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FCW : July 30, 2013
Commentary | BOB WOODS BOB WOODS is president of Topside Consulting Group and former commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. For a long time, I have listened to the debate on why the ADP chief, the director of information systems, the head of information resource management and now the CIO should have a place at the table. The Brooks Act spoke to the ADP era, and the Clinger-Cohen Act modernized the Management 101 text to include the term "CIO." Now the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act wants a bigger, better, politically appointed CIO. How agencies will improve results by replacing a career CIO with one destined to last 27 months is baf ing. Put all the IT money under one person and problem solved. Wrong. Budget is not executed, claims pro- cessing times increase, and service delivery measures worsen. Know- ing whom to blame is a puzzle. Even as an IT veteran, I have my doubts. I don t think IT belongs in the chief nancial of cer s shop or in the management shop or in the chief of staff s shop. But I also don t think CIOs need, deserve or work effectively in their own empires. IT leaders budget and function should be close enough to the mission that they and the mission leaders are rewarded or red based on the impact IT has on service delivery and mission accomplishment. Why is this debate so intense and long lasting? It s mainly because the legislative and executive branches have very different views on how to run mission organizations. Capitol Hill is made up of people with a very different view of how to run government programs from the people who actually execute them. Congress is still composed largely of older male lawyers who never made anything. Yes, some of them are young, some of them are female, and some of them actually have made something that would count toward the gross domestic product. But most have not. As a result, this group believes that operations run best if there is a lot of control and only one neck to choke. Unfortunately, that s not the world we live in when it comes to IT. Some mistakes will be made, and it s the program leaders who should be choked, not some desig- nated noose-wearer known as the CIO. It is best to remember that mission performance is a team sport. Clear lines of authority are important, with those authorities placed close to the operation. On a tour of Normandy a few years ago, I was told that the German army was hamstrung for days during the D-Day invasion because Field Mar- shal Erwin Rommel was on leave in Germany for his wife s birthday and the local commanders did not have the authority to deploy the panzer divisions. Our operational leaders in agencies need to be able to make decisions with agency missions in mind. I am not arguing that all operations and resources should be decentralized. But we should stan- dardize and centralize only those activities and functions that are in the enterprise s interest and put the rest nearer to the problem and the mission-delivery points. FITARA is doomed to failure because it is attacking symptoms, not root causes. The legislation addresses a poorly de ned problem with solutions that deal only with reporting lines and accountability. FITARA is more about activity than progress. We need to understand that you can lead from the top, but the desire to manage from the top is impossible. Our drive to hang someone every time a mistake is made leads to an environment in which no one wants to responsible and failure is even more insidious and inevitable. ■ The likely decline of the CIO FITARA s effort to make CIOs political appointees re ects a rift between lawmakers and those who actually run government programs It is best to remember that mission performance is a team sport. Clear lines of authority are important, with those authorities placed close to the operation. 12 July 30, 2013 FCW.COM
July 15, 2013
August 15, 2013