Charbo's promotion adds punch to DHS IT

Analysts have advocated a stronger role for the department's central IT leader

TIME MANAGEMENT: Analysts say Charbo's expanded control over IT is good for the department'if he has the time to use it.

Rick Steele

Technology management will be a different game at the Homeland Security Department now that CIO Scott Charbo has been promoted to the additional position of acting assistant secretary for management.

Charbo's promotion could spur the department's IT reform, close observers of DHS technology said, but Charbo himself now will have less time to allocate to systems issues, several experts cautioned.

A further warning came from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who said in an e-mail message, 'This is another case of a DHS top official having to wear two hats and do two jobs because of a lack of leadership. The secretary [Mich- ael Chertoff] must do a better job of recruiting folks, otherwise DHS is going to have only a handful of people holding down the homeland security fort before the end of the year.'

Thompson, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, went on to point out that it is not clear that Charbo will have the authority and cooperation needed to play a role in CIO evaluations.

'Unless he has the power over the purse, and the time to exert it, when it comes to money sent down for IT expenditures and infrastructure, DHS will continue to get failing grades on its computer security efforts,' Thompson said.

DHS repeatedly has scored an F on its Federal Information Security Management Act scorecard.

Many sectors, including influential lawmakers and the Government Accountability Office, long have advocated that the department's central CIO be given final say over all DHS technology.

While technically the department's other CIOs still will report directly to the leaders of their respective components, Charbo's promotion in effect makes him the highest-ranking DHS technology leader.

Steve Cooper, the department's first CIO and now the CIO at the American Red Cross, praised Charbo's promotion in an e-mail.

'This ensures that Scott will have a full seat at the business table,' Cooper said.
'I believe that Scott will be very effective at ensuring that secretary Chertoff and deputy secretary [Michael P.] Jackson are well briefed on all appropriate matters involving IT at the department level,' he said.

Cooper added he did not believe that Charbo's promotion was intended to give him a 'bigger stick,' but rather reflected his abilities to understand and influence the department's business beyond IT.

Charbo succeeds Janet Hale, who was confirmed as the department's undersecretary for management on March 6, 2003. Hale announced her plans to resign in late March.

One longtime DHS technology analyst, Jim Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Technology and Public Policy program, had a mixed reaction to Charbo's promotion.

'The good news is that people have wanted the CIO to have expanded authority over computer and network technology for a long time,' Lewis said. 'The bad news is that he may not have the time for it.'

Good news, bad news

Tom Reinhardt, a former chief of staff in DHS' Office of the Undersecretary for Management and now Computer Science Corp.'s senior business strategy executive, echoed the good news-bad news theme.

'On the plus side, Scott has a strong, capable and DHS-experienced deputy CIO in Charlie Armstrong to pick up any slack,' Reinhardt said. 'On the minus side, the undersecretary for management position is a real challenge for anyone and more than a full-time job. He will need to find himself a chief of staff to help keep the trains running on time; find a new chief human capital officer; show the ropes to the new chief financial officer; orchestrate the fiscal 2007 appropriations bill on the Hill and with OMB and at the same time get the 2008 president's budget submission into OMB. That is a heavy lift for anyone.'

President Bush appointed Charbo to be the department's CIO in June 2005. Charbo took over from Cooper and became the department's second permanent CIO.

One industry source said, 'We may actually see some movement in the consolidation of DHS.'

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