Don't bury problems

Memo to: Sally Katzen, Administrator, Office of Information and
Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget


Re: 19 agencies without Chief Information Officers in place yet


cc: John Koskinen, Deputy Directory for Management, OMB


Sally,


You gave a heck of an after-dinner speech the other night. You know, the one in
Richmond at the Executive Leadership Conference sponsored by the Industry Advisory
Council. After hearing you, no one could doubt that OMB is on top of this thing we call
implementation of the Information Technology Management Reform Act.


Someone had asked you if OMB had enough people and money to do the job properly, and
you jumped on that one with both feet.


You noted that 13 of the agencies with CIOs have them in management setups you're not
happy with. Six are still recruiting. Only eight CIOs are properly in place, you reported.


Sounds like agency officials aren't exactly beating down the doors to go after these
jobs. Nor, apparently, is it a hot political patronage job--probably because it's somewhat
outside the main stream of policy-making.


Sally, here are some of the reasons why things aren't falling into place so fast.


First, folks may wonder whether the job gets any respect. In several agencies, the IRM
directors don't even report to the CIO. The CIO isn't assured direct control over the
information technology spending, since these budgets are tied to programs and controlled
by program managers.


Responsibility without authority--Sally, you know that's a killer. All the more so
given the really big problems facing agency systems. For example, the other night, you
noted that OMB is "still getting basic awareness questions" from agencies about
fixing year 2000 date codes in critical applications. Who's responsible anyhow? Everyone
agrees it'll be expensive to fix, but even you said OMB is trying to find funds that can
be diverted to the year 2000 problem, since there's zero hope for any new money from
Congress.


Second, there's an election coming soon. So everyone's seat is open. It's fair to ask
why someone would want to jump from the relative safety of a good career job into a
political one now. What if the agency head and the CIO don't get along? Whose head will
roll when something systems related piques the Hill's ire--as has been happening a lot
lately?


No doubt you're thinking about all these questions, Sally. Believe me, so are the CIOs
and would-bes. But I urge you to keep them out in the open so they can be addressed head
on.



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