In business as in life, we rarely get second chances. But in the months ahead, Vivek Kundra—dashing young public-sector figure, Web 2.0 visionary, first American ever to hold his office, and keeper of a $76 billion budget—will receive exactly such a second chance. He will have the chance to show that his position and his organization deserve respect and not ridicule, that he and his organization can be true transformers of public-sector IT and even thought-leaders for the private sector, and that he truly believes in his mandate to help lower the cost of government operations while delivering higher-quality services.
But he cannot do that if he maintains his other-worldly and disastrous spending arc of $76 billion per year. He cannot do that if promises to hold the line and pretends he's walking a mile in the world of private-sector CIOs. He cannot do that if he continues to accept the ruinous behavior of spending whatever you happen to get while ensuring that next year you ask for more.
And he surely cannot do it if he allows the monstrous $76 billion IT budget sinkhole to be expanded, a pattern that has resulted in some of the worst-performing IT operations and projects that anyone could possibly conceive.
But I believe Vivek Kundra can deliver on his own great promise and the vast potential for an entirely new way of conducting the business of federal IT if he takes an essential step: promising to cap federal IT spending at $50 billion, while delivering to taxpayers not just better services but also $26 billion of their hard-earned money.
If he does that, he will have earned the Chief of the Year award bestowed upon him by InformationWeek, as well as the accolades he's received elsewhere. If he does that, he'll have made an enormous contribution to the ability of citizen-customers to engage with their government.
And if he doesn't, he'll be making it perfectly clear to everyone with a brain that it's business as usual with federal-government technology, and that we can all expect more of the same hazy, ineffective, low-value, untrustworthy, and pathetic performance we've seen in the past. That's a legacy I can hardly imagine that Vivek Kundra would want to leave.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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