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Federal CIO Calls for Government-Wide 'IT as a Service'

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel, along with acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients, this week announced the launch of PortfolioStat 2.0, an updated version of the Obama administration's government-wide directive for CIOs to take a hard look at their IT operations with the goal of cutting costs and eliminating duplicative or ineffectual programs and systems.

The latest effort has been expanded to include the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, seeking to build on the progress of the initial PortfolioStat launch last March, which officials say is on track to produce around $300 million in IT savings agencies are expected to report by the end of the month.

[ Related: Federal CIOs Need Authority to Improve IT Efficiency ]

"A key lesson learned is that agencies should evolve their IT portfolios to deliver IT 'as a service,'" VanRoekel writes in a blog post.

"Unlike traditional capital models where assets are purchased for individual projects, the service delivery model entails agencies deploying their IT like a business, optimizing it for consumption agency-wide. For example, with cloud computing solutions, agencies have a scalable and transparent way to provision IT services, giving agencies a viable enterprise alternative to often stove-piped, capital IT investments," VanRoekel writes.

In total, the agencies and departments working under the PortfolioStat program have identified $2.5 billion in IT savings that can be achieved by fiscal 2015.

Driving those cost savings is a shift away from "stovepiped, capital IT investments" in favor of a cloud-based model. Through the multi-year data-center consolidation program, agency CIOs are encouraged to move toward on-demand provisioning of computing power and services that would achieve greater flexibility in scaling up (or down) their IT operations.

[ Related: Feds Look to Big Data to Position 'Government as a Platform' ]

The government is currently working under a goal of closing 40 percent of its data centers by fiscal 2015.

VanRoekel and Zients tout the results of the initial implementation of the PortfolioStat program, saying that agencies have pledged to consolidate or eliminate nearly 100 "commodity IT investments," including duplicative contracts for desktop and mobile devices and multiple email systems within a department or agency.

[ Related: Feds Look to Big Data to Position 'Government as a Platform' ]

"PortfolioStat will be an ongoing effort, growing each year to incorporate lessons learned and changes in technology," VanRoekel says. "The upgraded process streamlines agency data collection and improves analytics, consolidates the agency's strategic IT direction and management improvements into one central plan, and holds agencies accountable for the goals set through last year's process."

A main thrust of the revamped program seeks to enhance the role of agency CIOs by granting them authority over IT governance, security and program-management oversight. Too often, VanRoekel and Zients say, agencies "are managing IT in a decentralized manner, missing opportunities to leverage enterprise scale and leading to inefficiencies and duplication in the allocation of IT resources."

In that light, the administration has identified empowering CIOs as a best practice, calling for a more centralized authority within a department or agency that would work under a holistic view of the organization's various IT deployments.

Similarly, VanRoekel and Zients call for the implementation of investment review boards comprised of C-level officers to evaluate IT programs in the context of the agency's enterprise architecture and spot waste and duplication.

Congress Addresses Inefficiencies in Federal IT

Members of Congress have also been working to address inefficiencies in the federal IT operation. Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bipartisan bill that aims to curb waste in government technology. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act ( FITARA) would expand the role of federal CIOs, making those at the 16 major civilian agencies presidential appointees and codifying a direct reporting relationship with the agency head.

Several leading trade groups representing the technology sector, including TechAmerica and the Software and Information Industry Association, praised the provisions in the bill empowering agency CIOs, but at the same time have warned against other sections they say could create new challenges for tech companies seeking to contract with the federal government.

Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Read more about government in CIO's Government Drilldown.

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