FCC CIO to Get More ‘Significant’ Role

Mark Van Scyoc/Shuttersetock.com

An update to the agency’s organizational rules will give the FCC CIO similar authorities as IT leaders in agencies covered by FITARA.

The Federal Communications Commission is elevating the role of its chief information officer to be on par with IT leaders in other parts of government.

Tuesday, the commission will publish a final rule in the Federal Register updating the agency’s organizational rules to ensure “the FCC’s CIO has a significant role in advancing the commission’s overall information technology capabilities.”

The rule follows passage last year of the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services, or RAY BAUM’S, Act, which included language giving the FCC CIO authorities similar to those outlined in the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA.

The final rule adopts language directly from the RAY BAUM’S Act giving the FCC CIO a “significant role” in the annual and multiyear planning and budgeting for IT programs; the management and oversight of those programs; and the hiring of IT personnel. The rule also gives the CIO approval authority over IT budget line items.

The final rule does not specify what constitutes a “significant role.”

Issuing this rule change is not a necessary step, as its authors note in the document.

“This update to the commission’s organizational rules is not required by law,” the document states. “However, this update demonstrates the FCC’s commitment to ensuring that the CIO has a significant role in advancing the commission’s overall information technology capabilities.”

Codifying the CIO’s newfound authorities would have been necessary in a reorganization, such as with the establishment of the Office of Economics and Analytics last year, a FCC spokesperson told Nextgov. Since the Office of the CIO will remain under the Office of the Managing Director, the law didn’t require the rule change, but FCC leadership saw it as a means of showing strong support for the agency’s IT efforts.

“Aligned with Sen. Moran’s past priorities included in FITARA, the senator feels strongly that federal agencies are increasingly reliant upon IT in their day-to-day operations. As agencies plan for budgets, it only makes sense for the expertise of the CIO to be included in these critical operational decisions,” a spokesman for Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., a cosponsor of the RAY BAUM’S Act, told Nextgov in March just before passage of the bill.

FITARA, passed in 2014, gives similar authorities to CIOs at the 23 civilian agencies covered under the CFO Act; it does not include the FCC.

"The FCC is charged with regulating close to a sixth of our economy, but their information technology systems are severely out of date—leaving sensitive industry material vulnerable to increasingly dangerous cyberattacks," Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the bill’s other cosponsor, told Nextgov in March. "The inclusion of this provision will empower the FCC CIO and give the CIO the authority necessary to modernize and take the necessary steps to protect sensitive data."

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional background from the FCC.