Federal CIO Vivek Kundra says stimulus spending must balance competitiveness and timeliness.
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra will wear many hats in his newly created role in President Barack Obama's administration, but arguably the most important to state and local governments -- at least in the short term -- is Kundra's work to put contract information and other related data on Recovery.gov, the Web site dedicated to public transparency for the $787 billion Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Several public-sector CIOs told Government Technology this week that they are eager to get their hands on more specifics on how and to who the contracts will be awarded.
Shortly after Obama appointed Kundra last Thursday, the 34-year-old former chief technology officer of the District of Columbia told a conference call of reporters that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is already beginning the process of posting information for contracts onto Recovery.gov.
"We're working with the states and local governments right now to iron out some of the details as far as the contracts themselves being put up there, and making sure they're redacting anything that may be anticompetitive, in terms of the contracts being put up," Kundra said. "That's part of the challenge. Step one is to put up a summary of a contract."
Kundra didn't specify a timetable for when all the data for the contracts and rules will be available on the Web site.
A significant portion of the stimulus package is in some fashion related to technology or can be spent on it. For, example, $19 billion is allotted for health-care information technology, $4.5 billion for smart grid technology for electricity, $7 billion for broadband Internet connectivity and $15 billion to train students for an "innovation" economy. In addition, more technology-related spending is available within road-building, energy efficiency, transportation and public safety items. For example, part of $2 billion in public safety grants announced this month by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will be spent on "technology improvement programs."
NASCIO President Gopal Khanna, the CIO of Minnesota, told Government Technology that Kundra is well suited for the role of federal CIO because he has experience, from the perspective of state and local governments, about the barriers that impede the flow of federal funds to state governments.
"Because of the understanding, there are hopes in NASCIO that some of those old rules that guided the old flow of funding -- that there would be a major reform effort focused on coming up with the new rules. The old rules were fine 20 years ago to maintain or to gather complete accountability and transparency of federal money coming into the states," Kundra said. "But in today's environment of technology, and since the federal, state and local continuum is one continuum, the flow has to be seen differently and new rules need to be devised."
Alan Shark, the executive director of the Public Technology Institute, chimed in with similar enthusiasm about the beneficial impact Kundra's expertise could have on local governments and their funding issues.
"I'm an admirer of his," Shark said. "He was very creative when he worked at a state level in Virginia -- he became better known and he got his start in the private sector in Arlington County, Va. Then it was sustained and then sweeping over to the District of Columbia. To me, because he was one of the most visible technology leaders as a CTO, in a sense, it's a perfect fit."
Kundra said reporting guidance that's already been released by OMB and Obama's commitment to transparency are signals that mayors and governors will be held accountable
for the stimulus-related projects they do. The data will be viewable on Recovery.gov, Kundra said.
"You'll be able to see that the prime contract level and the subcontract -- that's one of the reasons [the states are] putting up their [economic recovery] Web sites, to be able to drill down deeper," Kundra explained. "What we didn't want to do is to have undue burdens across them board to the point that somebody who is providing coffee to, let's say, a construction company, will have to go and start reporting."
At least 25 states, including Virginia and Colorado, have launched economic recovery Web sites. Some of them are already linked together on Recovery.gov. Cities are also starting to make their own.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are hosting a conference of governors on Thursday, March 12 to talk about how the stimulus money can be spent efficiently.