CIOs seek best side of sequestration

Expanding on a CIO survey, IT leaders discuss budget constraints and the road ahead.

tech manager

Federal chief information officers are making the best of life under sequestration, according to a panel of officials convened to discuss TechAmerica's CIO Survey, published May 2.

 It's not as though CIOs are welcoming the new budget discipline forced by across-the-board cuts. But they are "making the best of a challenging situation," said George DelPrete, a principle at the auditing firm of Grant Thornton and the chairman of the CIO Survey. "It doesn't surprise me," he said. "When you look at how much spending goes on in IT, there's a lot of inefficiency, and I think they're taking advantage of these opportunities."

At the General Services Administration, IT leaders are looking for pockets of excellence and innovations around government for insight, to get new ideas about how to do more with less, said associate administrator David McClure. "I think we have some positives that come out of these challenges," McClure said. "When budgets are tight you have to get really serious about what you're spending money on."

Increasingly, CIOs are changing their thinking about how they acquire and maintain technology in light of new budget realities, said Dr. Sasi Pillay, the chief technology officer for information technology at NASA. "We want to own things. We want to build everything from scratch," he said. While he doesn't think that budget cuts are "a prescription for success," Pillay said the changes " open up your eyes about how you can do things differently."

The picture was gloomier when it came to training the current workforce and attracting and retaining the next generation of federal IT talent. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "cyber and acquisition training is the only training we have left," said CIO Joseph Klimavicz.

CIOs are split along predictable lines about whether new legislation, such as the Federal Information Technology Reform Acquisition Reform Act currently wending its way through the House of Representatives, is needed to give agency CIOs control over agency-wide IT budgets. "Departmental CIOs were more supportive of being given that control than component CIOs," DelPrete said.

Mobility, meanwhile, was the watchword of a second panel. The TechAmerica survey found that slightly less than half of agencies had implemented a bring-your-own-device policy.  According to Kevin Cox , an IT security specialist at the Department of Justice and co-chair of the Mobile Technology Tiger Team at the Federal CIO Council, issues of privacy, ownership, compensation, and others remain challenging.

One example Cox cited was what to do in the case when classified material is mistakenly transmitted to an unclassified device. For instance, how does the government legally take custody of an employee's device, and who pays for a new device? Still, Cox said that BYOD "does really enable the mission overall."

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