Federal Chief Information Officer

Leadership Needed to Confront Serious Challenges and Emerging Issues Gao ID: T-AIMD-00-316 September 12, 2000

Although the government has improved its information technology (IT) management and agencies have taken steps to address critical IT management shortcomings, agencies continue to be plagued by weaknesses in various areas. Two legislative proposals, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States Act of 2000 and the Federal Information Policy Act of 2000, address the need for sustained and focused central leadership to improve the federal IT performance track record. This testimony describes the background of the federal government's current information resources and technology management framework, explains existing state and foreign governmentwide CIO models, discusses the federal CIO approaches each legislative proposal takes, and discusses the type of leadership responsibilities GAO believes a federal CIO should posses.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO has not evaluated the effectiveness of state and foreign government CIOs or equivalent positions--however, these positions appear to apply some of the same principles outlined in GAO's CIO executive guide; (2) state CIO are usually in charge of developing statewide information technology (IT) plans and approving statewide IT standards, budgets, personnel classifications, salaries, and resource acquisitions; (3) national governments in other countries have also established a central IT coordinating authority and have different implementation approaches in doing so; (4) Congress is considering legislation to establish a federal CIO; (5) two proposals--H.R. 4670, the Chief Information Officer of the United States Act of 2000, and H.R. 5024, the Federal Information Policy Act of 2000--share a common call for central IT leadership from a federal CIO, although they differ in how the roles, responsibilities, and authorities of the position would be established; (6) regardless of approach, strong and effective central information resources and technology management leadership is needed in the federal government; (7) a central focal point such as a federal CIO can play the essential role of ensuring that attention in these areas is sustained; (8) although the respective departments and agencies should have the primary responsibility and accountability to address their own issues--and both bills maintain these agency roles--central leadership has the responsibility to keep everybody focused on the big picture by identifying the agenda of governmentwide issues needing attention and ensuring that related efforts are complementary rather than duplicative; (9) another task facing central leadership is serving as a catalyst and strategist to prompt agencies and other critical players to come to the table and take ownership for addressing the agenda of governmentwide information resources and technology management issues; (10) a federal CIO could provide sponsorship, direction, and sustained focus on the major challenges the government is facing in areas such as critical infrastructure protection and security, e-government, and large-scale IT investments; and (11) consensus has not been reached within the federal community on the need for a federal CIO.

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