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Evans offers details on the coming memo defining the CIO

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OMB’s Karen Evans was speaking at the AFFIRM lunch today — and I took the opportunity to ask her about the coming OMB memo defining the CIO, which I told you about last week. (Today on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had Jason Miller on talking about the memo. Hear that conversation here .mp3]

Of course, agency CIOs have been required for more than a decade. They were mandated by the Clinger-Cohen Act. But since then, the government IT community loves to debate the role of the CIO — and we always hear about CIOs having a ‘seat at the table.’

The Bush administration will publish a memo — as soon as next Monday, Oct. 20 — defining the role of agency CIOs. And Evens said today that information technology is managed very differently in different agencies, and the memo will seek to put a framework around the position — particularly as the government heads into the transition period.

“What we wanted to do was to re-emphasize clearly that it is important that information technology be managed through the transition and be managed on an ongoing basis,” she said.

Evans was very frank about the memo — not that she isn’t usually frank, but…

The memo will focus on the procurement and human capital provisions of the CIO post, Evans said. OMB used as its basis the memo issued by the Homeland Security Department Secreatary Michael Chertoff. The big difference, of course, is that the DHS memo gave the CIO the power of the purse — budget control over IT spending initiatives. I’m told that this memo will not include budget authority.

Here is FCW’s March 2007 story about the DHS CIO announcement. I also made it FCW’s Buzz of the Week for the week of March 19, 2007… and the following week, in FCW’s editorial, under the headline Show ’em the money, I gave DHS credit for giving the DHS CIO spending authority over IT spending.

A few interesting points. One is that DHS, of course, has not made that memo public. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff first announced these new provisions at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Technology Council in March 2007. (My original post back when I was the FCW Insider.) DHS doesn’t even have that speech posted.

Furthermore, again when I was at FCW, when FCW’s Ben Bain and I sat down for a conversation with DHS CIO Richard Mangonia, he specifically said that the DHS reporting structure didn’t matter.

FCW: How important is it who you report to within the organization?
Mangogna: I get my authority based on my understanding of what needs to get done and the values I get from the secretary, deputy secretary and the undersecretary for management. I don’t need any more direction than that, and I don’t think you have to manage this job by mandatory documents going down to all the CIOs and telling them to do this and that.

The reporting structure isn’t important in terms of leadership — I always say that leadership isn’t about any position. It is about getting people to believe what you believe. The reporting structure, like an agency’s budget, does say something about what an organization values. So it is perhaps interesting that OMB is using DHS as the model for this memo. DHS, after all, is one of the agencies that does not follow the Clinger-Cohen Act requirement that the CIO report to the head of the agency.

Finally, it is important to note that there are only two agencies that how the ‘power of the (IT) purse’ — DHS, by policy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, by law.

Back to Evans for a moment… She noted that the memo is focusing on information technology, not on information management. That is largely because the information management issue ends up involving so many different parts of different organizations that it would just never get done — particularly with the amount of time left in the Bush administration.

This memo seems to be developing out the the upcoming transition, but… it seems like something that could have been done a long time ago.

Some related reading on this topic:

* FCW was at the AFFIRM event today and has a story.
* In the September issue of AFFIRM’s Signal magazine, Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr., USAF (Ret.), the former head of the Defense Information Systems Agency, has a piece headlined, Government Oversight and the CIO . The piece has sturred some buzz around the government IT community. The money quote:

It is time for a major step toward achieving CCA strategic business benefits. This step should be to assign CIOs holistic responsibility for the areas noted above instead of allowing competitive activity outside the CIOs’responsibility and domain. After 12 years, it is time to recruit and train better CIOs, eliminate the gap between the CCA and actual practices, and give CIOs the authority needed to succeed.

* Finally, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), as part of his technology platform, has proposed creating a government CTO. Here is what it says on his Web site:

Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability and willingness to give and to give back to make government work better. Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Of course, it is unclear how this CTO will work within OMB… with CIOs… Sooooo many questions… About 20 days and we’ll at least begin to know who we go to for answers.

I’m fascinated by this and I’m going to keep on it because it seems important to me — and could be a real opportunity for CIOs and the CIO Council. I’m going to be following it closely. Tomorrow on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we’re going to talk to Roger Baker, the former Commerce Department CIO. (Baker was on Federal News Radio’s InDepth program last month talking about the concept of a CTO. It is worth a listen.)

Written by cdorobek

October 14, 2008 at 7:54 PM

3 Responses

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  1. […] leave a comment » I mentioned last night that OMB is preparing to come out with a memo detailing the role of federal agency chief information officers. […]

  2. […] Evans offers details on the coming memo [I also posted audio of Evan’s appearance at AFFIRM. And that memo has not been posted yet… FYI. […]

  3. […] you about the memo — due out any time now — that will outline the role of the CIO. You first read about the memo on the DorobekInsider a few weeks ago… and then we got OMB’s Karen Evans to give us some details… and you can hear […]

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