Federal CIOs face systematic restraints, says GAO

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Federal chief information officers continue to face systematic restraints, a situation that has contributed to long-standing information technology management challenges within the government, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a report dated Sept. 15 not posted online until Oct. 17, the GAO says a survey of 30 CIOs at major agencies shows that most CIOs have limited ability to influence IT investment decision making at their agencies. Only nine CIOs said that their approval is a prerequisite for inclusion of any IT investment in the agency budgets.

The report also notes that a significant portion of an agency's IT spending occurs at the component level, but headquarters CIOs don't always have sufficient control at the component level, either. In fact, headquarters CIOs may have no role in selecting component-level CIOs, nor be involved in their performance reviews.

CIO's lack of input into hiring decisions in some cases extends to headquarters CIO staff, the report adds.

The Office of Management and Budget released in August a memo (.pdf) emphasizing that CIOs should have responsibility for the IT portfolio of their entire agency, but the memo "does not state a specific requirement for agency heads to empower CIOs," the GAO report says. Additionally, the OMB memo didn't require agency heads to measure and report on the progress of CIOs in adopting and carrying out the memo's provisions.

The report also finds that the median tenure of an agency CIO since 2004 has been 25 months (including current CIOs)--and for politically appointed CIOs, 21 months. It can take 5 to 7 years to fully implement major changes in large organizations, the report says, also noting that only a quarter of agency CIOs since 2004 have remained on the job for at least three years (excluding current CIOs).   

For more:
- download the report, GAO-11-634 (.pdf)

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