CIOs, get moving

Thomas R. Temin

One of my favorite inspirational books for children is by Dr. Seuss: Oh, the Places You'll Go. The best line is, 'Kid, you'll move mountains!'

Dan Porter, the Navy's chief information officer, uttered that sentiment at the recent Industry Advisory Council conference in Richmond, Va.

During a discussion about the role of agency CIOs, the inevitable lament came up that CIOs haven't had the impact envisioned by the Information Technology Management Reform Act. The reason'or so goes the standard argument'is that CIOs haven't been granted budget authority over programs employing IT. The CIO role is merely to persuade and lacks real power.

In most cases, CIOs do indeed lack budget authority. Let's face it; money goes with programs. Programs are bundled to make up agencies. Departmental oversight, authorization and funding operate under the congressional committee structure.

I'm not trying to give a civics lesson. I am pointing out that the structure that gives rise to stovepipe systems also denies CIOs much budget authority. You can attempt to change the congressional process, but that's not a fruitful way to spend a career.

Not having direct authority over program money doesn't mean CIOs have nothing to do or can't have influence. As Porter put it: 'Authority isn't just position. If you can articulate a strategy and get people to buy into it, you can move mountains.'

Renato DiPentima, president of the government sector for SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and a former Social Security Administration systems chief, echoed Porter: 'This is a time when CIOs need to stand up and say, 'I'm in charge.' '

CIOs have more authority and ability to persuade than many of them take advantage of. As DiPentima also pointed out, agencies are practically begging for security, interoperability, systems architectures and capital planning processes'all things that cut across programs. Who better to push these measures than CIOs?

CIOs can't change the structure of government. But they can find and occupy a solid foothold in it. To move mountains, you've got to start pushing.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@gcn.com

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