Federal OMB Directs Agencies to Expand CIO Powers

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bill Gerneglia

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Federal chief information officers should have more responsibility ( I am sure private sector CIOs would agree with this notion as well), this is according to the US Federal Office of Management and Budget in an Aug. 8 memo.

The memo was signed by OMB Director Jack Lew and it outlines four areas where agency CIOs should have a lead role.

These include the following:

  • Governance
  • Commodity IT
  • Program Management
  • Information Security

Lew does not cite legislation or an executive order that would change the role of the CIO as currently implemented in federal agencies, but he does point to the 25 point plan for reforming IT that OMB released in December 2010. He views this as the next logical step in the execution of that IT grand plan.

In the plan it is explicitly stated that there should be a concerted effort for federal CIOs to drive federal agencies' IT investment review process through what are known as TechStat meetings. In addition, the CIO should be directed to  "have responsibility over the entire IT portfolio for an agency."

What Lew means by "responsibility," he does not explicitly say. Whether it means that an agency CIO must have direct control over the IT spend or whether an agency CIO's review of proposed spending for compliance with an agency enterprise architecture is a sufficient degree of responsibility.

This expansion of the role of the CIO at the federal level is seen as essential by outgoing Federal CIO Kundra in order to drive desired cost savings and ROI through specific programs like the data center consolidation program as well as the migration of applications to the cloud.

When it comes to commodity IT, the memo says agency CIOs shall eliminate duplication across agency components in spending areas such as data centers, networks, cybersecurity, web infrastructure and business systems.

As for program management, Lew says agency CIOs shall identify, recruit and hire their own IT program managers. They shall also conduct a formal performance evaluation of component CIOs. "CIOs will be held accountable for the performance of IT program managers," the memo stats again without specifically detailing how that accountability will be enforced.

In the area of information security, Lew says agency CIOs shall have authority and primary responsibility for an agency-wide cybersecurity program that is supported by CyberStat session run by the Homeland Security Department.

What is TechStat?

On June 30, 2009, the Federal CIO - Vivek Kundra at the time - launched the IT Dashboard, which allows the American people to monitor IT investments across the Federal government.

If a program is over budget or behind schedule, the IT Dashboard tells you that, and by how much. The IT Dashboard also provides contact information for the person responsible, the agency CIO, and allows the public to provide feedback.

On January 13, 2010 the Federal CIO Kundra held the first TechStat Accountability Session (or more simply, TechStat). A TechStat is a face-to-face, evidence-based review of an IT program, undertaken with OMB and agency leadership, powered by the IT Dashboard and input from the American people.

In each TechStat session, the team works together to carefully examine program data, with a focus on problem solving that will lead to concrete action to improve overall performance.

Cross-posted from CIO Zone

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