Feds are split on need for governmentwide CIO

Feds are split on need for governmentwide CIO

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF

Rank-and-file federal information technology managers are sharply divided over the need for a governmentwide chief information officer, a GCN telephone survey found.

In the survey, 39 percent of managers doubted that a federal CIO could provide effective IT leadership across government and help bring about interagency collaboration on technology programs.


The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on IT management is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as information systems or technology managers.
A slightly smaller group, 37 percent, said that a federal CIO position could give a boost to government IT.

Another 9 percent weren't as certain but acknowledged the possibility that a federal CIO could help. The rest, 15 percent, had no opinion.

Managers who turned thumbs-down to the notion of a federal CIO typically saw the position as compounding the bureaucracy.

'It's a another level of management we don't need,' said a systems analyst at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Others said the sheer size and complexity of the federal government would impede a federal CIO's effectiveness.

Too many to please

'You're looking at one of the largest organizations in the world with a lot of different interests,' said Frank Purgason, chief of IT for the Veterans Affairs Department's Home Loan Guaranty Services. 'I can't quite see where such an office could do much more than try to collect all the different oversight and legislative requirements and try to get that stuff reconciled. That would be the major benefit if the office came into existence.'

Politics and turf battles would hamper a federal CIO's efforts to coordinate interagency projects, Purgason added.

'I've seen a lot of interagency stuff, and a lot of it depends on who's involved in the project,' he said. Such projects can succeed, 'but on the other hand I've seen some stuff come through that has been a waste of effort. And I've never seen a technical reason for a project failing.'

But other survey participants liked the idea of having a federal CIO.

'I work with a lot of different services and organizations,' said Richard Warren, a computer specialist at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. 'Everybody has their own standards, everybody has different configurations and interfaces. Even though we can communicate there are always problems. A federal CIO could come in and say, 'We're going to have [these products] across the board as far as our main infrastructure.' Then it can be managed centrally.'

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