Solution providers gathered for Everything Channel's XChange Public Sector conference this week said they were disappointed that the Federal CIO who was driving a cloud computing revolution is apparently throwing in the towel after only two and half years on the job
The political news website POLITICO reported Thursday that Vivek Kundra, the first ever federal CIO, is planning to leave the White House in August in order to take a post at Harvard University. President Obama tapped Kundra in March 2009 to take the reins of the sprawling federal IT effort after a highly regarded stint as the CIO of Washington, D.C.
Kundra's role was central to President Obama's push for the federal government, the largest buyer of information technology, to embrace modern technologies like cloud computing to become more efficient.
"This is very disappointing, " said Martin Tarr, the CEO of Tiburon Technologies, a Cleveland, Ohio solution
provider. "The problem with government is people (like Kundra) embrace large projects to update their resumes and then move on, and pass the mess to someone else."
The constant change in leadership is a big reason government projects are taking twice as long as they did 15 years ago, said Tarr. "There needs to be some accountability when people take these positions," he said. "Our men and women in uniform make a commitment to serve our country and they don't say 'It is getting a little tough, my resume has been updated, I think I will leave and not finish my tour of duty.' Yet others with a suit and white shirt make a commitment and get part of the way through and they decide it is okay to leave. They no longer have to serve their country."
Tarr was one of several hundred public sector technology solution providers gathered for the three day conference June 15-17 at the Sawgrass Marriott resort in Jacksonville, Fla. to strategize on thought leadership in the era of government reform.
In a bid to reduce costs and use technology more effectively, Kundra launched a cloud computing plan for the federal government and created the government's "cloud-first" initiative in which government agencies would examine lower-cost, cloud-based technologies for new projects. As part of the cloud-first plans, the federal government expects to shutter 100 data centers this year, and 800 by 2015.
NEXT: Kundra May Have Hit A Political RoadblockKishan Ananthram, CEO of IonIdea, a consulting company based in Fairfax, Va., said Kundra may have experienced roadblocks in his bid to transform government with modern technology like cloud computing. "The problem is you don't know what politics were going on internally," he said. "He (Kundra) may have had good things he wanted to do and he was frustrated. You don't know what was in his way."
"It is disappointing," Ananthram added. "Government takes on these big initiatives and then the leadership changes in the middle of it. Hopefully somebody else will step into his shoes and continue the good work that Vivek was doing."
David Ansell, business development manager for Capitol Hill PCInc, a Washington DC public sector solution provider, said he was surprised by Kundra's departure. "Obama put quite a lot of emphasis on him and what he was doing," said Ansell. "Hopefully whoever he picks next will continue the work he started."
Ansell said he sees the cloud computing drumbeat within the federal government continuing even with Kundra's departure. That said, he stressed: "We really need some continuity. Right now we are so unstable with everything across the board. In our industry we need to have a settling period."
Rishi Sood, vice president, government for Gartner, a Stamford, Conn. market research firm that advises CIOs on technology decisions, said Kundra's departure is simply a "reality" of the federal information technology marketplace.
"There are IT leaders that need to raise visibility to a given technology issue," said Sood, who addressed public sector solution providers at the Everything Channel event. "You can't just depend on that singular leader to make sure there are wholesale changes across all federal government. There has to be that pent up or mitigating factor that drives the change within the agencies. And with respect to federal government it is not leadership in a lot of respects, it is the budget hammer that is going to drive change."
Kundra has done a "great job" raising visibility in new technology models, said Sood. "It is disappointing that there is going to be a vacum in leadership if it occurs," said Sood. "But that is not emblematic of what needs to happen across all of federal government. The change has to happen within the agencies directly."