will become the next Chief Information Officer of the federal government, the New York Times reported.

VanRoekel is no stranger to Washington, however.  In 2009, he left Microsoft to become the managing director of the Federal Communications Commission, and in June, he took up a post as Executive Director for Citizen and Organizational Engagement for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

VanRoekel’s 15-year career at Microsoft started with his first job as a premier support and presales technical advisor, and he steadily worked his way up to Director of Web Services and a speech and strategy assistant to Bill Gates. 

The federal government is hiring someone from the private sector with good reason. The strategy is to build up the government’s productivity growth, which, historically has been anemic.  While the private sector averages a productivity growth rate of about 1.5% a year, the federal government is only achieving about a third of that.

For the Obama administration, which has staked its identity in embracing technology and innovation, those numbers aren’t acceptable.  With the belief that technology could help the government save money and run more seamlessly, Vivek Kundra was appointed the United States’ first Federal Chief Information Officer in 2009.

Kundra, in 2009, began a data center consolidation program as well as leading the charge to embrace Cloud Computing as a means of reducing the Federal IT footprint. The progress on this initiative has been slow.

Previously the CIO for the District for Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty’s cabinet, Kundra came on board and began sorting through $27 billion in technology projects.  As a result of Kundra’s efforts, a number of projects were either cut back or eliminated altogether, saving the government some $3 billion.

Following his two-year stint with the federal government, Kundra will be moving on to Harvard, where he’ll be taking joint appointments at the Kennedy School of Government and the law school’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Cross-posted from CIO Zone

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