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CIOs Missing Out


By Alan Balutis July 9, 2009

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In the June 15 issue of Government Executive, "Racing to Innovate," author Andrew Noyes addresses the challenges facing federal chief information officers. In a recent excerpt in the online version, Noyes reiterates a major point of his well-done article, that "federal CIOs are key to Obama's change agenda." That may well be the case. But in a slow-developing nomination and confirmation process, we may not see any real effect until the end of the president's first term.

Former Social Security Administration CIO Tom Hughes, now a government consultant, expresses his skepticism later in the article:

Nothing has changed yet. I haven't see a single rock star hired and that's disappointing, . . . The longer it takes to bring the right people on board the more the die is cast in terms of relegating CIOs to the same positions they have been in.

So what should we make of Hughes commentary - other than it's a veiled insult of Veterans Affairs' new CIO, Roger Baker (who many consider a James Taylor look-a-like). Well, many CIO jobs remain vacant. In part, that's due to the recent trend towards making them political appointments rather than career positions. Do take a look around government. Note the vacancies or the "actings" at important departments/agencies like Defense, Homeland Security, HUD, Labor, DoT, EPA and Social Security, to name a few. I mean no insult to the very capable career executives manning these open political jobs.

Our senior IT community, for the most part, missed out on affecting the fiscal 2009 budget, which they inherited from the Bush administration and the previous Congress. They largely missed the fiscal 2010 budget. This is true of Vivek Kundra, too, who had not been appointed when the fiscal 2010 request was being hastily assembled. But now they are missing out on development of the fiscal 2011 budget, which will go to OMB in early September.

It may be "a new day" for the CIOs in the future. But for many important departments/agencies, they've yet to see the crack of dawn.


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