Editorial: Charting an organization

Homeland Security Department officials told lawmakers late last month that the agency's chief financial officer has always reported to the head of the agency, even though the DHS organizational chart says otherwise. If so, we hope the agency will update its organizational chart — and we note that the chief information officer is still not quite so lucky.

It is important to understand why financial management matters. Having clean, auditable books is all well and good, but that is a byproduct of good financial practices. The real benefit is having accurate data that managers can use to make decisions about running their agencies and programs. It is an essential management tool.

That is also why the detail about the organizational chart is significant. Organizational charts, outside themselves, are not important. In many cases, they are a bureaucratic requirement. But, like budgets, they are needed because state an organization's priorities.

At a hearing last month, Janet Hale, DHS' undersecretary for management, said, "Of all the things we do in the department, charts may not be our strength." And with all due respect, nobody wants DHS to get good at organizational charts.

The Clinger-Cohen and the Chief Financial Officers acts stipulate that the CIO and CFO, respectively, should report to the head of the agency because lawmakers believed that IT and financial management are important to government operations and that they are priorities.

IT and financial management are not and should not be the mission of government agencies. Yet both are critical and essential to enabling agencies to accomplish their missions. That is why those posts deserve a seat at the table.

Also, we want to offer kudos to Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Government Management, Finance and Accountability Subcommittee, who is largely responsible for the CFO change. Financial management and information technology are not sexy issues, and they do not garner votes in central Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Platts has been a force pushing DHS and the federal government to focus on financial management issues.

— Christopher J. Dorobek

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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