How HUD’s CIO plans to make it ‘a model’ for IT modernization

When Johnson Joy left J3 Global Inc. to become the chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the first big challenge he found was the amount of mainframe legacy systems at the department. But that’s OK, because he said his experience in the private sector has prepared him to lead HUD on its journey to the cloud.

“As a leader, I shared my vision with them, and my vision is to make HUD a model for other federal agencies and departments,” Joy said on IT Modernization month. “So when my people, my staff saw that vision and the strategy that I have in place, they are all on board, and they want to see us moving forward in this digital age.

His first order was an assessment of the department to see where the issues lay. The assessment is looking at people, infrastructure and systems.

“Then we’ll be prepared to take the challenge officially in the digital evolution and the new technologies coming in,” he said. “I don’t want to leave anything on the table.”

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One focus of the assessment is to look specifically at the department’s code, to see how many lines there are and what kind of structure they have. Joy said he wants to replace old code by performing a back-end extraction and front-end development.

“We’ll regenerate the same logic,” he said. “We are not going to change the logic, we’re just converting it to regular language.”

The department is currently working on a pilot, using a code generator to perform this kind of extract and ensure that the new code works the same way. Joy said the program this process is being tested on is a mortgage insurance program that all the banks use.

He also wants to take the department into the cloud, which he estimates will take three-to-five years.

“We are planning to do a virtual desktop interface, BDI, technology too, so we can get rid of all these desktops,” Joy said. “And actually, that’s going to be a big help for cybersecurity and the whole security, because on the security front, I want to be on the offensive.”

He said HUD will be using Java and the latest user interface to modernize the front end. Joy also wants to replace all of HUD’s desktop computers with laptops. If everyone has a laptop, they can telework from anywhere in the country, which Joy said would especially facilitate mobility with disaster response.

And how is HUD going to pay for this?

“I would like to take advantage of the Management Act that is going to be, I think, soon signed by the president,” Joy said. “I’m really excited by that, and I think that’s going to be one way I’ll be able to fund this modernization effort. I’m looking into being a pilot for that.”