Baker tells CIOs: You gotta be political

Baker tells CIOs: You gotta be political

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

APRIL 18—If you're not politically appointed, you don't stand much chance of being effective as a chief information officer, at least at the cabinet department level. That's according to Roger Baker, the outgoing CIO of the Commerce Department. In explaining his imminent departure, Baker leveled a broadside at the frustrations of being an executive-level career employee at a time of political change, and at the federal environment in general.

'If we're going to get truly the best and brightest in government, they'll be smart enough to run the hell away,' Baker said.

Speaking to a largely industry audience at a breakfast meeting of the Bethesda, Md. chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Baker said CIOs have the headaches of responsibility for critical government computer networks and billion-dollar expenditures on information technology, but little real control over them.

'You have a system designed to fight change, yet you are there to make change,' he said, 'and all this for a maximum salary of $133,000. Why the hell would you do that?'

Baker said that sitting, career CIOs are likely to be mistrusted by incoming cabinet secretaries and deputy secretaries. 'Being inherited is not a good thing,' he said. Baker said he resigned because he felt Commerce Secretary Donald Evans should have the ability to choose his own CIO.

'As CIOs become more important, they need to be political,' Baker said.

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