Outsourcing CIO post poses questions

The Army Reserve went outside its own agency— way outside— to find a suitable candidate for its chief information officer post.

In a unique twist in the government's ongoing struggle to fill its CIO positions, the Reserve outsourced its CIO function to Unisys Corp., tapping Dennis Kelly, former Information Technology Omnibus Procurement deputy program officer, for the post.

It is an unusual situation to say the least. As interim CIO, the Unisys employee is charged with acting as a government employee, carrying out all the functions of the CIO, including working with the agency head to outline how information systems will help the agency carry out its mission. His nongovernment-employee status, however, renders him unable to commit federal resources, and his relationship to a vendor necessitates a strict separation between his CIO functions and any other business done by the company.

We applaud the Reserve's unconventional approach to problem-solving and its willingness to fill the CIO position with the best available candidate. Nevertheless, we are concerned that at a time when many are calling for more focused duties and greater authority for CIOs, the Army Reserve is handing the function over to private industry, thereby limiting the authority of its own CIO office. One could even argue that the CIO function is inherently governmental and therefore not subject to outsourcing.

Whatever the outcome, the lesson is clear: As agencies continue to struggle to integrate the CIO function into the day-to-day business of the agency, keeping an open mind and thinking "outside the box" remains an essential part of the process.

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