U.S. Technology Chief VanRoekel Vows Cuts to Wasteful Systems

Steven VanRoekel, in his first speech since taking over as the U.S. government’s top technology official, said federal agencies should focus on fostering innovation and cutting waste in hardware and software.

“We will use technology to improve government productivity and lower barriers to citizen and business interaction with the government, all while bolstering cybersecurity,” VanRoekel said in prepared remarks for an event late yesterday in Palo Alto, California.

VanRoekel, who began his term as U.S. chief information officer in August, oversees the $80 billion the government spends annually on technology. He succeeded Vivek Kundra, who left the position for a joint post at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, both at Harvard University.

VanRoekel has promised to further an overhaul of federal technology policy begun under Kundra and aimed at reducing the amount spent on information systems. That initiative includes consolidating government data centers and pushing agencies to adopt cloud computing, a practice that lets multiple users share resources such as software applications and data storage.

In his prepared remarks, VanRoekel, who works out of the Office of Management and Budget, reaffirmed the push for agencies to share IT resources and adopt cloud computing. Those cost-saving efforts, such as consolidating government data centers, also serve a larger purpose, he said.

Driving Innovation

“Technologies like cloud, mobile, web platforms, and servers have matured to the point where they can now play a key role in transforming every aspect of government,” he said. “My focus going forward will be to drive innovation in government.”

Yesterday’s event was sponsored by TechAmerica, a Washington-based trade group representing the technology industry, and TechNet, a bipartisan group of industry chief executive officers. George Anders, a Bloomberg columnist, was listed as a moderator of the event.

VanRoekel previously served as managing director at the Federal Communications Commission, where he oversaw operations, technology, finances and human resources. Before entering government, he worked at Microsoft Corp. from 1994 to 2009, including almost three years as speech and strategy assistant to Chairman Bill Gates.

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