On Capitol Hill last week, LaVerne Council, CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs, caught everyone’s attention – from Congress to the media – when she shared her plans to ensure that her agency will be at the top of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard in 2016. But while this might seem like an aggressive goal, Council’s track record as an IT visionary and her work so far with the VA would suggest that she’ll meet her goal with ease.
The key to Council’s success is in leveraging FITARA goals as an overall guide for agency IT. At the hearing on the Hill, she shared how the goals “allows us to really take ownership and hold ourselves accountable for the capabilities that have been put in our hands by having this legislation.” This ability to create a strategic vision, rather than a reactionary plan is just one of the reasons we’ve put Council on our list of 5 CIOs to Watch for 2016.
Name: LaVerne H. Council
Title: CIO, Department of Veterans Affairs
CIO Since: July 2015
IT Budget: $4.1 billion
Focus Areas and Success So Far:
FITARA is one of the biggest federal government initiatives for CIOs in 2016. Designed to streamline the acquisitions process to reduce waste in procurement activities, FITARA has caused agencies to take a hard look at their IT processes. In initial scorecards most agencies received grades of D, or F, but as Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) noted, “[t]he VA earned a C rating in the initial scorecard for compliance to FITARA, which actually is one of the higher grades.” Council cited the creation of Enterprise-level oversight offices, like the Enterprise Program Management Office – to ensure agency-wide planning and visibility and the establishment of interim goals as a key driver in the agency’s continuing success.
- Data Center Consolidation
Even a failing grade on data center consolidation on the FITARA scorecard doesn’t unsettle Council. With a contract for cloud services to be released this month, Council shared that the VA will have eliminated 70 data centers by 2019 through “the use of the cloud, through the use of consolidation of various data and processes, and elimination of certain legacy systems.” This move would put the VA on par with data center consolidation leaders at the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security.
Considering that just two years ago the VA had failed its information security audit for the 16th year in a row, Council’s commitment cybersecurity is warranted. The current plan is to eliminate cybersecurity weaknesses by the end of 2017. Knowing full well that agency culture takes years to change, Council “is trying to speed things up” through the creation of “an enterprise cybersecurity team” and shared an “integrated security strategy” with Congress in September 2015, just 2 months after becoming CIO. One tangible success has been the release of a telecom systems design manual in February to create logical and physical network separation so that essential hospital systems – such as device operation, HVAC, and physical access – exist within a demilitarized zone, safe from attacks like the recent ransomware attacks plaguing hospitals across the United States.
Have an agency CIO that you think should be on our list? Drop us a note in the comments or send us a tweet and tell us who.