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Former Microsoft exec named new U.S. CIO

Steven VanRoekel, CIO, U.S Federal Government

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 this weekend 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 MD 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.

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 centres by 2015.

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

Obama has fostered ties with some tech’s most recognised 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.

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