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Memorandum for the President: The White House CIO Fellowship Program

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On January 14, 2011, I submitted my application to the White House Fellows Program. The application asks the applicant to write a memorandum for the president making a specific policy proposal. I proposed the creation of the White House CIO (WHCIO) fellowship program. The program offers 5-10 talented technology leaders the opportunity to serve their government and experience the complex dynamics of the CIO Council and the inner workings of technology management at the office of the top federal CIO's. The leaders then graduate from the program prepared to fundamentally transform the way we manage technology at the federal level.

Although I was not selected as a fellow, I am glad to see that, 18-months later, the Presidential Innovation Fellowship program was launched. This program brings the focus of my proposal to life. It is a six-month program to bring nonprofit, private-sector and academic talent to see five technology government projects to fruition under the direction of the newly selected White House CTO, Todd Park.

With no feedback offered on my application, it is impossible to know how my proposal was received. However, seeing this program come to life reassures me that my recommendation was aligned with the needs of the White House to drive innovation and move this country forward. It is encouraging and energizing to feel validated.

I look forward to seeing this great program evolve from aligning fellows to specific projects to pairing them to technology leaders within the federal government -- consistent with how the White House Fellowship program works.

This is my presidential proposal from the perspective of the current CIO at the time:

Memorandum for the President

January 14, 2011

MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT

FROM: U.S. CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER

SUBJECT: RECOMMENDATION TO FORM A WHITE HOUSE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM FOR FUTURE FEDERAL CIOS TO ENSURE THE CONTINUITY OF FUNDAMENTAL REFORM TO FEDERAL TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT

Background

Over the past four decades our federal government has supported a technology policy mainly focused on hardware and software upgrade implementation, which circumvented fundamental change in the management dynamics of technology. To illustrate, in 2008 some federal agencies, such as the Department of the Interior, counted on billion dollar technology systems that lacked the ability to send internal messages capable of reaching all of its employees. Additionally, requests to modify these systems resulted in RFPs for new platforms that would take four to six years to be deployed.

Current State

Today we are seizing the opportunity to fundamentally reform technology management at the federal level. The 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management that I presented to you on December 9, 2010 marks the first step toward accomplishing this ambitious goal. More importantly, the essence of the plan emphasizes the need for our current and future CIO's to continue revolutionizing the way we manage our technology. In the near future when our currency, health records, national security and the entire federal government runs almost exclusively on a data network, the most important improvements in government in the 21st century will be influenced by our federal CIOs.

Recommendation

Over the next two decades, this nation will need to rely on a pool of highly talented and qualified CIOs who are passionate about offering their skills to serve the federal government. However, most importantly, these leaders must have an exceptional understanding of the inner workings of federal policy-making and change dynamics. Today our administration has the opportunity to recognize the pivotal role that technology management plays in the successful future of our nation by establishing a two-year pilot for a White House CIO (WHCIO) fellowship program.

The Program

The WHCIO fellowship program will offer 5-10 talented technology leaders the opportunity to serve their government and experience the complex dynamics of the CIO Council and the inner workings of technology management at the office of the top federal CIO's. The leaders will graduate from the program prepared to continue to fundamentally transform the way we manage technology at the federal level.

We will form a commission of 10 members responsible for recommending a group of exceptional candidates for the program. Cindy S. Moelis has volunteered to act as our expert senior advisor to the commission. A senior level member on the staff of the CIO Council will act as the director of the program for the pilot. The pilot will run two years funded by a grant of $650,000/year from the Knight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation or smaller independent foundations like the Khale/Austin Foundation. Fellows will receive a salary at the federal pay grade GS-12, step 2.

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