CIOs need more budget power, VA's Baker urges

Consolidated appropriations would improve IT management

Roger Baker has made plenty of news in the past 18 months for the way he has managed IT as CIO at the Veterans Affairs Department.

He has frozen projects, reworked others and even canceled some in an attempt to bring VA’s IT spending under control. The results have included better security, shorter development times for systems and the transformation of the IT department into a customer-focused organization.

His actions helped him win the Government Computer News Civilian Agency IT Executive of the Year award, which he received at the 23rd annual GCN Gala Oct. 27.

But Baker didn't use his time on stage to pat himself on the back. Instead, he seized the opportunity to issue a call to action to empower all CIOs.

Baker’s success at VA stems from the fact that he has unprecedented budget power for a CIO: He oversees a $3.3 billion budget and 7,000 IT workers.

VA’s success should be a lesson to the rest of government, he said. Because VA has a consolidated IT appropriation, it allows Baker and his staff to force changes.

“Money is power in the government,” he said. “Money is love.”

All kidding aside, Baker added: “The consolidated IT appropriation is absolutely essential to driving real change in the IT results of an agency.”

CIOs at all federal departments should have authority over their IT budgets, he added. “The results at VA, the second largest federal agency, speak for themselves,” Baker said. “Empower CIOs to make real change happen.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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Reader comments

Fri, Oct 29, 2010 Gary Christopherson Washington, DC

As a former head of multi-billion dollar federal organizations and a former Chief Information Officer (CIO), I grow weary of CIOs complaining over their lack of control over budgets. I grow weary of the adversarial relationship many CIOs create. If CIOs spent more time partnering and collaborating with agency management, programs and business operations, they would find a much more effective way to create and sustain effective information systems at a reasonable cost on mutually acceptable timelines. IT systems are effective “screwdrivers” in helping agencies deliver on their missions and bring about positive change. But they are only that. They are only a potentially effective means to an end -- the achievement of the agency’s mission. In the case of VA, that mission is taking care of veterans by improving and maintaining health, delivering benefits and honoring their passing and service. CIOs need to quit complaining, need to quit fighting over consolidated budgets, and need to do their jobs and do them well. Gary Christopherson

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