New guidelines help agencies tailor CIOs

The Office of Management and Budget plans to give agencies broad latitude to appoint new chief information officers so they can tailor the job to fit agency needs.

Bruce McConnell, chief of the OMB Information Policy Branch, said an upcoming memo to agencies will describe the role CIOs should play according to the recently enacted Cohen Act.

"The basic message is that agencies have a lot of flexibility in terms of the salary and position of the CIO, so long as they comply with the statute," he said. "We don't think one size fits all."

The new law, which takes effect Aug. 8, requires most agencies to appoint a CIO who will assess their information technology needs and oversee the development and management of their systems. The OMB memo, which has been distributed to agencies in draft form, is one of several steps the government is taking to carry out the law.

In addition, OMB plans to propose amendments to its Circular A-130 that will describe what CIOs must do to carry out their responsibilities. Included, McConnell said, will be regulations based partly on a guide evaluating agencies' IT budget proposals that OMB issued last fall.

The guide emphasizes justifying the need for systems based on the benefits they will provide to an agency's mission-related goals.

The Industry Advisory Council has created a task force, headed by Renato DiPentima, the CIO of SRA Corp., to advise OMB about how CIOs operate in the private sector.

At a recent hearing before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, DiPentima told lawmakers that one of the primary functions of a CIO's job should be to ensure that systems can deliver measurable benefits. Many current and former federal officials believe the creation of the CIO positions will encourage this approach by raising the profile of IT in the government.

While OMB develops its guidance for CIOs, an interagency group of current CIOs headed by General Services Administration CIO Joe Thompson is drafting what it thinks should be a model job description for the position. An early version of the proposal suggests the CIO should be an Executive Level IV position with practical experience planning, buying and managing systems and software development.

McConnell also said President Clinton will issue an executive order next month formalizing several interagency groups that oversee IT systems and policy.

The order will create a new CIO Council made up of the agency-appointed CIOs and will reconstitute the Information Technology Acquisition Review Board (ITARB) and the Government Information Technology Services (GITS) working group.

ITARB will evaluate major agency systems and advise OMB on its progress. GITS will get a new, yet-to-be-determined name but will continue its work developing interagency IT programs and policies.


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