March 5, 2009 By Matt Williams
It took weeks to become official, but Washington, D.C., CTO Vivek Kundra was named Thursday to the top information technology post in the federal government. It wasn't exactly the position most observers expected, however.
President Barack Obama named Kundra the "federal CIO" -- a new position that will oversee technology investments and technology spending by the federal government, according to the White House. Kundra also reportedly will serve as e-government administrator for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
In a conference call Thursday, Kundra said he would work to ensure that the CIOs of federal agencies are advancing agendas that embrace open government, revolutionize technology in the public sector and "reject the view that the public sector has to lag behind the private sector."
Kundra said Thursday he is working on launching www.data.gov, which he said would "democratize" data possessed by the federal government. As the District of Columbia's CTO, Kundra launched a similar Web site called the D.C. Data Catalog that published in feeds in real time from the district's government departments -- everything from building permits to road kill pickups.
Over the past month, numerous media reported that Kundra -- who served as a member of Obama's transition team -- would be the administrator for e-government and information technology in the OMB. But as federal CIO, it appears Kundra's responsibilities will be expanded further. "The federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and ensure information security and privacy across the federal government," according to the White House.
President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday morning that Kundra brings valuable experience to the new position.
"I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As chief information officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open and efficient way possible," Obama said. The president still plans to name a federal chief technology officer, another new position that will work closely with Kundra.
Obama's appointments to top federal IT jobs have been closely watched by state officials because of their potential impact on federal funding rules for state and local government programs. National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) President Gopal Khanna, CIO of Minnesota, said appointees with state or local experience could aid NASCIO's effort to modify OMB funding requirements that state CIOs say encourage development of fragmented and inefficient IT systems.
"It's important because the e-gov administrator is very much focused on federal government and coordinating the work of all the federal CIOs," Khanna said. "Today, federal CIOs have very little impact and influence on the technology component of the flow of funds to the states. My hope is that since OMB drives the construct of those rules we'll be able to work with the appointee to help influence that."
NASCIO officials met with Obama's transition team after the election and presented a brief with suggested changes to OMB Circular A-87, which contains funding guidelines for federal programs that administered by the states.
"State CIOs have been working diligently to break down the 'silos' -- or the way that physical infrastructure is placed and configured, applications developed and IT services delivered," the brief says. "The general experience of
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