Editorial: Getting the power

We were pleased to learn this month that the Navy is transforming the way it manages its information technology infrastructure by centralizing oversight of warfighting and business systems spending.

We have ranted in recent months about the importance of incorporating IT in agencies' senior leadership teams. Most recently, we chided agencies for failing to illustrate on their organizational charts how IT enables them to fulfill their missions.

Given IT managers' lack of clout at most agencies, it's no wonder that mission-critical functions such as information sharing continue to be a quandary.

But few things are more motivating than the power of the purse strings. When he was in Congress, former Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) had a long-running quixotic campaign to bisect the Office of Management and Budget: one organization would focus on budget and the other would focus on management. He argued that the budget takes so much of OMB's time, energy and effort that the agency cannot devote adequate attention to management issues.

OMB officials counter that the power of the purse allows them to sway agencies on management issues by tying them to the budget.

That argument, however, has not carried through to agencies.

Mark Mohler, assistant deputy director of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations-IT, said few chief information officers have complete budget authority.

At most agencies, IT managers can create policies and standards, but they don't control the budgets.

Mohler and the IT naval operations team now shoulders the burden of demonstrating that linking budget and management can work.

By giving senior IT leaders budget authority, agencies come closer to making them meaningful members of their management teams. They also empower IT leaders to more effectively accomplish their jobs.

— Christopher J. Dorobek

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.

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