U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel Leaves To Help USAID Fight Ebola

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U.S. Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel announced this morning that he is leaving his White House post to join the U.S. Agency for International Development as its chief innovation officer to help coordinate the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

VanRoekel will serve as a senior adviser to Rajiv Shah, the administrator for USAID. Today will be his last day at the Office of Management and Budget according to administration sources.

An administration official confirmed the announcement in an email to FedScoop. “In this capacity, VanRoekel will advise the Agency’s senior leadership on using technology and data to help ensure the U.S. Government’s response to the Ebola outbreak is coordinated most effectively and efficiently,” the official said. “This crisis is multi-dimensional – involving people, culture, logistics and more. And it is essential that we have real time data that points to gaps, trends and outcomes. Steve’s unique talents and experiences will help us elevate our response at a critical juncture.”

In the interim, U.S. Deputy Administrator Lisa Schlosser will oversee the Office of E-Government & Information Technology, the administration official said.

The unexpected move creates a key vacancy in the wake of recent moves by the administration to bolster the government’s digital initiates, with the creation of the U.S. Digital Services and the appointment of former Google executive Megan Smith as the administration’s new chief technology officer, replacing Todd Park who will now work for the administration in Silicon Valley in a new capacity.

As recently as Wednesday, VanRoekel failed to tip his hand, telling FedScoop that despite rumors of a possible departure, he was committed to staying on with the administration until January at the very least.

The move returns VanRoekel to a familiar agency, but facing a new kind of challenge. He had served as USAID’s executive director of citizen and organizational engagement before being appointed federal CIO in 2011. In his new role, he will be helping the agency’s efforts in responding to the deadly Ebola outbreak, which has contributed to more than 2,600 deaths in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

“We are thrilled to welcome Steve back to USAID at a critical time,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, in a statement. “While serving as chief information officer of the United States, Steve transformed the way the federal government embraces innovation, and enabled USAID to become more efficient and effective. With his unique talents and expertise, Steve will help us harness technologies like open data and mobile platforms to reach communities and households with powerful and life-saving information to help stop the devastating Ebola outbreak.”

The former Microsoft executive will be tasked with coordinating and ensuring the efficiency of the U.S. government’s efforts to fight the virus, an administration official said.

VanRoekel said in a statement he is proud of the work and the legacy his team will leave behind, from launching PortfolioStat to a new approach to IT management to the government’s landmark open data policy and the launch of the new Digital Service.

“So it is with that same spirit of bringing innovation and technology to bear to solve our most difficult problems, that I am excited to join USAID’s leadership to help stop the Ebola outbreak,” VanRoekel said. “Technology is not the solution to this extremely difficult task but it will be a part of the solution and I look forward to partnering with our Federal agencies, non-profit organizations and private sector tech communities to help accelerate this effort.”

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Stephen VanRoekel
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