CIO program expanded

The General Services Administration, the CIO Council and other federal and industry groups have begun to expand a program serving the interests and needs of smaller-level agency information technology leaders.

GSA last year started the IT Leadership Roundtable as a forum for CIOs and other IT executives at agencies that do not have a seat on the 68-member CIO Council. Independent agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and offices within departments or executive agencies, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy, are members of the roundtable.

The roundtable seeks to increase the visibility of these less conspicuous CIOs to highlight their concerns and ideas and improve their participation in the larger community of federal IT executives, said Joan Steyaert, deputy associate administrator at the GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy's Office of Information Technology. These smaller agencies may not have the large budgets or sweeping policy power of the departments of Commerce or Treasury, but their CIOs are dealing with the same IT problems as the larger agencies, she said.

"Many of the bureaus are struggling with the very same issues—security, work force, training—but in some ways it's more immediate because they are closer to their users," she said.

In the past month, GSA has started working with the CIO Council, the Industry Advisory Council and other groups to bring the smaller-agency CIOs into federal IT meetings, seminars and conferences. Those CIOs are usually either left out of such events or given token representation, depriving both sides of what could be valuable interaction, Steyaert said.

The CIO Council already has committees to discuss security, work force, training and other issues facing the federal IT community. But only two smaller-agency representatives have a seat on the council, making it difficult for the needs of smaller agencies to be heard or considered. Providing a forum for these CIOs to gather and compare notes on programs and initiatives is helpful, Steyaert said.

"I felt that there really wasn't a community for this group when I got to GSA," she said. "And a lot of these folks will be in their positions longer than the department-level CIOs, so this is a very important community that we could reach out to."

Four or five CIOs at one time have attended the roundtables, which are held almost every week. The meetings have been fairly informal exchanges of ideas and a place to meet people in similar situations. "I get a real good working knowledge of what their interests are, and they get to network with each other and compare notes," Steyaert said.

But the goal over the next year is to encourage these CIOs to participate in the larger federal IT community and give them more opportunity to find out about resources and people that can help them improve the way they do their jobs.

"I think there is a lot of interest at the agencies, and I think it could be a valuable counterpart to the federal CIO Council," said Alan Balutis, co-chairman of the council's outreach committee and deputy CIO at Commerce.

The CIO Council is working directly with Steyaert and her office to reach out to bureaus that have concerns that parallel what the CIO Council is working on. Balutis and Jim Flyzik, vice chairman of the council and Treasury CIO, are talking with Steyaert and other groups such as the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) that focus on the smaller agencies.

The council sees these smaller agencies as a key resource if the initiatives the council is pushing are to be put in place throughout government. "A lot of the things that you would need to do to implement some of the stuff the council is doing needs to be implemented at the bureau and small agency level," Balutis said.

Steyaert and her office have been working with AFFIRM, FOSE, the Industry Advisory Council and other federal and industry groups to get the CIOs invited as speakers to the groups' federal conferences and seminars.

GSA also is working with those groups to put together events specifically tailored for the smaller-agency CIOs, giving them opportunities to get together in a setting larger than around a table, Steyaert said. Discussions also are under way with Gartner Group and other industry research firms to hold briefings on the latest technologies.

"I've had great comments from a number of [the roundtable attendees] that this is the first time that they've been invited to anything," Steyaert said.

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