White House names VMWare CIO Tony Scott new United States Chief Information Officer

tony-scottPer Federal News Radio, the White House will name Tony Scott to be the next chief information officer (CIO) of the United States of America. Scott, currently the CIO of VMware, is a veteran of the enterprise information technology industry with over thirty years of experience. Prior to joining VMWare, he was the CIO of Microsoft, the CIO of the Walt Disney Company and the chief technology officer at General Motors.

Scott takes over from Lisa Schlosser, the interim US CIO, who stepped in when former US CIO Steven VanRoekel stepped down last year. In a post on the White House blog and CIO.gov, Shaun Donovan, the Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Beth Cobert, the Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget, officially confirmed the choice:

The President’s announcement today of Tony Scott as the next United States Chief Information Officer is an important opportunity for our Nation. With the radical evolution of information technology (IT), the Federal Government has unprecedented opportunity to enhance how we deliver services to the American people and spark greater innovation in the digital age. Over the past six years, this Administration has embarked on a comprehensive approach to fundamentally improve the way Government delivers results and technology services to the public. From adopting game-changing technologies such as cloud solutions, optimizing IT investments to save taxpayers nearly $3 billion, standing up the United States Digital Service to transform government’s ability to deliver critical services like healthcare and veterans benefits, to opening government assets to foster economic growth. This tremendous progress is a result of a President who recognizes the opportunity to harness advances in technology to make government work better for the American people. That is why we are pleased the President announced Tony Scott as the next U.S. CIO and Administrator of OMB’s Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology. Under Tony’s leadership, we will continue to build on the remarkable work done by the Nation’s first CIOs Vivek Kundra and Steve VanRoekel in changing the way the Federal government manages IT. Tony will bring will over 35 years of global leadership and management experience to build upon our progress and drive continued success. Tony is the right person to drive the Administration’s Smarter IT Delivery Agenda and the core objectives across the Federal IT portfolio – (1) driving value in Federal IT investments, (2) delivering world-class digital services, and (3) protecting Federal IT assets and information.

The White House Open Government Initiative Twitter account celebrated the news, tweeting: “Excited for new US CIO Tony Scott to join us in continuing to advance digital service delivery and openness efforts!”

“In selecting Tony Scott, the White House has decided that a Washington outsider is the best choice to lead this demanding job,” said Michael Krigsman, analyst and founder of CXO-Talk, in an email. Krigsman had previously said that the next US CIO needed to be a DC insider to succeed.

“With CIO roles at Microsoft and VMware under his belt, Scott certainly understands the nuances of managing tech inside a large organization. Despite this experience, Scott faces the difficult challenge of starting work during the last two years of this presidency. The political learning curve cannot be overstated. As a result, Scott will face a difficult battle to accomplish anything substantive in the next two years. I hope Scott will reach out quickly to innovative CIOs in government, such as David Bray at the FCC and Sonny Hashmi at the GSA, to establish strong partnerships. In addition, let’s see Scott get on Twitter to engage directly with his constituency. The White House has made a considered effort to engage Silicon Valley. Now it’s time to see how those Silicon Valley choices can manage within the huge federal bureaucracy.”
As I told Krigsman when he asked last year, every US CIO faces difficult problems:
The U.S. has been unable or unwilling to reorganize and fundamentally reform how the federal government supports its missions using technology, including its relationship to incumbent vendors who fall short of efficient delivery using cutting-edge tech. The 113th Congress has had opportunities to craft legislative vehicles to improve procurement and the power of agency CIOs but has yet to pass FITARA or RFP-IT. In addition, too many projects still look like traditional enterprise software rather than consumer-facing tools, so we have a long way to go to achieve the objectives of the digital playbook VanRoekel introduced.
There are great projects, public servants and pockets of innovation through the federal government, but culture, hiring, procurement, and human resources remain serious barriers that continue to result in IT failures. The next U.S. CIO must be a leader in all respects, leading by example, inspiring, and having political skill. It’s a difficult job and one for which it is hard to attract world-class talent. We need a fundamental shift in the system rather than significant tweaks, in areas such as open source and using the new Digital Service as a tool to drive change. The CIO must have experience managing multi-billion dollar budgets and be willing to pull the plug on wasteful or mismanaged projects that serve the needs of three years ago, not the future.

Scott’s experience working in some of the world’s largest enterprises should stand him – and the nation he would serve – in good stead as he moves into the White Office of Management Budget to oversee some $80 billion dollars in annual federal IT spending. He’ll inherit many headaches from the previous US CIOs, including legacy IT systems that enormous and obscure federal agencies have built over the decades. Scott’s recent experience with virtualization and cloud computing at VMWare, however, bodes well for federal workers who have been transitioning to cloud computing and mobile environments at unprecedented speed and scale over the past decade. ”

We’re entering a new era of business, where models that once seemed solid and permanent are becoming more liquid,” Scott said, in a VMWare corporate interview on information technology in 2015 last month. “You need to be liquid to be disruptive in this day and age. That means agile and flexible. Able to spin up new services in weeks not months or years. Poised to leverage mobile-cloud architecture to create new business models, revenue streams and means to create stronger connections with customers and partners.”

Scott is well-experienced, respected and connected across multiple industries that make up the core of the modern American economy, from entertainment to software to advanced manufacturing, all of which will serve the Obama administration well as it navigates a complex environment for both policy and deployment over the next two years. Along with the challenges of his predecessors, Scott will also inherit powerful new tools and an organizational capability that Vivek Kundra, the first US CIO, & VanRoekel did not have: the United States Digital Service, which has now grown to dozens of staff and plans to hire up to two hundred more.

In answer to questions, VanRoekel tweeted that the “huge opportunity is incredible [with OMB’s] #EGOV & @USDS teams – they are best in GOV & proudest part of my legacy.” Scott will have the “wind [at his] back with @USDS @18F, a government “good at cyber,” with federal workers expecting more #innovation. The new US CIO will also have a Playbook, TechFAR, open data, and, in VanRoekel’s view, a working cloud.

He said that the challenges Scott will face include “legacy systems & thinking, balancing reactive (cyber) with proactive (innovation),” and a federal bureaucratic that “still favors … contracts, systems, vendors. Need is to #failfast versus #failbig – open & modular replaces monolithic on all fronts”

Update: On Friday afternoon, Scott published a blog post entitled “From Transforming the Enterprise to Serving the Nation” at VMWare.com. Here’s an excerpt that outlines his vision for the role:

In recent weeks, I have been working part-time on a Federal Task Force to shape government policy around the role of technology in economic growth and driving the creation of jobs, as well as expanding opportunities for veterans and women. My new role will allow me to focus full-time on improving IT for our citizens.

In his recent State of the Union message, President Obama emphasized the importance of technology as a means of accelerating economic growth, innovation and increased job opportunities. He also articulated the need to take action in specific areas such as cybersecurity, net neutrality, e-health, and expanding both the access and speed of the Internet. I will contribute in these areas and will bring what I have learned in my career to this role.”


This post has been repeatedly updated with additional quotes, links and commentary.

Image Credit: VMWare

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