OMB Wants to Boost Federal Agency CIOs’ Authority

Susan Hall

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to mandate changes to the CIO role at federal agencies to give them more authority and oversight of IT spending.

For one thing, it plans to require that agencies have only one CIO for the whole department, with budget oversight, according to Federal News Radio.

It’s part of OMB’s PortfolioStat initiative to provide a more complete view of where money is going and opportunities to consolidate buying.

In August 2011, OMB detailed in a memorandum four areas in which federal CIOs should have authority and a “lead role”: governance, commodity IT, program management and information security.

A report last year from the Government Accountability office found that most agency CIOs were responsible for only five areas of IT out of 13 and lacked key authority to make decisions on recruiting and IT investments, reports Federal Computer Week in a long piece that looks at the long, slow evolution of the federal CIO role. That report laments that the average federal CIO stays in the job only two years, though that’s really not uncommon in the private sector either.

Jeff Zients, acting director of the OMB, points to the Interior Department as a model of the change he’d like to see.

Interior CIO Bernie Mazer told Federal News Radio he approves any IT spending of more than $2,500, the various departments have annual spending plans and he’s setting up a vendor management organization to oversee the purchase of commodity IT such as desktops, laptops and printers. It wasn’t that way four years ago:

"The tenor of the CIO within Interior was as a policy shop," he said. "There was no service delivery, no ensuring the delivery of results or measurements or looking really at investments from a strategic or mission driver perspective. We had 30 people who nominated themselves as CIOs."

The article, however, doesn’t say when the OMB’s plan is to go into effect.



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