Letter: Past GAO advice on CMOs is flawed

Regarding "Breul: CMO idea could stick around"

By suggesting that the Government Accountability Office's chief management officer (CMO) idea represents a "possible solution" to the government's management problems, Jonathan Breul is ignoring the fact that past GAO advice in this area has proven to be flawed.

The CFO Act of 1990 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, respectively, created "chief financial officers" and "chief information officers" across the government. Both laws were passed by the Congress largely, if not entirely, in response to GAO arguments at the time that the creation of such positions would "elevate attention paid to management issues, integrate various transformational efforts, and institutionalize accountability," as Mr. Breul puts it, in an impressive imitation of GAO-speak. The problem is that we now have more than 10 years of history showing that the CFO and CIO ideas don't work. (If they did, we why do we now need to create CMOs?)

Perhaps the problem lies not so much in the need to put senior executives in charge as it does in giving them the freedom they need to find their own solutions. Following the GAO's longstanding advice, the CFO and Clinger-Cohen laws call for the production of external financial statements and the development of "enterprise architectures" as the keys to successful reform. But, once again, we now have more than 10 years of experience showing that neither of those approaches, despite their rhetorical appeal, will ever produce any real effectiveness or efficiency results of value. (Again, if they did, why do we now need CMOs?

If the hands of the new CMOs coming into the government continue to be tied by the reform approaches demanded by the CFO and Clinger-Cohen acts, those new CMOs will fail for the same reasons their CFO and CIO brethren have failed: because of what has proven to be very bad management advice from the GAO.

Christopher Hanks

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