Some CIOs gained new authorities, but not all gains offset the challenges facing managers.
— Richard W. Walker
Not hot: Pay for performance
— Richard W. Walker
Rising energy prices, disaster preparedness, an aging federal workforce and data security worries thrust federal telework policy into the spotlight in 2007.
Although government officials have talked for years about the utility of a more mobile federal workforce, agencies and lawmakers now seem to be swinging into action and committing to firm policies and goals for working outside the office.
Agencies have hailed telework as a workforce-improvement tool — a way to recruit new talent and to encourage would-be retirees to stick around for a bit and mentor younger employees. The General Services Administration put itself in the forefront on telework in 2007, setting a goal of having half its employees telework at least one day a week within three years.
Like many agencies, GSA also has begun issuing laptop PCs to its teleworking employees to mitigate the security issues related to home computers that run file-sharing networks.
On the legislative side, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bills this year aimed at boosting the number of federal employees who regularly telework and increasing agencies’ accountability in that
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a long-time proponent of telework, said that he was pleased with the progress that the government made in 2007, but there was still room for improvement.
“All the factors have come together,” he said. “The case [for telework] has been made the merits are out there — it’s just a matter of education.”
— Ben Bain
Not hot: Retirement wave
The image of a giant retirement wave rising up, breaking and wiping out the government’s aging workforce doesn’t pack the punch it did a few years ago.
For one thing, concerns over a retirement wave are receding as agencies find prudent ways to manage the retirement outflow through succession planning, new recruitment and retention tools, and other methods.
“It has been coming in smaller waves or pulses because we’ve tried to manage it,” said Reginald Wells, deputy commissioner of human resources and chief human capital officer at the Social Security Administration. “There’s steady pressure on our workforce, but it hasn’t had the spike that had been predicted a decade ago for us.”
One approach to mitigating the impact at SSA is offering early retirement as an option to employees, Wells said. “It’s allowed us to flatten the retirement wave a bit [because] it frees [us] to bring in new talent.” SSA also tries to retain older workers, with the result that the number who elect to stay has grown, Wells said.
Government managers are less panicky about the prospects of a retirement wave. In a recent survey by Tandberg, only 22 percent of federal managers identified retiring employees as the issue that will have the most effect on the government in the next two years. They were more worried about the war in Iraq, the change in administrations in 2009, and spending on health care and Social Security.
Nevertheless, there will be a large number of retirements in the coming years. The Office of Personnel Management estimates that 60 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire during the next 10 years. Based on historical trends, OPM officials expect about two-thirds of those employees to retire when they first become eligible, said OPM Director Linda Springer. “The peak is coming near the end of the decade,” she said. “That is a challenge for us.”
— Richard W. Walker
Hot: CIO budget authority
Chief information officer budget power was on the rise in 2007.
Although the Ve erans Affairs Department an S are the only r agencies where CIOs have gained budget authority over their information technology environments, it is more widely recognized in 2007 that centralized IT management can smooth the path for an agency to implement initiatives that require agencies to operate more efficiently and effectively.
VA is reorganizing its IT management, workforce and applications development directly under its CIO, Robert Howard. The theft in May 2006 of a VA laptop PC containing the personal data of millions of veterans accelerated the centralization of its IT environment, which Congress mandated. The data breach revealed the inability of the CIO’s office to enforce security policies across the department.
At DHS, Secretary Michael Chertoff granted CIO Scott Charbo authority over budget planning, workforce and project approval for the component agencies’ IT.
“Centralization will lead to a higher probability of success for large, complex IT programs,” said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The Office of Management and Budget, however, has said that most CIOs already have responsibility to manage technology investments. CIOs can exert their influence through their participation in agency executive and CIO councils and interagency organizations, OMB has said.
— Mary Mosquera
NEXT STORY: 2007 in review