GeekWire Summit 2014, Part 4: How The US Chief Information Officer Saved Tech In Government

Cynthia Andrews | Flip the Media | October 6, 2014

Not so long ago, the US government’s approach to technology was a hot mess.  That’s what I learned from Steven VanRoekel at Geekwire Summit 2014, in what might be his last public appearance as U.S. Chief Information Officer. We’ve all seen the not-so current hardware/software in local branches of government but, according to VanRoekel, the same problem affected the ENTIRE United States government.

When VanRoekel sat down at his computer on his first day, he found Windows XP waiting for him, at which point the software was a decade old. But beyond dated software, he also found that our government, which once led in tech, had “lost its way.”

Culturally, technology was seen “as this very discretionary thing” that people used to print, check email, and call the help desk; disorganization ran rampant. The Department of Agriculture had 21 different email systems (21!). The department secretary couldn’t even send mail to his staff simultaneously. Oh, and guess how much this we-don’t-need-no-centralization-of-communication mentality cost the U.S. government? 500 million dollars, and that was only in one department...