Obama Taps Ex-Microsoft Executive as U.S. Technology Chief

The Obama administration appointed today former Microsoft Corp. executive Steven VanRoekel as the U.S. government’s top technology official.

VanRoekel, 41, worked from 2009 to 2011 as the managing director at the Federal Communications Commission. He will replace federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who is leaving this month for a joint position at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

President Barack Obama selected VanRoekel for the position because of his career-long focus on technology, combined public and private-sector experience, strategic ability and “track record for execution,” Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said during a meeting today with reporters.

VanRoekel, whose official first day of work at the White House is tomorrow, will continue the cloud-computing and data-center consolidation initiatives Kundra started, VanRoekel and Zients said.

The administration is not “asking someone to come in and make radical changes” to the information-technology reform policy outlined by Kundra during his tenure, though “Steve will be adding to the agenda over time,” Zients said.

Cybersecurity is “of course a tremendous priority,” VanRoekel told reporters. After being selected for the position, VanRoekel said “my very first meeting was with Howard Schmidt,” the White House cybersecurity coordinator.

FCC Initiatives

VanRoekel most recently served as executive director of the citizen and organizational engagement division at the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to a White House statement. Before moving to USAID in June, he oversaw all operational, technical, financial, and human resource aspects at the FCC.

VanRoekel said in a blog post last year that he had worked to improve communication and openness among FCC employees through technology and new media, including the creation of an internal website that let workers comment anonymously.

He also promoted the use of social media and helped to implement Kundra’s data-center consolidation and cloud initiatives inside the agency, VanRoekel said. The FCC was the first federal agency to have a website based on a “FISMA-compliant cloud,” or an Internet-based web platform that met government security standards, he said.

Bill Gates’s Assistant

Before entering government, VanRoekel worked at Microsoft from 1994 to 2009, including almost three years as Chairman Bill Gates’s assistant. His last post at the Redmond, Washington-based company was as senior director for the Windows server and tools division.

“Steven is a well-respected member of the tech community and he is well positioned to carry on the great work started by Vivek Kundra,” Microsoft said in a statement.

VanRoekel received a B.A. in management of information systems from Iowa State University, according to a White House statement.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE