Hill probes IT management
- By Diane Frank
- Apr 17, 2000
Four years after Congress passed a law requiring top IT managers to defend
spending tens of billion of dollars on information technology every year,
two senators have asked agencies to show how well they have complied.
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee, and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the committee's ranking member,
sent letters to 24 agencies early this month asking for details on how
they've responded to the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.
"It was really a question of looking at our agenda here on the committee,
and the things we were looking at, and realizing that it's been four years
since the passage of Clinger-Cohen," said a committee aide. "We really intend
this to be the first real hard look at the implementation of the act."
The committee has asked agencies to provide written responses, with
supporting documents, by May 18 and plans to hold hearings on the topic
once all the reports are in.
The committee's questions focus on Clinger-Cohen's central provisions:
the role of the CIO within the agency, the benefits received from IT capital
planning and investment, and the overall ability to link IT to specific
Some of the questions are very detailed, following closely the steps
outlined in the act. For example, the senators ask agencies to identify
their top 10 IT investment initiatives, how they decided to make those investments
and how those investments have improved the agencies' ability to carry out
"I think it is a very significant and reasonable manifestation of the
last year's looking at government as an entity that has to be performance-based
and accountable for results," said Bert Concklin, president of the Professional
Services Council. "The questions are excellent and are direct descendants
of the intent and the requirements set up in the Clinger-Cohen Act."
Agency executives said that while the new initiative would require a
lot of work, it was not unexpected.
"We consider the Clinger-Cohen Act that created the CIOs a very important
act, so it is not surprising that the Senate would look into what has happened
since it was passed," said Linda Massaro, CIO of the National Science Foundation.
"I'm real happy that they are looking at this," said Roger Baker, CIO
of the Commerce Department. "One of the issues that is out there is how
well agencies are really implementing the basics of Clinger-Cohen."
Though CIO offices only received the letter late last week, some agencies,
including the Education Department, have already given the committee staff
Some of the larger department officials, who need to gather information
from many bureaus and centers, said they did not know if they could complete
the responses by the May 18 deadline.
But agencies should not see this as something to be afraid of, said
Steven Kelman, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy
from 1993 to 1997 and now Weatherhead Professor of Public Management at
Harvard's Ken-nedy School of Government.
"CIOs should welcome this letter. It's for the good of all of us that
we take the management of IT as an investment seriously," he said. "I think
that folks in the agencies should see this as an opportunity. I don't see
this as a "gotcha' exercise, and the agencies should not treat it as such."