April 03, 2012, 2:43 PM — WASHINGTON -- Much like their counterparts in the private sector, federal CIOs are feeling a budget squeeze as they are expected to deliver a higher level of service and press ahead with ambitious cloud and data-center-consolidation initiatives with flat or even declining resources at their disposal.
In a keynote address here at the annual FOSE government IT conference, U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel explained that after a decade of roughly 7% growth, the federal IT budget leveled off in 2009, forcing CIOs to reassess their approach to new technology deployments.
"We're at this amazing inflection point," said VanRoekel, a Microsoft veteran who joined the federal government in 2009, holding positions at U.S. Agency for International Development and the Federal Communications Commission before being tapped to serve as the country's second CIO last August.
CIOs in both the public and private sectors have a common responsibility for operations and maintenance and delivering new products and features, VanRoekel noted, but in business, the usual pattern is to wind down old projects to make room for new ones, a budget-sensitive model that reapportions scarce resources without necessarily increasing overall expenditures.
"In government we don't have depreciation. We don't have a culture of take from the old and give to the new," he said. That has meant that rather than retiring or refurbishing old deployments, agencies have tended to rely on steady upticks in their IT budgets.
"That's how we've grown," VanRoekel added. "Suddenly the pie stops growing and the growth slows down."
Now, VanRoekel is presiding over a government-wide overhaul of federal IT that is being driven by a confluence of factors, ranging from the consumerization of the enterprise and increased consumer expectations to the rise of cloud computing and cybersecurity concerns, all with the understanding that budgets will remain tight as lawmakers pursue measures to reduce the deficit.
VanRoekel described the escalating degree of service that citizens and government workers expect from federal IT systems. In part, that expectation comes from the proliferation of user-friendly online applications and services. After all, in the era of Amazon and Expedia, why would a person be satisfied with an agency that allows users to download a form but then requires them to submit it in-person at an office?
"Citizens across the board expect more," he said. "We're at an inflection point where the consumerization of technology and technology generally is just going to roll over us from the standpoint of government."