In his first public address since joining the federal government in February, Federal CIO Tony Scott said agencies need to focus on finishing the major IT projects they start.
"We've really got to land the planes that we've launched," the government's chief technologist and amateur pilot told the audience at an AFCEA Bethesda Chapter breakfast on March 24. "For all the efforts we've started we have to make sure results get delivered and we are held accountable for delivering results on the many promises we've made across the organization."
After a month and a half of meetings with agency CIOs and IT departments, Scott noted the amount of passion and initiative he's seen for innovative ideas but that the federal government fails on follow-through.
Continuing the analogy, he noted even experienced pilots have a rough landing now and again but rarely have difficultly taking off.
"It's a perfect analogy for my experience in IT," he said. "Projects are easily started, great ideas are initially thought of – it's a lot of fun to celebrate the start of something new. Then it takes hard work and experience and the work of a lot of people to actually land something."
In order to get there, Scott said agencies and government as a whole need to understand the legacy systems they have, the capabilities they need and the technologies available to help them get there.
"Situational awareness is probably the most important skill a pilot has," he said. "In government and in business, it's great to fantasize about where you'd like to be but if you don't have a realistic understanding of where you are – that situational awareness – it's unlikely you're ever going to do the things that are necessary to change that reality."
Scott said his main priority over the next few years will be to help agencies with those final steps and cultivate a culture of completion, as well as accountability.
"For the next couple of years, my focus is let's land the planes that make a difference and will help us deliver better services for our citizens," he said.