Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Video: Vivek Kundra, CIO Of United States, Talks IT Spending

What would you do with an IT budget of $80 billion? That’s the job facing Vivek Kundra, whose actual title is CIO of the United States of America.

In video released by The White House today, he talks about the IT spending by the federal government. Naturally, lots of projects are behind schedule and over budget. In 2009, the government launched an IT Dashboard that was meant to expose all the government’s bit IT projects to the light of day and review them. Kundra tells us that out of 38 projects reviewed, four were canceled and 11 were reduced in scope for a total savings of $3 billion.

Clearly the government has a bit of a problem spending its IT funds effectively. The dashboard is the public face of a review process that helped get some of that spending under control. It brings some accountability to the federal IT process, adding the name and photo of the agency CIO responsible.

Using this dashboard tool, The Obama Administration says it has identified under-performing high priority IT projects, which in turn brought them under intensive review. Projects that had run too far off the rails were cut off, others were re-jiggered. The result, the government says, has cut in half the time it takes to finish projects like new biometric technologies for law enforcement and easy access to cargo inspection systems for Border Control agents.

I certainly sympathize, having seen IT projects in the private sector spin out of control relatively easily, but yikes. The taxpayer in me doesn’t like the size of the amounts being thrown around. One thing I have to wonder about, since Kundra doesn’t address it, is personnel ramifications. In the private sector, when you can’t manage your projects and budgets effectively, you lose your job. Did that happen here? Or are the same people responsible for running massive IT projects that weren’t delivered on time or on budget going to be in charge of the next one?

Kundra said in a panel discussion in Washington DC yesterday that the government plans to give detailed reports on the state of its IT spending every six months as part of a 25-point IT reform plan he put forth last year. The plan includes extra flexibility in spending decisions for federal CIOs, and a strategy to shift about $20 billion in federal IT spending to cloud services.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald