Former Microsoft exec, Obama donor named new U.S. CIO

White House moves quickly to replace outgoing -- and nation's first -- CIO, Vivek Kundra

WASHINGTON - Longtime Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel is set to become the nation's second federal CIO, replacing outgoing federal CIO Vivek Kundra.

The White House announced Thursday that President Barack Obama intends to appoint VanRoekel, who left his post as senior director of Microsoft's Windows Server and Tools Division in 2009 after 15 years at the firm to become managing director of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to the nation's top tech post.

Among VanRoekel's roles at the FCC was overseeing a redesign of the the commission's Web site. (The before and after looks of the FCC site). The new FCC site added a comment page, as shown here.

In April VanRoekel blogged about the FCC's Web site changes, which included an intuitive design and layout "optimized for the everyday citizen."

He added that the new FCC site was "built in the cloud, and developed with open source software, and that the new FCC.gov lowers barriers to future development as part of a long-term IT cost-cutting strategy."

After serving as federal CIO for two and half years, Kundra recently announced his intent to leave the White House in mid-August to take a fellowship at Harvard.

Kundra, who had previously been CTO of the District of Columbia, shaped the federal CIO post into a highly visible role, and used his position as a bully pulpit to advocate an agenda of opposition to big government IT contracts, along with support for cloud computing and for IT consolidation.

Most of all, Kundra stressed visibility as a means to accountability in managing $80 billion in federal IT spending. For instance, he created the Federal IT Dashboard, where IT projects were rated agency by agency and photos of the CIOs were on display.

Kundra believes he has set the federal IT operation on a path toward lower costs and improved efficiency.

The White House announcement gave no hint about whether VanRoekel will make any changes in IT direction or steer away from Kundra's 25 point plan for IT, which includes the closing 800 federal data centers by 2015.

Just prior to Obama's appointment, VanRoekel had left the FCC to become the executive director of Citizen and Organizational Engagement at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

VanRoekel donated $50,000 to Obama's 2009 inauguration festivities, the donation cap set by the then-incoming administration.

Other Microsoft executives who also donated up to the inauguration limit were Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie Ballmer, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates, who each made donations, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Obama has fostered ties with some tech's most recognized figures.

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, advised Obama's transition team and is now serving on the White House Office and Technology Policy board along with Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft.

Ballmer and Gates have both been to White House meetings.

Ray Bjorklund, an analyst at FedSources, said VanRoekel "has obviously been well positioned in industry" and combined with his government experience, could be helpful.

But Microsoft competitors for federal contracts may feel a little apprehensive, noted Bjorklund.

"You can't take on major government positions like that and play favorites - that's not the right thing to do," said Bjorklund. "Industry may have suspicions, but they may not be well founded suspicions," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Read more about government/industries in Computerworld's Government/Industries Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftCIO roleIndustriesIT LeadershipcareersgovernmentIT managementGovernment/Industries

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?