Hawaii's Bhagowalia returns to federal government


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When Sonny Bhagowalia left for the Hawaiian Islands more than three years ago after a distinguished career in the federal government, there was always the feeling that some day Washington, D.C., would lure him back.

And now that day has finally come.

Bhagowalia, who served as the first chief information officer in Hawaii’s history and led a radical and successful modernization project of the state’s information technology systems, begins Monday as the CIO at the federal government’s Treasury Department.

“Over the past three years, Sonny has helped Hawaii leapfrog from the back of the pack in technology and cybersecurity to the front of the line and we are now one of best in the country,” Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement. “Under Sonny’s leadership, our government transformation program has garnered an unprecedented 25 national awards, including last week’s announcement of his 2014 Enterprise Architecture (EA) Hall of Fame Award for Individual Leadership in EA Practice, Promotion and Professionalization.”

With Abercrombie’s backing, Bhagowalia led Hawaii on a massive transformation effort that pulled the state out of the technology dark ages and out onto the cutting edge.

Some of the highlights of Bhagowalia’s tenure include:

  • Aligning business and IT through four key programs (enterprise resource planning, tax, health IT and business process re-engineering).
  • Strengthening the state’s critical security and technology infrastructure through four key programs (consolidated infrastructure, enterprise shared services, enterprise security/privacy and the Hawaii Broadband Initiative).
  • Implementing transparency and accountability through two key programs (open government and governance).

“Sonny laid down the command line of our information technology (IT) transformation, and today our state has a sound roadmap outlined in our IT Transformation Plan. Now in the third year of the 12-year plan, we have successfully completed much of the groundwork necessary to move ahead with the implementation phase,” Abercrombie said.

As those initiatives took hold, Bhagowalia took a reduced role in the state, becoming the cybersecurity adviser for Abercrombie, while hand picking Keone Kali to be his successor atop the state’s Office of Information Management and Technology.

“We have the right plans and have completed many projects, thanks to his invaluable leadership and the cooperation of the extended technology and cybersecurity ohana,” Abercrombie said, using a Hawaiian word for family. “Because of him, we are now on the right track, charting and navigating the course to success for the future of Hawaii and its citizens.”

Bhagowalia’s last job with the federal government before heading to Hawaii was as an associate administrator in the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, and he previously served as CIO of the Interior Department as well as in technology leadership positions at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI.

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Hawaii, Sonny Bhagowalia, States