CIOs need more budget power, VA's Baker urges

Consolidated appropriations would improve IT management

Roger Baker has made plenty of news in the past 18 months for the way he has managed IT as CIO at the Veterans Affairs Department.

He has frozen projects, reworked others and even canceled some in an attempt to bring VA’s IT spending under control. The results have included better security, shorter development times for systems and the transformation of the IT department into a customer-focused organization.

His actions helped him win the Government Computer News Civilian Agency IT Executive of the Year award, which he received at the 23rd annual GCN Gala Oct. 27.

But Baker didn't use his time on stage to pat himself on the back. Instead, he seized the opportunity to issue a call to action to empower all CIOs.

Baker’s success at VA stems from the fact that he has unprecedented budget power for a CIO: He oversees a $3.3 billion budget and 7,000 IT workers.

VA’s success should be a lesson to the rest of government, he said. Because VA has a consolidated IT appropriation, it allows Baker and his staff to force changes.

“Money is power in the government,” he said. “Money is love.”

All kidding aside, Baker added: “The consolidated IT appropriation is absolutely essential to driving real change in the IT results of an agency.”

CIOs at all federal departments should have authority over their IT budgets, he added. “The results at VA, the second largest federal agency, speak for themselves,” Baker said. “Empower CIOs to make real change happen.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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