'Glued together' at NSF

The National Science Foundation launched an advisory committee late last month that will bring together the agency's chief information officer and chief financial officer to focus on meeting the agency's strategic goals.

This is the first effort at the agency to produce synergy on the administrative side, said Linda Massaro, NSF's CIO and director of NSF's Office of Information and Resource Management.

The Business and Operations Advisory Committee, which includes members from industry, universities, the research community and NSF, convened for the first time last month. The committee is expected to run for three years and advise the CIO and CFO on cutting-edge technology, workforce planning, best practices and other issues.

"The business of NSF won't happen unless business practices work," said Joseph Bordogna, deputy director of NSF, in his introductory remarks. "I believe it's the first time a federal CIO and CFO have glued together like this."

NSF awards grants for scientific, engineering and technology research.

As NSF starts providing more Web-based services, such as its FastLane system for applying for grants, it will become more important for the CIO and the CFO to work to improve business processes, Bordogna said.

Meanwhile, the federal CIO Council, the CFO Council and the Procurement Executives Council have been discussing ways to approach e-government initiatives across functional boundaries. The Treasury Department is considering creating a CXO Council.

"A united front is quite critical, and there's growing recognition [and] acceptance of that fact," said Alan Balutis, executive director and chief operating officer for the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils and FGIPC's Industry Advisory Council.

Selection and review of information technology investments need involvement from both parties because many agencies have systems that are over budget and behind schedule, he said.

The NSF CIO's office is working on a five-year plan and needs the support of the CFO's office to fund its initiatives, Massaro said.

"In the last two years, we've worked together more to make the case for funding to the director and deputy director," said Thomas Cooley, NSF's CFO and director of the Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management. "If the CIO and CFO go to the director as a unified front, it is much more effective."

For instance, the CIO's office has received funding for two prototype e-business rooms to help make the proposal submission, review and award process electronic.

Barry White, director of government performance projects at the Council for Excellence in Government, said deciding who is in charge isn't always obvious.

"I don't think there's a rule, hard and fast, for this, but what's absolutely essential is to have those senior officers have a comfortable working relationship so you don't have the turf issue come up every time," White said.

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