Clinger-Cohen: Time for an update?

Many people believe the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 gives agency CIOs sufficient authority, but at least one prominent Senate lawmaker isn’t so sure.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) recently asked the Government Accountability Office to assess the statutory framework for CIOs and evaluate potential modifications to enhance the authority of CIOs.

“In 2011, it will be 15 years since the enactment of Clinger-Cohen and more than six years since GAO completed work on this topic; however, challenges in implementing and overseeing major information technology investments still persist,” Collins wrote in a Feb. 12 letter to GAO. “Specifically, the position of CIOs is not equally respected across the federal government and according to a recent survey, CIOs still lack adequate resources to achieve technology efficiencies and improve organization performance.”

Collins, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in the letter that she is interested in learning about proposed legislative improvements to the existing law.

Per Collins’ request, GAO has begun a study to examine the roles and responsibilities of agency CIOs, said Charles Young, GAO’s managing director of public affairs.

Young said GAO is obtaining information from CIOs at 30 federal agencies and will hold a panel discussion with former CIOs March 22. The former CIOs will be asked to share their views regarding the statutory responsibilities given to federal CIOs, lessons learned in managing IT, and areas in which changes might be made to enhance CIOs’ authority and effectiveness.

A spokesperson for Collins said GAO is expected to report on its findings sometime this summer, and those findings will determine the next steps, such as a hearing or legislation.

The idea of updating Clinger-Cohen isn’t new, but it didn’t have much momentum without a champion on Capitol Hill, observers say. Now that Collins is taking the lead on the issue, the debate about CIOs is far from finished.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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