CIOs get high-level face time

Chief information officers at dozens of federal agencies believe they are gradually gaining influence among their agencies' top decision-makers. However, they say they still lack adequate authority over budgets and agency organization.

In response to a survey, 37 senior information technology executives at civilian and defense agencies said they had more frequent and better access to their agency chiefs during 2000. Some said they thought their stature had improved because they successfully managed the dreaded Year 2000 computer date rollover problem. Others attributed the change to agency reorganizations.

The reports of rising stature among CIOs emerged during an annual survey conducted by the Information Technology Association of America. CIOs were interviewed last summer so their responses do not reflect the changes brought by the transition in presidential administrations.

For example, most CIOs surveyed said they favored appointing a cabinet-level federal CIO to focus the government's IT agenda and manage a budget for achieving IT goals. But the Bush administration has ruled out creating such a position in favor of giving a deputy director in the Office of Management and Budget collateral duty as federal IT chief.

When surveyed in 1999, most agency CIOs did not favor appointing a federal CIO, but by mid-2000 "a solid majority" concluded that a strong federal CIO was needed to generate the support—and funding—needed to make e-government a reality, said Paul Wohlleben, who headed the ITAA survey. Wohlleben, formerly a senior government IT official, is a partner in the accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP.

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