Chris Kemp, who had a few short weeks ago been greeted with rockstar fervor at the Cloud/Gov conference in Washington, DC, has stepped down from his role as NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for Information Technology. Kemp was the champion of NASA’s Nebula program, the agency’s private cloud effort , and helped with the General Services Administration’s launch of the Apps.gov cloud service program. But in the face of budget cuts and continued institutional resistance to his agenda for changing government IT, Kemp submitted his resignation in March.
“Whereas I thought I had the best of both worlds being a Headquarters employee stationed in Silicon Valley,” Kemp said in a blog post announcing his move, “I actually had the worst of both worlds… no influence when I can’t be in all of those meetings at NASA HQ, with no mandate to manage projects at Ames. As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I saw my vision for the future slowly slip further from my grasp.”
Kemp’s dillema, while certainly higher profile than that of many state and local CIOs and CTOs, is hardly unique. With revenues at historic lows, and budgets tight, it’s perhaps harder than ever to try to achieve meaningful change in the way agencies run their information technology, even at tech-focused agencies like NASA. At the federal level, the budget standoff threatens to put major initiatives that could actually save the government more money on hold.
But perhaps more dangerous, the uncertainties around IT budgets and programs at all levels of government can be demoralizing, particularly to the most talented and valuable members of IT organizations who have options elsewhere. As other employment opportunities emerge, government IT organizations could see an exodus of talent, making it even more difficult to do more with less.