The Business of Government Hour

 

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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

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Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Dan Matthews interview

Friday, March 12th, 2004 - 20:00
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Dan Matthews
Radio show date: 
Sat, 03/13/2004
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Technology and E-Government...

Technology and E-Government

Complete transcript: 

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, partner-in-charge of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour. features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with Dan Matthews, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Good morning, Dan.

Mr. Matthews: Good morning, Paul. How are you this morning?

Mr. Lawrence: Great. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. Matthews: It is my pleasure.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is Ron Rhodes.

Good morning, Ron.

Mr. Rhodes: Good morning, Paul, and good morning, Dan.

Mr. Matthews: Good morning, Ron.

Mr. Lawrence: Okay, Dan. Well, let�s start by talking about the background of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Could you talk to us about its mission and how it�s organized?

Mr. Matthews: Certainly, Paul.

The Department of Transportation was established in 1966. At that time, its mission was to develop a safe and efficient transportation system in the United States. Over the years, the organization has increased its reach across the transportation sector in the United States. Today, it�s organized around what we call modal agencies. In particular, the agencies that come to mind most often are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and the others. So when we say we�re organized around modals or operating agencies, that�s what we refer to.

There are three other elements that are not modals, but the organization has its IT infrastructure and its administration aligned around those. Those three are the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Office of the IG.

Mr. Lawrence: How do people think about the size of the Department? Employees, budget, miles? How�s that done?

Mr. Matthews: Well, the Department is viewed from a budget standpoint because it�s one of the largest granting agencies in the federal government, but the budget for the Department is around $60 billion. We�re still waiting on the final budget to come from Capitol Hill, but it�ll be in that $60 billion range, and the number of employees at the Department sits around 60,000 employees currently.

Mr. Lawrence: What�s the role and the responsibility of the CIO?

Mr. Matthews: Well, the Departmental CIO, as opposed to the agency CIOs; the Departmental CIO is responsible for the vision for information technology at the Department; also responsible for the investment for IT across the Department.

The Departmental CIO also has established a CIO council with all of the agency CIOs, and together, we review items, take a look at direction, and try and plot a common ground that all agencies can move in. One of the issues that we are addressing at the Department is Secretary Mineta�s view for a safe, simpler, and smarter transportation system. So when we�re reviewing new initiatives, it is with that perspective in mind; how do we deliver that mission to the citizens of the U.S.?

Mr. Lawrence: You made a very interesting distinction when you answered that question about the Departmental CIO versus the CIOs in the operating administrations. What�s the relationship between those CIOs?

Mr. Matthews: The operating agencies� CIOs have responsibility for a small section of infrastructure. It is that infrastructure that supports the modal. It is also responsible for the mission. Congress charges each one of those modal agencies with specific programs. Those agencies then turn to their CIOs and look for software solutions to those programs. The agency CIOs have a responsibility, across that gamut of IT, both infrastructure and application-specific.

The Departmental CIO is responsible to the Secretary to make sure that there is harmony across the Department so that we minimize the investment in infrastructure that will support a smarter, safer, simpler transportation system.

Mr. Lawrence: Just to drill on this further, do the Departmental CIOs report to you?

Mr. Matthews: Do the operating agency CIOs report to me?

Mr. Lawrence: Yes; sorry.

Mr. Matthews: It is through a dotted line that they report. Quite honestly, I�m frequently asked if I thought it�s necessary for the operating agency CIOs to report to the Departmental CIO, and I think the answer to that question is no. I think the Departmental CIO has a responsibility to support all of those operating agencies as they try and deliver on those application-specific endeavors.

We�re going to talk a little bit about infrastructure support across the Department, but the Departmental CIO should be responsible for delivering that to agencies so they don�t spend a lot of their own time and money trying to invent that infrastructure over and over and over again.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, you�ve been in the role of CIO for almost a year now. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you were doing before coming to the DOT?

Mr. Matthews: Well, Ron, most immediately prior to coming, I worked for a company by the name of Savantage Solutions, Inc. Savantage Solutions delivers financial systems that are joint financial management improvement programs, JFMIP, compliant systems. I served as a senior vice president and worked in the marketing as well as some operational oversight at the company.

Prior to that, I worked at Lockheed Martin. I had responsibility over the IDIQ portfolio for what is now Lockheed Martin Information Technologies. Prior to that, I took a year�s retirement down in Panama City Beach, Florida, and if you�ve never been there, come with me sometime. We�ll play golf.

Mr. Rhodes: I�d love to.

Mr. Matthews: And prior to that, I was working at BDM, and I had responsibility over civilian agency marketing affairs, and I also served as the general manager�s number two for the operational side. Prior to that, I did time at Martin Marietta for about 14 years, prior to that, in every imaginable capacity.

Mr. Rhodes: You have a long history of work in the private sector. Can you compare and contrast the people, management styles and cultures between the public and private sector organizations?

Mr. Matthews: Well, two things come to mind when I�m asked that question. First of all, there�s not much difference between the two sides. On the government side, that�s where the programs that the industry folks are interested in, that�s where they start. So the programs are driven out of the government side, and everything that the industry is working on is geared toward the fulfillment of those programs.

The most noticeable difference in the environment has been -- as you mentioned, I�ve been there about a year, and no one has yet asked me what my contribution to the quarterly profit line would be. That�s the most significant difference on the government side.

On the people side, there�s not a lot of difference. People are committed to the mission of the agency, just as they are on the commercial side committed to the mission of whatever operating entity that they�re involved in.

So by and large, I find it the same. I think government employees are keenly aware that they are working for the United States of America and for the citizens of America, and that seems to be very important to the government employee.

Mr. Lawrence: Have you changed your leadership style or your management style as you�ve moved into the public sector?

Mr. Matthews: Paul, I don�t think that I�ve changed the management style at all, getting into the government sector. The Department is poised to make some changes in the way it does information technology, and there are two driving concerns for that. One is Clinger-Cohen, and the other is, the Department is looking at moving into a new building.

My experience on the commercial side, in marketing as well as operations, internal and external, seems to be the right blend of skills for the Department of Transportation at this time in its history.

Mr. Lawrence: Often, a lot of the people we talk to that come from the private sector are surprised at the speed of government; too fast, too slow, or different from their previous experience. What were your observations in regard to that?

Mr. Matthews: The speed of government is really driven by the purpose of government. There is no hurry to just get on with something for the sake of getting on with it. There are a lot of constituencies inside the government that need to be aware of what�s going on. Certainly, with 11 operating agencies inside the Department of Transportation, any change that we might make in the way in which investments are reviewed has an impact across the Department. Certainly, the procurement shop needs to know about that. The legal shop needs to know about that. The budget shop needs to know about that, and all of those operating agencies need to participate in those decisions. That may give the appearance that it drags the time horizon out, but it still moves pretty quick.

Now, I�ll also say that the government has the ability to move with amazing speed. The development of the Transportation Security Administration is a prime case. In less than a year, that agency went from an idea on a piece of paper to over 43,000 employees taking over security at airports and other transportation related security.

So any impressions that the government is slow, you can find an inverse to that, just like TSA is, and at the same point in time, you really need a compelling reason to move swiftly in the government.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting observation, especially about TSA.

How does one combat computer viruses that attack an entire department simultaneously? We�ll ask Dan Matthews, CIO of the Department of Transportation, to tell us how the Department handled their recent series of viruses when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Dan Matthews, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And joining us in our conversation is Ron Rhodes.

Dan, since you started at DOT, there have been some important changes in the CIOs office. The old TASC organization has moved into the organization, and people have been moved into new positions. Could you tell us about these changes?

Mr. Matthews: Indeed, and thank you for asking, Paul. That, perhaps, is the most significant change in the CIO�s office in the last 12 months. Early last fiscal year, the Deputy Secretary, Michael Jackson, ordered that TASC and the CIO�s office become consolidated one into the other. Now, TASC was a very big organization for administrative services; indeed it�s name stands for Transportation Administration Service Center.

A piece of TASC was known as the information technology operations. That ITO organization has been collapsed into the CIO�s office. The rest of TASC�s responsibilities have fallen to the Office of Administration, and for purposes of this conversation, I may refer to them as �M.�

Now, ITO had an operational responsibility for IT in the Department of Transportation. The CIO�s office was primarily a policy office, as well as doing back office support for the Office of the Secretary. If you remember, Paul, I mentioned them as one of the administrative modal type agencies, so they had a very small operational role.

Last fiscal year, it was decided to merge the two together. In that merge, a lot of information technology operations capability was added to the Secretary�s office. It is in that capacity that we envision the CIO�s office will begin delivering infrastructure across the entire department to all of the modals, with the exception of the FAA. The FAA, of course, has a pretty well-defined IT infrastructure in its own. But across the rest of the Department, the CIO shop will now be dealing with policy, investment review, as well as delivering infrastructure to the entire department.

Mr. Lawrence: Any lessons learned from those changes?

Mr. Matthews: Well, change comes slowly, and change is always associated with stress, or perhaps stress is associated with change, but to be sure that there is always stress. One can never communicate enough, and certainly if there was a way to make everything perfectly clear and stress-free, we would endeavor to do that, both the operating agency CIOs as well as the Departmental CIOs.

But my biggest impression of the change is that it has been welcomed inside the Department. The operating agencies all have responsibility to do regional support in all the regions, in essence, in every state, and certainly having a consolidated method of delivering that regional support is something that they can use. It is through that departmental CIO�s office that that infrastructure support will eventually be driven.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, traditionally at the DOT, the operating administrations have been given a lot of autonomy when it comes to information technology. The question is, do you see this as changing and those always being pulled closer in, and do you think the Department can get better value from its IT dollar with that closer coordination?

Mr. Matthews: Well, the short answer to the last part of the question is yes. The Department most definitely will get a better return on its investment through this consolidation approach, and also the investment review process.

I want to talk just a little bit, if I can, Ron, about the autonomy that you mentioned. That autonomy I view really in two flavors: the first flavor is the autonomy to decide on their architecture, and the other is to decide on how best to solve a Congressional mandate using IT.

Taking the first part, the autonomy to decide what their infrastructure is; that autonomy needs to be consolidated across the Department so that the Departmental architecture delivers an IT infrastructure that agencies can count on to deliver services to their customers.

A great example is the onslaught of web applications. There are many different architectures that can be delivered. However, if we deliver too many architectures, then the amount of resources necessary will consume all dollars just for maintenance of those environments. So we want to focus on the best methods of delivering such applications to citizens. That, incidentally, is one of the ways in which we will make the Department of Transportation a smarter and simpler system to use.

On the other side is the operating administration�s autonomy to deliver solutions for Congressional mandates. I do not see the Departmental CIO interfering with that autonomy. Indeed, that autonomy will continue. We will work from the Departmental CIO�s office. We will work with those operating agencies to help deliver an architecture that they can use in delivering those investments.

We also want to work with them to ensure that the right money is delivered to the right programs to deliver the right services for customers and to deliver that using the right technology, be it web, be it PDAs, be it some kind of mainframe-based system.

Mr. Lawrence: How do you see the role, Dan, of the CIO�s office at the DOT changing as you move forward?

Mr. Matthews: The Departmental CIO office, as we just discussed, has been consolidated with the ITO portion of TASC. That has demanded, in the present tense, for the Departmental office to take more of a leadership role in the consolidation and the development of the architecture and in investment reviews.

Once those policies, really the modernization blueprint, is up and running and institutionalized, I do think that the Departmental CIO�s office will have an ongoing, day-to-day operational responsibility and then return to its policy origins, and I would envision that that�s going to happen as we move into our new building that we talked about a little earlier. That new building is going to require a concerted effort for the Department to move into, and our role -- the Departmental CIO�s office role and getting to consolidation to facilitate that move -- drives us in an operational manner currently.

Mr. Lawrence: In the recent wave of e-mail-borne viruses, I understand the Department fared very well. Could you tell us about that and any lessons learned?

Mr. Matthews: Well, �department fared well� is an interesting phrase. I don�t disagree with that, but believe me, that statement is temporal. As surely as we�ve invested a lot in security and virus protection and standing up our transportation computer security operation center, we are keenly aware that there�s somebody out there that�s writing a new virus to try and do some damage in the Department.

So we thank people for saying the Department of Transportation fared well. Certainly, Kim Taylor, the deputy CIO, and Lisa Schlosser, who is the associate CIO for security, have done a bang-up job in that area.

Do I take it as a sign of success? Again, that�s transitory. In the current sense, yes, we are successful, but there is so much more to do with security that we are where we need to be at this particular point in time. There is much to still be done.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, obviously security�s a big challenge in any IT organization, and you�ve done a lot of work in that area. Can you give us a little bit of an idea of what you�ve done there and where you�ve been successful

Mr. Matthews: Well, standing up our critical resource center is something that we need to continue to put emphasis on. Our TCRC is looking across the entire department for security issues. That particular event or organization is going to continue to work across the Department, and that is across the entire department that we�re looking at security.

We do see some issues that need strengthening. Internal attack is something that needs to be addressed, not just at the Department of Transportation, but, quite frankly, the industry seems to be lagging in methods of tracking computer usage from internal to the organization.

I believe the Department of Transportation, working with vendors, has to find a better way to do pattern recognition from the inside out, and I look forward to us addressing that over the course of the next several years.

Mr. Lawrence: And that leads me to my last question: What do you see as challenges for the security department moving forward?

Mr. Matthews: Well, the security department and our program is in for an exciting time. We talked a little bit earlier about the Department of Transportation looking to move into a new building, and that will present issues for the security group. Security comes in two flavors, obviously: the information technology as well as the physical security. Moving into the new building gives us the opportunity to help fuse those two parts of security into a cohesive whole.

I do believe that the new building needs our attention in several areas. The first is the physical structure and the IT structure, so that when someone�s in the building, the same security used to get in the building also notifies the IT infrastructure that that person is there. Once they log onto the system, they should only have to log on once, and then all of their access should be granted to them across the system.

And then another issue to be considered for the new building is wireless security. It�s ever an issue in the marketplace. We will be using wireless technologies in that new building. We need to secure them, the communications across those wireless technologies, and I do think that that will be an area of growth and concentration over the course of the next two or three years.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s an interesting point, especially about internal security.

What is capital planning and why does it matter? We�ll ask Dan Matthews of the Department of Transportation for his perspective when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Dan Matthews, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And joining us in our conversation is Ron Rhodes.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, two of the Department�s largest organizations, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, have left the Department. What challenges does this present from an IT perspective?

Mr. Matthews: Well, both of those agencies, as you mentioned, have now left and they now reside over at the Department of Homeland Security. The biggest IT issue was to �unwind� their infrastructure and move it over to the Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, a point of interest for both of those organizations is this: the United States Coast Guard, in its history, has moved from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Defense and back again. TSA was stood up by the Department of Transportation, knowing it would go to a Department of Homeland Security or Office of Homeland Security when the time was appropriate.

I mention that because for all intents and purposes, both of those organizations� infrastructures were constructed to be mobile, and moving them over to DHS so quickly was really facilitated by that infrastructure.

We do still provide support to both agencies, but over time, I envision that that will accrue to the Department of Homeland Security, and at least in the Coast Guard�s case, I think they will continue to remain as a stand-alone entity even within the DHS.

Mr. Lawrence: The Department�s slated to move, as you mentioned, into a new building in 2006. What kind of IT challenges does that present?

Mr. Matthews: Well, we talked a little about security in the new building. That will be a new approach in the building. To the existing state of the Department of Transportation, I offer a couple of real quick thoughts here. The first is that we talked about autonomy for each one of those operating agencies.

If I was to take you to the Department of Transportation, I could show you a wiring punch board that would be probably one of the biggest that you have ever seen, and that is an accumulation of the operating agencies� wiring. Next, I could take you to the traditional closets, server closets, and they are spread throughout the Department of Transportation. And then finally, I could take you to what is reported as the 75th largest phone switch in America, and that�s contained in the Department of Transportation. All of that has to be moved to a new building. The new building is designed with a single IT operational facility, so all of that must get into that one location.

What are we doing about it? We�re planning on consolidating. The best time to consolidate is now. Inside the building that we currently own, we need to move everything into that one operational facility, and then when the time comes, we will move that operational facility to the new building. That�s probably the biggest challenge for IT.

There has been conversation by industry and inside the Department that we should just wait until 2006, but to that, I offer this observation: On moving day, everything gets pulled out of closets, off of punch boards, a phone switch, and dropped on the loading dock, and then people turn to the IT group and say here it is. I don�t think that is a recipe for success. Consolidating now is the best way to get us into the new building in two years.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, shifting from a headquarters view to a broader focus, can you tell us a little bit about the regional scope of the DOT and that from an IT and CIO perspective?

Mr. Matthews: Certainly, Ron.

The Department of Transportation operating agencies has regional offices throughout the company. Again, each one of those operating agencies has been autonomous. They have developed their own infrastructure and developed communication lines from each one of those offices back to Washington, D.C.

By and large, that�s been done by the acquisition of a T-1 line or some other telephone line, and if you can just picture a map of the United States and then I start to plot eight modals in perhaps 50 states, all buying T-1 lines in support of this application and that application, the United States map gets colored in real quick.

I think in the future, what we need to do to support those modals is to take and build a national infrastructure across which communication will get concentrated and then delivered, not just to the new headquarters facility, but to every regional office, because they will now be talking on their own wide-area network the way it should be.

Mr. Lawrence: Capital planning and enterprise architecture are two important issues every federal CIO seems to be wrestling with. Could you tell us about your capital planning process and how it went this year?

Mr. Matthews: The capital planning process this year went well. The operating agencies are reviewing their programs. They reported all the infrastructure investments separate, and we�ve gotten a very good look at the IT assets within the Department of Transportation.

Things that we look forward to are getting the process started earlier so that more reviews of operating agency investments can happen, and then to the Investment Review Board, which is a departmental oversight entity, we would look forward to the operating agencies presenting what it is that they are doing to fulfill the mission that has been given to them by Congress.

I believe during those reviews, the Department will find other opportunities to do consolidations to single systems. That review process is already happening inside the Department and in a couple of cases, operating agencies have looked one at the other and said �I did not realize that you were doing that. We ought to get together and talk about it.� I think that�s pretty healthy, and to be honest with you, that�s probably the real heart of what Clinger-Cohen was getting at. So it�s refreshing to see that inside the Department of Transportation.

Now, you�ve given me an opportunity to say for the Department of Transportation, it is the largest department in the government that now has a single financial system for all operating agencies. No other department has done that in the federal government. The Department of Transportation has and is a demonstration of our commitment to meeting not only the letter of the Clinger-Cohen law, but the spirit of it as well. One system delivering the services across the Department. We are actively engaged in moving into a single payroll and personnel system across the Department, and I envision us taking even further steps to consolidate redundant systems.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask you about working the people issues behind that. You described a scenario in your answer where two people worked together and everybody was made better off, but I think when people hear about oversight, they naturally imagine the opposite; gee, by sharing this information with people, somehow my -- I think the term is rice bowl -- will be affected, and therefore, it makes me reluctant to do that even though I know that it would be better if I did these things.

How in DOT have you worked that issue?

Mr. Matthews: For the most part, working rice bowl issues is not a DOT issue. It�s just a fact of life. I do believe that the issue about rice bowls and proprietary approaches to solutions is best addressed by conversation. People will then hear what other people are doing. You can discuss the benefits of doing it a different way. You can discuss the benefits of cooperating with one another and, lo and behold, generally when you do that, the investment starts to go down.

What�s the benefit of the investment going down? More dollars available from infrastructure to support programs is one. I think every single administrator would like to spend every cent that�s available to them for the delivery of their programs. Certainly, as we weed out redundant spending in that infrastructure, CIOs -- the operating agency CIOs -- will have partners in delivering IT to the Department, and without a doubt, that will make IT a simpler proposition inside the Department of Transportation.

Mr. Lawrence: We see government expands to citizens and we rely more heavily on technology to get things done. What do you see as the potential risks and how do you handle it?

Mr. Matthews: Well, your local hacker is probably the biggest risk, and, you know, I�m thinking that we�re doing web implementations these days. I would move that beyond to say the advent of PDAs, indeed as they become ubiquitous, people will want some kind of PDA device to allow them to do interactions with the federal government. Again, security there is going to be a very big issue. E-Government is also going to cause us to study on how best to deliver the service to the citizen. It�s really about delivering a service to the citizen, Paul.

While we can internally say this is the architecture that we want to support, we will forever be doing environmental scanning to figure out where the citizenry -- in essence, our constituents -- where they are going with the technology, and then a real challenge will become meeting that.

Again, you talked a little about the speed of government. That change in delivering service, as citizens want it delivered to them, is another challenge that faces the federal government. Devising a method of doing that will make this particular Department of Transportation a smarter organization in dealing with its citizenry.

Mr. Lawrence: What does the future hold for IT at the Department of Transportation We�ll ask Dan Matthews, CIO of the Department of Transportation, for his thoughts when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I�m Paul Lawrence, and this morning�s conversation is with Dan Matthews, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And joining us in our conversation is Ron Rhodes.

Mr. Rhodes: Dan, the Department�s plans for department-wide enterprise architecture has been continuing. I was wondering if you could comment on this about how that�s been progressing.

Mr. Matthews: The Department�s effort to define the enterprise architecture continues in full swing. The as-is model was completed last fiscal year and the first steps toward a �to-be� are in process as we speak. We have indeed published a modernization blueprint that looks to move us toward that as-is model. Certainly, as we do the investment review process this year, we�ll be looking at those investments and seeing where we can consolidate architecture and get it consistent with our as-is model in the future.

Of course, all agencies have had to do the same process to define their as-is and to-be models for the enterprise architecture. That has been accumulated in the Departmental office so that we now have for the first time a view across the board for what the enterprise architecture looks like, and we look forward to working with that to get us to a single environment that supports both the infrastructure in a consolidated manner, as well as application-specific missions that really deliver a smarter and simpler service to our citizenry.

Mr. Rhodes: Well, your EA modernization blueprint calls for a number of ambitious projects for the DOT. Can you comment about some of those efforts?

Mr. Matthews: Well, I�m going to go back to the comment about the financial system and the payroll-personnel system. The biggest benefit for the Department of Transportation internally will be consolidation to single systems, and I envision that that�s going to go on probably for the next five or so years. It is a very big agency at $60 billion. And across eight operating agencies, and then three other similar-type organizations administratively, that�s going to be a tall project; getting to a consolidated delivery of service.

There is no one project that sticks out in my mind. Certainly, getting to the new building is going to drive a lot of what we do; how we go about working out enterprise-wide licenses and pick up support for application-specific systems in the future is of interest to us, and it should be of interest, quite frankly, Ron, to the industry community to come in and have a conversation about how that is going in the Department of Transportation and how we envision it. Like all agencies, the process is relatively new.

I mentioned earlier that we had a couple of agencies look one at the other and say I didn�t realize you were doing that. That�s a very good sign, and it really is in everyone�s interest to talk not only with the Departmental CIO office, but also those operating agencies, and from that, we will get to an architecture that really delivers benefits to the citizens.

Mr. Lawrence: Each one of those projects you described was large and complex. I think you talked about them taking place across multiple years. What do you worry about when you think about a project that has those characteristics; time, complexity, different groups involved? Because as you were describing the different projects, it wasn�t a series of little projects that you were blowing up. You were multiplying the complexity factor as well, and I couldn�t help but think that there are a lot of things behind those. And I�m curious, what are the big ones you�d worry about?

Mr. Matthews: The two things that stand out in my mind are risk and funding. Those two issues, it just depends on whether it�s an odd day of the week or an even day of the week which one concerns me more; funding or risk..

Funding, of course, is always a question. The United States is currently spending a lot of money for systems work and other budgetary resource requirements. So it gets our undivided attention when we go through the budget process.

The risk side has many threads to it. Trying to do too much with technology sometimes dooms a project. Certainly, if Congress appropriates a sum of money and we get into trouble on a project and overspend that, that is not good, and then another consideration is how do we go about keeping the projects on schedule? Any project off of its schedule, it is just going to consume money and you�re going to be spending a lot of time explaining why you�re off schedule. So those issues are really overriding issues in my mind.

At every investment review conversation, we do spend time talking about that risk component, and we want to know how we�re going to manage it, what we think the risks are, and how best to go about mitigating those, even if we have to back off of the technology edge one step.

Mr. Lawrence: You�ve almost completed your first year as CIO at DOT. What does the future hold for the Department of Transportation?

Mr. Matthews: Well, technology-wise, Paul, I think -- I�ll give you a good story here. This conversation today has focused on the internal use of technology at the Department of Transportation, and the Department is very busy in that regard. The fact of the matter is the transportation system in America touches 10 percent of the economy. Our economy is $10 trillion. That means $1 trillion revolves around the transportation system in the United States.

We started this hour, you asked what the mission was, and I discussed that a safe and efficient transportation system has always been the mission of the Department of Transportation. Well, that is true. Transportation today is getting much smarter on the highways.

For instance, the use of OnStar-type systems allows commuters to communicate anywhere on the globe through a help desk, if you will. I see that that technology can be expanded upon so that the movement of goods can be tracked in the United States.

There is no reason that we cannot have a smart highway system. There is conversation in the marketplace about how do we get vehicles to communicate with road infrastructure. How do we get locations of vehicles? How do we get people expedited through security checkpoints and those type activities? The Department has an intelligent transportation system effort going on internally to look at that.

What do I think technology holds? I believe those technologies, reaching out to the citizens, is something that the Department of Transportation needs to focus on in the future.

Mr. Lawrence: You�ve had an interesting career, and even though you�ve been in the private sector a lot, you�ve been working doing public service and you�ve also been in the public sector doing it as well. So my question for you would be what advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in public service?

Mr. Matthews: Well, my suggestion would be don�t think about it; jump in there and have at it. It�s really exciting.

I mentioned earlier that when I came into the federal government I was struck by how the employees working at the Department of Transportation were committed to the citizens of the U.S. That is a very fulfilling feeling, and I would encourage people to do service. I also would note that taking that service to industry or vice versa is something that needs to happen, that is also rewarding to the individual.

I believe more people who have served in industry, working in the government, is good for the government, and I believe more people who have served in the government going out into industry is good for the industry. All of it, of course, is for that same old Clinger-Cohen clich�: It is service to the citizen. It doesn�t matter whether you�re in the government or a government contractor trying to deliver services through the government. It�s all for the same constituency, the citizen of the U.S.

Mr. Lawrence: That�s a good closing point. Dan, I�m afraid we�re out of time. Ron and I want to thank you for joining us this morning.

Mr. Matthews: Well, Ron, Paul, I�m delighted that you invited me. I really enjoyed the hour. You�re right; it has flown by. And for those of you that are interested in the Department of Transportation, I would encourage you to come learn more at www.dot.gov. Thanks.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Dan.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Dan Matthews, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research. You can also get a transcript of today�s fascinating conversation. Once again, that�s businessofgovernment.org.

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Dan Matthews interview
03/13/2004
Dan Matthews

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