Clinger-Cohen gets mixed marks after five years

In the five years since the ClingerCohen Act became law, it has revolutionized the way the government buys and manages technology

In the five years since the Clinger-Cohen Act became law, it has revolutionized the way the government buys and manages technology. But the changes at federal agencies have been more evolutionary than revolutionary, say some government officials.

Implementation has been uneven across government, said David McClure, the General Accounting Office's associate director of governmentwide and defense information systems.

But Paul Brubaker, who helped draw up the bill, said agencies have all but failed to carry out the management reforms envisioned by the legislation. The government has made great strides in reforming how information technology is bought; however, many of the management reforms prescribed in the seminal IT management law have not been realized, said Brubaker, who recently left his post as Defense Department deputy chief information officer for a private-sector job.

Although he largely praised the IT procurement reforms, giving them a "B or B-minus," Brubaker was more critical of the management provisions.

"I'd give it an F-plus," said Brubaker, who was a staff member for then-Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) when the Clinger-Cohen Act was approved in February 1996. "There are some pockets of genius out there," but they are the exception.

"We're not making the hard decisions based on business analysis," said Bru-baker, who spoke at a conference sponsored by the Potomac Forum Ltd. of Potomac, Md. The failures are largely due to inadequate leadership and an entrenched culture, he said, adding that in many cases, agency CIOs lack the authority to carry out the provisions of the law as intended.

The Clinger-Cohen Act instructed agencies to treat technology as an investment and said agencies should tie those investments to actual results. In addition to calling for agencies to appoint CIOs, the act requires agencies to create capital planning processes and architectures that guide IT buys. Other officials gave agencies mixed reviews on Clinger-Cohen implementation, although most said Brubaker's assessment was overly critical.

Many of the problems that existed when the law was implemented still exist today, said Interior Department CIO Daryl White, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Capital Planning and IT Management Committee.

Jasmeet Seehra, a policy analyst for the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, gave the government a "gentleman's C" overall, and acknowledged that progress has been patchy.

Although nearly every organization has a CIO, that person's role has not yet been fully integrated within all organizations, Seehra said, and nearly every agency has capital planning processes in place. But many agencies are still not using those processes to make better decisions about how they buy and use technology, she said.

White noted that CIOs have not been given all of the tools necessary to do their job effectively. "We have all the responsibility," he said, but do not have all of the powers that were specified in the Clinger-Cohen Act.

The Agriculture Department's acting CIO, Ira Hobbs, said that despite the hurdles, there have been many accomplishments over the last five years. Agencies are working together on projects such as the FirstGov Web portal, he said, and "in spite of the leadership issues, we are getting things done."

Dorobek is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

NEXT STORY: Plunge shows value of diversifying

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.