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Sen. Collins Wants Review to Demystify Agency CIO Role

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Photo: collins.senate.gov

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a letter to the Government Accountability Office, said there are lingering issues in federal IT management, in large part, because of confusion over the role of federal CIOs.

The 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act mandated federal agencies appoint chief information officers as a comprehensive way of improving agency IT acquisitions.

In the intervening years since Clinger-Cohen’s passage, Collins wrote in her letter, according to Federal News Radio, she has twice requested GAO reports evaluating the role and responsibility of federal CIOs.

The office released reports in both 2004 and 2005, Collins said, identifying a dozen facets of the CIOs’ authority either required by law or critical to carrying out their duties.

However, Collins said challenges in federal IT investment continue. And for that, she lays at least part of the blame on the lack of clarity that still surrounds the CIO role.

“Specifically, the position of CIOs is not respected across the federal government and, according to a recent survey, CIOs still lack adequate resources to achieve technology efficiencies and improve organizational performance,” she wrote.

And, the myriad challenges agencies face in IT acquisition often stem from the “limited authority and involvement CIOs have in overseeing these projects,” she added.

Collins said she is interested in looking at legislative remedies, including beefing up the CIO authority. But first, she said, she would like GAO to conduct an updated review of the authority of federal-agency CIOs and the current laws on the books.

The federal IT acquisition reform championed by federal CIO Vivek Kundra has highlighted the role of the agency-level CIO.

Kundra has proposed strengthening their role, including enhancing their budgetary authority.

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