The agency chief management officer: An old idea with new momentum

Dwight Ink

The chief management officer is not a new concept. Dwight Ink played a similar role for the Atomic Energy Commission from 1959 to 1965. (Photo: Iowa State University)

Recommendations on post-election government reform released last week call for the creation of Chief Management Officer positions within all major departments and agencies in the federal government.

As outlined in part of a joint project between the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration called “Memos to National Leaders,” all agency management and administrative positions, including the Chief Information Officer, would report to the CMO. These agency CMOs would serve “a fixed-year term akin to that of the Comptroller-General,” head of the Government Accountability office, which carries a 15-year term.

“The recommendation is really to try to professionalize the management of agency functions,” said Daniel Chenok, Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Chenok, who was part of the group that drafted the recommendations on IT reform, added that creating CMOs across federal agencies and departments would lead to cost savings and performance improvement, as well as overall management efficiency.

“Right now, CIO reporting varies across agencies in terms of reporting structure,” Chenok said. “Having a CMO would lend consistency not to just the CIO, but to other positions as well. All management functions would be integrated under one individual. I’m not trying to suggest there is one way to do it for each agency, but each agency could think about the recommendation and implement it in the manner most appropriate.”

Some departments and agencies already employ a variant of the CMO position. Chenok said the Army utilizes a CMO, while the Defense Department has a similar position called a Deputy Chief Management Officer.

 In 2007, the General Accountability Office called for the creation of a CMO in a report, suggesting several agencies could benefit from a CMO with term appointments of “five to seven years.”

“It’s not something that is a new idea to the federal government,” Chenok said.

 John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, said there’s good reason the idea keeps popping up.

“It’s a good recommendation,” Palguta said. “The basic impetus for it is that good management in government, including good IT management, requires a long range strategic view and continuity of operations. In IT, it takes a long amount of time to develop a plan and strategy and implement it and keep abreast of a rapidly changing field. With the political nature of government, you get regular changes in leadership. The CMO idea is a way to provide a continuity of leadership.”

The recommendations do not specify how a CMO would be installed, but they do suggest the position should be filled from career Senior Executive Services (SES) ranks.

CIOs, then, would assume specific functions such as information security, strategic use of information and technology, and management of IT and information infrastructure.

To some, the push for agency CMOs is a significant step in the direction of a more streamlined federal government.

Dwight Ink, who served at various federal agencies under the leadership of seven American presidents, said he’s “pressed for” a position like the CMO for decades to no avail. Ink held a similar position – assistant general manager of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1959-1965 – and said he witnessed firsthand the benefits of “streamlined operations and simplified procedures.” The current government, he said, could use those two things right now.

“What we’ve really done is fragment management now,” Ink said. “We have these different offices now, which are useful in some ways, but they tend to focus pretty much on procedures rather than broad elements of management. This step is badly needed.”

For full transcripts of all the memos released to date, visit www.memostoleaders.org.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 draadloos en wifi http://www.tcs-computers.be/

The main objective of a management consulting firm is to provide the necessary arrangements for the clients to meet their goals. Normally management consulting firms can focus on any issues in a business or they are specialized in one or two areas. For example, employee training education and making business relationships, negotiating with retailers and the proper implementation of production methods are general in these firms.In addition to providing proficiency or guidance, many firms also offer companies the ability to educate and train their management employees.These firms normally do a variety of activities such as strategic and organizational development, financial planning and budgeting, marketing objectives, information systems scheduling, evaluation and selection.

Mon, Nov 5, 2012

This is crazy! Agency Secretaries have different leadership styles and strengths that lead to different organizational structures and management teams. They need to have freedom to select the members of these teams with loyalty being one of the selection criteria. This makes all the sense in the world to continue. Putting in a mandated position with a "fixed-term" to avoid politics won't work -- it will only be another position for senior menagement team members to work around - inherently another level of bureaucracy!!

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 Christopher Hanks United States

The DOD's Chief Management Officer is the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The Deputy Chief Management Officer at DOD is Elizabeth McGrath. Her main job was to get the DOD's big Enterprise Resource Planning IT projects on track. She has not succeeded.

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 utopia27

The solution to bloated, dysfunctional bureaucracy is another institutionalized layer of bloat? Don't we already have IGs and GAO and OMB, in addition to the entire infrastructure of existing management? Perhaps OMB and GAO should provide management consulting as a service (MCaaS, because 'as a service' is the buzzword of the moment), and allow agency or division heads to engage targeted, finite-duration organizational management projects, then go away and let them operate without another layer of governance accretion.

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