IT modernization, acquisition drove the CIO’s discussion in 2021

As I enter my 14th year hosting Ask the CIO, which is the longest running program on Federal News Network, the show’s evolution is clear.

It went from a one-on-one interview program focused on agency technology executives, chief information officers with an occasional deputy CIO or chief technology officer, to one that talks to an assortment of federal executives from across the CXO community about technology.

This evolution was both a conscious decision and one that happened naturally as technology permeates every facet of federal mission areas.

This is why it is no surprise that the top 10 Ask the CIO shows in 2021 ran the gamut across the CXO community.  See how they compared to what was most popular in 2020.

Here are the top 10 for 2021:

1. Money for IT modernization is available, if you know where to find it

I have to admit I’m a little surprised by this one. Maybe it was the power of talking to former federal technology executives like Mark Forman and Gloria Parker, or maybe it was the headline and timing of the interview, coming out about two months before Congress passed American Rescue Plan Act with its $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund, or maybe it’s just a recognition that IT modernization continues to be the most talked about topic in federal IT year after year. No matter, it was the most popular show of the year because it resonated across the community.

2. NITAAC details timing, evaluation plans for $40B IT services contract

While the number one show of the year was surprising, this interview with the National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) was a shoe-in to be among the most popular. The CIO-SP4 acquisition was one of the most talked about, complained about, protested about and focused on acquisitions over the past year. It will be a story that continues to give in 2022.

3. Cloud-based internet isolation initiatives to give DoD new kind of cyber protections

The pandemic and the release of the Trusted Internet Connections 3.0 use cases made cloud and cybersecurity a popular topic over the last few years. This interview from October 2020 remained relevant and showed that our audience found it by searching for possible solutions to these ongoing challenges.

4. GSA’s next set of acquisition modernization initiatives to focus on services, automation, data

This interview was a perfect example of Ask the CIO’s evolution. Sonny Hashmi, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, is a former CIO, who now is leading an acquisition organization. Our discussion at the Coalition for Government Procurement’s spring conference, highlighted the interaction of technology, data and automation and the federal acquisition process.

5. SSA’s disability case app modernization serving as building block to future transformation

This is where Ask the CIO shines, by giving usually media-shy organizations, like the Social Security Administration, an outlet to highlight important and successful IT efforts. This was the first interview with the SSA CIO in nearly four years and showed just how much progress the agency has made during that time.

6. Cyber dashboards exemplify CDM’s evolution under Cox

If Ask the CIO was like “Saturday Night Live,” Kevin Cox may just hold the record for most appearances. It was clear the former program manager for the continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) program at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security understood the value of messaging, media and promoting the success of CDM. It was a bittersweet “exit” interview after Cox decided to move back to the Justice Department to be its deputy CIO.

7. VA extending pandemic IT mindset to continue modernization acceleration

Give Paul Brubaker a microphone and you’ll get some of the best quotes of any federal technology executive in or out of government today. Brubaker, one of the original authors of the Clinger-Cohen Act and the holder of many federal executive positions, is another master of messaging, in this case talking about the Veterans Affairs Department’s new portfolio management approach to take advantage of the momentum that came from the pandemic. It showed how VA could be flexible, agile and deploy new systems and technologies rapidly.

8. FDIC, State finding novel approaches to bring new technology to users

This show was another example of Ask the CIO’s evolution. I moderated a panel at an AFFIRM event and it turned out to be one of the most popular shows of the year. It’s yet another testament to the fact that agencies are far from running in place in modernizing technology processes and applications. Sometimes it just takes the right prodding to get them to highlight their successes.

9. GSA makes course corrections with its commercial platforms initiative

Besides the No. 1 show, this was the other episode that surprised me by making it into the top 10. GSA’s commercial platforms initiative didn’t receive a lot of attention in 2021 as compared to previous years and the pandemic seemed like the perfect opportunity to prove its value. The jury still is out on the commercial platform initiative, especially with Congress telling GSA to test out the other two platforms in the coming year. This story will continue to give in 2022.

10. DHA performing some much needed IT system house cleaning

The top 10 lists ends with a recent Ask the CIO interview about the Defense Health Agency and it isn’t surprising that it’s one of the most popular in 2021. What struck me about this interview was just how big DHA was and how much Pat Flanders and his team is doing to modernize its technology. DHA is consolidating and standardizing to reduce the burden of managing and maintaining some 200 different IT and services contracts.

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