CIOs' input needed

Nearly six years after the Clinger-Cohen Act was signed into law, setting the stage to reform federal information technology management and establish chief information officers at federal agencies, CIOs still are trying to elbow their way into the top managerial ranks in agencies. It's about time that they have a seat, and a prominent one at that, at agencies' top managerial tables.

As pointed out by numerous CIOs at FCW Media Group's Government CIO Summit this month, CIOs still struggle to have their voices heard when top agency managers create sweeping business plans or policies. As one CIO pointed out, his position wasn't even on the agency's organizational chart.

It's been a long struggle. One week after President Clinton signed the Clinger-Cohen Act into law on Aug. 8, 1996, one of the congressional authors of the law worried that the administration was not "focusing on the importance of the CIO."

CIOs' lack of influence is doubly disconcerting given that President Bush's management agenda calls for agencies to "make the government a 'click and mortar' enterprise," according to Bush's fiscal 2003 budget request. And as pointed out by a senior Bush administration official, the other four topics in the agenda — strategic management of the workforce, competitive sourcing, improved financial performance, and budget and performance integration — all require strong IT components.

Mark Forman, Bush's chief e-government architect, and his team at the Office of Management and Budget have done a lot to raise the profile of IT and the CIO's role. But the message has not made it into agency secretaries' offices, CIOs say. Too often the CIO has no clout to truly help reform business processes, and policies are made without consulting the CIO or after the fact, when reform proposals are already on paper.

Without the chance to be a part of the team that decides how to reform government, IT failures and disappointments will continue. Including CIOs in the decision-making process will increase the probability of success for government reforms.

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