It’s Not Easy Being CIO – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • There is a pocket of space where the government and industry are working together – and doing it well. Seriously. This is not one of my (always very funny) jokes. Collaboration really is at work between federal employees and their industry counterparts. The great news? The partnerships are totally above board. We talk to two of the co-pilots in the Voyagers program.

You can find all of our programs online: and GovLoop Insights at

But up front: It’s not easy being a CIO

For chief information officers, in many ways these are the best of times — and the worst of times. They are the best of times because technology is so integrated into everything that we do. Yet CIOs still struggle to get the visibility — and, frankly, move beyond the manager of Blackberries to be the key executive leading and pushing technology throughout an organization.

I recently had the opportunity to moderate a panel looking at the evolution of the CIO for AFFIRM (the Association of Federal Information Resources Managers).

There was a general consensus that CIOs are still struggling to get that vaunted ‘seat at the table.’ And there was discussion about whether the position of CIO has lived up to the vision set out in the Clinger-Cohen Act nearly two decades ago. Paul Brubaker, Defense Department’s Director of Planning and Performance Management, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Office, who helped write the Clinger-Cohen Act when he was on then Sen. William Cohen’s (R-ME) staff, even brought the conference language around Clinger-Cohen Act. (Read it for yourself here, including Brubaker’s highlights.)

In part, it says:

The agency CIO is responsible for providing information and advice regarding information technology and information resources management to the head of the agency, and for ensuring that the management and acquisition of agency information technology is implemented consistent with the provisions of this law.

The role of the CIO is still evolving. It is impacted by culture of the organization, but also by structure of the organization. Often, agency CIOs are challenged to make change because the component CIOs have individual budget authority. And there was a consensus that for a CIO to be successful, there had to be a determination from the top that IT mattered — and, by extension, the CIO mattered.

Yet CIOs are also getting things done. David Bray, the CIO of the Federal Communications Commission, described his role in two way: As a digital diplomat and as a human flack jacket. One role is as the diplomat representing technology throughout the organization, but also to protect those who chose to use technology to bring about change, as long as it is done in a strategic way.

Bray seems to have taken the Little Bets approach. One example is creating (with others, I might add) Fire Circle Creative Brainstorming Happy Hours, which are held regularly to bring together people who are interested in… well, thinking… innovating… learning. Simple… yet powerful.

Additional reading:

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. GovExec: Budget Cuts Bring 11 Percent Decline in Contract Spending for 2013 – “The sequester, the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and overall budget cuts produced an 11 percent decline in federal contract spending in fiscal 2013, according to the third annual Bloomberg federal industry leaders study released on Tuesday.”

  2. Washington Post: IRS Paid Bonuses to Tax-Delinquent Employees, report says – “The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the IRS between October 2010 and December 2012 doled out more than $2.8 million to about 2,800 workers with recent conduct issues. That included more than $1 million in cash awards for roughly 1,100 employees with federal tax-compliance problems, the report said.”

    1. Read the report: Treasury IG for Tax Administration report: The Awards Program Complied With Federal Regulations, but Some Employees With Tax and Conduct Issues Received Awards

    2. Related: GovExec: Budget and Personnel Cuts Have Hurt the IRS

    3. GAO report: Internal Revenue Service: Absorbing Budget Cuts Has Resulted in Significant Staffing Declines and Uneven Performance [PDF]

  3. Federal News Radio: Navy Plans Action This Year on Two Large Pathways to Alternative Fuel – “The selection of the initial four biofuel companies made up phase one of the Navy’s DPA program. In phase two, it plans to make awards this July in a downselect process, in which it will pick some or all of those companies for large-scale production, said Chris Tindal, the Navy’s director for operational energy.”

  4. AJC: Final Tally: Almost 12,000 Georgians Used New Online Voter Registration System – “The final tally — officially at 11,970 — more than doubled the goal of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. The system registered 6,884 new voters, and 5,086 voters who were already registered used it to update their residency information.”

  5. Federal News Radio: Intelligence Agencies Not Reporting Employee Crimes – “The inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community said Tuesday some admissions of crimes by spy agency workers during lie detector tests were not disclosed to law enforcement agencies because of breakdowns in government reporting procedures and poor advice from agency lawyers.”

  6. Federal Times: GSA Sets Deadlines for Adopting Revised Cloud Standards – “The General Services Administration on Tuesday released deadlines for cloud providers to adopt revised security standards, as a prerequisite for doing business with the federal government.”

  7. Washington Post: Army general disciplined over mishandling of sexual-assault case in Japan – The sexual misconduct complaints piled up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. A colonel on his staff had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and lastly, of sexual assault. But Harrison let most of the complaints slide or reacted with leniency, according to the Army. He had known the colonel for two decades and said he didn’t believe some of the allegations. In March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the colonel of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators — a clear violation of Army rules, according to an internal investigation. As chronicled by that investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the general’s handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon’s persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously, reports Craig Whitlock.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • Eight (No, Nine!) Problems With Big Data [The New York Times oped by Gary Marcus is a professor of psychology at New York University and an editor of the forthcoming book “The Future of the Brain.” Ernest Davis is a professor of computer science at New York University]: Wait, we almost forgot one last problem: the hype. Champions of big data promote it as a revolutionary advance. But even the examples that people give of the successes of big data, like Google Flu Trends, though useful, are small potatoes in the larger scheme of things. They are far less important than the great innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries, like antibiotics, automobiles and the airplane.

  • New STEM Index Finds America’s STEM Talent Pool Still Too Shallow to Meet Demand [US News and World Report] The Index, the first comprehensive index that measures the key factors relating to STEM jobs and education, shows that after a long period of flat to down indicators, there has been some upward movement, particularly in the actual number of STEM degrees granted at the undergraduate and graduate levels. But even with those numbers on the rise, as a proportion of total degrees granted they still hover close to the same levels that existed in 2000, indicating that the education pipeline to fill the current and future jobs that will require STEM skills still isn’t producing enough talent.

  • Edward Snowden’s NSA hacking claim creates woes for Huawei [Financial Times] The Chinese telecom company Huawei has been forced to reassure customers that its equipment hasn’t been compromised.

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