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FCW Insider: A historical perspective on CMOs

Following the current debate about the value of chief management officers ("DOD bill would raise profile of chief management officers"), I can't help but think back to the early years of the chief information officers.


The arrival of CIOs in government was considered a watershed event: Here was a sign that the federal government finally acknowledged the importance of information technology to government operations.


But that was not quite the case, of course. It was a sign that certain members of Congress -- Clinger and Cohen -- recognized that the importance of IT. Many agency executives clearly were not sold on it.


One year after the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 was passed, the Government Accountability Office reported that CIOs at 15 agencies were still saddled with other responsibilities. And we're not talking about the smaller agencies: Those 15 agencies were spending a combined $19 billion on IT, compared to $27 billion for the whole government. ("GAO says CIOs need focused duties and more authority")


The Year 2000 computer bug helped matters some, with many CIOs reporting they had gained visibility within their agencies. ("CIOs use Y2K to enhance visibility")


But a 2004 survey by FCW found that many CIOs still lacked clout within their agencies. According to a review of government records, only 11 CIOs reported to an agency's top official, as mandated by Clinger-Cohen. ("Left in the dark")


Of course, the Bush administration's decision to politicize many of the CIO jobs mitigated some of those concerns (while raising others). But everything is up in the air until the next administration takes office and begins making appointments.


If nothing else, the history of the CIO might serve as a cautionary tale for those with high hopes for the CMO.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Sep 18, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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