GAO: Federal CIO Shirking Oversight Responsibilities On Critical Projects

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The lack of CIO involvement in major projects could allow them to slide off the rails, GAO says.

The government’s highest priority IT items aren’t a high enough priority for the federal chief information officer, according to a watchdog report released Tuesday.

The White House Office of Management and Budget identified the government’s 10 highest priority IT projects in 2015 and 2016 reports to Congress and scheduled those projects for special reviews by agency CIO staff and OMB.

The federal CIO however, does not regularly attend those meetings, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office.

That’s a mistake, the watchdog said, because regular federal CIO involvement has proven effective at getting troubled IT projects back on track.

TechStat reviews led by then-CIO Vivek Kundra, for example, saved the government $3 billion in 2010, the report states. TechStat reviews are adapt-or-perish interviews with leaders of troubled IT projects after which the projects might drastically scaled back or scrapped entirely.

“Until OMB ensures that the federal CIO is more directly involved in the oversight of these high priority programs, it may be missing a key opportunity to improve accountability and achieve positive results,” the GAO report states.

The federal CIO position is currently vacant and being filled on an acting basis by Deputy CIO Margie Graves. It’s just one of administration’s top tech vacancies. More than one-third of major agencies don’t have permanent CIOs in place. The retirement of State Department CIO Frontis Wiggins marked another major departure.

The auditor’s report also dings OMB’s U.S. Digital Service for not evaluating the top 10 high priority projects on a quarterly basis as directed by Congress.