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8/9/2011
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Expectations Rise For Government Agency CIOs

Steven VanRoekel, in his first blog as U.S. CIO, outlines expanded accountability for agency IT heads in achieving cost savings and reform goals.

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Agency CIOs will take on a broader role in managing federal IT portfolios, according to a White House outline of expanded roles and expectations released this week. The new responsibilities are part of a broad federal IT reform plan laid out in December.

In addition to the existing responsibilities of policymaking and infrastructure maintenance, CIOs going forward will take on new roles to direct: IT governance; more cost-effective management of commodity IT resources; program management; and information security, according to a memo released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Monday.

The new responsibilities put CIOs squarely in charge of achieving IT reform goals, which include cutting costs, eliminating wasteful and duplicative spending, and generally ensuring IT projects and programs are on schedule and meeting milestones on a reasonable and cost-effective schedule.

The changes were introduced in the first White House blog post by Steven VanRoekel in his new role as U.S. CIO.

VanRoekel stressed the accountability aspect of the new CIO role, listing "lowering operational costs, terminating and turning around troubled projects, and delivering meaningful functionality at a faster rate while enhancing the security of information systems" as new responsibilities for the position.

"In my time in both the private and public sectors, I know the importance of giving CIOs the tools necessary to drive change and to hold them accountable for results," he said.

The memo also gives CIOs a cross-agency portfolio management role through their participation in the federal CIO Council (CIOC), it said. Not only will they be tasked with seeking ways to cut costs and eliminate wasteful spending in their own agencies, but their work on the council will help them also "reduce duplication, improve collaboration, and ... eliminate waste across agency boundaries," according to the memo.

In his post, VanRoekel said the administration over the next year will ask agencies to report the progress of undertaking the new responsibilities to the President's Management Council and the CIOC.

The White House appointed VanRoekel last week to replace Obama's first CIO, Vivek Kundra, who left this month for a fellowship at Harvard University. Kundra launched a broad set of IT reform and open government initiatives that the new CIO is expected to continue.

Indeed, the new agency CIO responsibilities are in line with strategies and policies already in place, such as the Obama administration's Campaign to Cut Waste, which aims to eliminate wasteful IT spending by shutting down unnecessary websites and other moves, and the cloud-first policy, which requires all federal agencies to consider cloud computing first when contemplating new IT projects.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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