Watchdog calls for further formalization of agency CIO responsibilities

GAO recommends that Congress consolidate responsibilities designated in law that agency IT leaders have inherited through the creation of the CIO role.
(GAO photo)

The IT management duties of federal CIOs are often more limited than those of private sector CIOs because of a failure to codify their responsibilities in law, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report published Friday, the watchdog said that because government CIOs rely on a patchwork of previously established legal authorities to carry out their roles, they are often less directly involved in day-to-day operations than their commercial sector counterparts.

“[B]because the Federal CIO position has not been established in law, its IT management responsibilities are often more limited than those of other types of CIOs,” GAO said in the report.

It added: “Its responsibilities contain a mix of more general responsibilities, including those established in law prior to the Federal CIO position’s designation in 2009 and assigned to the OMB Director or the OMB Administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology.”


According to the watchdog, more clearly formalizing the responsibilities of federal chief information officers in law would result in more consistent IT strategy over time and across administrations.

As such, GAO has recommend additional action from Congress to create a governmentwide standard for the authority of IT leaders. 

In addition, the watchdog has recommended that the Office of Management and Budget director instruct the federal CIO to increase the emphasis placed on shared collaboration between agency CIOs and other senior executives.

“The Director of OMB should direct the Federal CIO to take steps to ensure that managerial skills, such as communication and program management skills, have an appropriate role in the hiring criteria for agency CIOs,” it added in the report.

John Hewitt Jones

Written by John Hewitt Jones

John is the managing editor of FedScoop, and was previously a reporter at Institutional Investor in New York City. He has a master’s degree in social policy from the London School of Economics and his writing has appeared in The Scotsman and The Sunday Times of London newspapers.

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