Whither the CIO?

WHITHER THE CIO? Fifteen years after the Clinger-Cohen Act directed agencies to designate or hire CIOs, people are asking yet again whether that provision of the law has ever fulfilled its potential — or whether it's time to update the law to give CIOs more authority.

The question has come up periodically over the years, especially early on when many CIOs found themselves left out of the decision-making process at their agencies. That situation has improved, at least at some agencies, but the question remains.

The Obama administration raised it late last year with the release of its 25-point plan to reform IT management. One of the plan's goals is to strengthen CIOs so that they can provide better oversight of large IT programs. But what would it take to re-energize the CIO?

Reporter Alyah Khan put the question to CIOs past and present, focusing on key issues that come up in every CIO discussion: Should CIOs be political appointees or career feds? Does Clinger-Cohen need to be updated or would policy changes suffice? And is budget authority a must-have? Not to ruin the suspense, but the answer to the last question is a resounding yes.

This issue’s column by Brand Niemann is bound to make CIOs more than a little uncomfortable. Niemann, who was a pioneer in Gov 2.0 technology during his days at the Environmental Protection Agency, argues that the best way to advance the state of technology in government is to encourage innovative employees to come up with solutions rather than futilely waiting for the bureaucracy to get into the act. 

Vivek Kundra apparently was thinking along the same lines last month when he suggested offering each federal employee a $2,000 subsidy to buy his or her own smart phone or other mobile device rather than going through agency channels. But numerous FCW readers wrote in to explain why that was a bad idea. 

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

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