• Are government CIO’s becoming an endangered species

    August 10th, 2011 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

    TechLeader.TV friend and the former U.S. Commerce CIO Alan Balutis writes a provocative column in Federal Computer Week recently entitled:  CIO: Really, sincerely dead?

    His observations should have real resonance for state & local government CIO’s as well. A few highlights:

    CIOs “are ill-defined positions that haven’t worked well in the 15 years since they were created,” I wrote a year ago. “The uneven organizational placement, the constant turnover and the lack of authority have all combined to render the overall positions…incapable of bringing about the change the Clinger-Cohen Act envisioned.”

    Balutis goes on to say that his position seems to have been confirmed by an about to be released U.S.  Government Accountability Office report: “Federal Chief Information Officers: Opportunities Exist to Improve Role in Information Technology Management.”

    So what did GAO auditors find? They discovered that, by and large, the position of the CIO is a far cry from what the Clinger-Cohen Act envisioned. Specifically:

    CIOs do not consistently have responsibility for 13 major areas of IT and information management as defined by law or deemed critical to effective IT management.

    CIOs are often not responsible for key duties such as records management and compliance with privacy requirements.

    Tenure in CIO positions has remained steady at about two years.

    Slightly more than half of CIOs report directly to the head of their respective agencies as required by the Clinger-Cohen Act.

    CIOs do not always have sufficient control over IT investments, and they often have limited influence over the IT workforce and component-level CIOs via hiring and firing decisions.

    Most telling perhaps is that most CIOs have limited control and influence over IT budgets. At a time when tighter budgets could lead to government doing less with less — and at a time when technology could be a powerful enabler — it is troubling to find, as GAO has, that CIOs have not been empowered to be successful.

    This final sentence “at a time when technology could be a powerful enabler” also confirms TechLeader.TV’s position in an earlier post yesterday deploring the Brown Administration’s decision to prohibit all new IT Project funding, as we put it,  “they would categorically, unilaterally and blindly eliminate all new technology initiatives regardless of their potential for addressing the bottom line”.

    Balutis concludes with this interesting reference to TLTV friend and guest Teri Takai, former California CIO, and a warning:

    Let’s hope that the Office of Management and Budget and the senators who requested the study act on its findings and recommendations.

    But they will need to act soon. The commissioner of the Social Security Administration, citing budget pressures and the need to reduce costs, recently abolished the agency’s CIO office, moved its responsibilities to several other offices and accepted the resignation of the incumbent appointee. And in one of his last memos at the Defense Department, recently retired Secretary Robert Gates ordered CIO Teri Takai to come up with a plan to reconfigure the Networks and Information Integration office into “into a smaller and more focused and strengthened CIO office that…achieves savings from eliminating functions that are duplicative and no longer necessary.”

    The CIO position appears to no longer be the presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position it was under previous secretaries, certainly the mark of a downgraded status in the department. What’s next?

    Good question. What’s next?

    Here’s Alan’s earlier article about the state of federal CIO with a curious but appropriate title as you will see: The Munchkin Coroner Concludes…

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