IT Security Remains Top Government CIO Priority

Those surveyed by TechAmerica say they'd also put IT infrastructure and management at the top of the list, including improvements in governance and standardization.
Government CIOs also see IT workforce issues as a critical concern. CIOs told TechAmerica that government IT suffers from technical skills gaps, low training budgets, and difficulty recruiting and retaining quality employees, and that the government suffers from a lack even of strategy to deal with these shortfalls. However, the CIOs said they're hopeful that the Obama administration would be more sympathetic to workforce issues and that the state of the economy is making the federal government a more attractive employer for IT workers.

"The state of the economy does change the HR landscape," said Simon Szykman, the CIO of NIST. "From the perspective of an organization that’s hiring to fill key positions, it's helpful. Our most recent hire was somebody laid off by Fannie Mae, so there are a lot of good people out there who are looking for work."

President Obama has pushed the idea of government transparency and citizen access to government since getting elected in November. While the Bush administration pushed e-government, government CIOs believed the Bush White House pursued too many disparate initiatives, rather than maintaining focused attention on fewer targeted e-government projects. Some agencies also might not be entirely prepared for radical transparency.

The Department of Transportation, for example, will receive $58 billion from the stimulus package and has to report online what it's actually doing with any grants, down to the level of which states get how much money, how many jobs are going to be created by each project, and even subcontractor data. However, Jacquelyn Patillo, deputy CIO of the Department of Transportation, says her agency isn't as prepared for this as she would like because it still has 10 or more financial systems that it will need to pull data from and merge in order to share stimulus information with the public from a central location.

E-government goes hand in hand with information sharing. The Bush administration focused its efforts on information sharing in certain agencies and focus areas like law enforcement and health care, and those remain key priorities going forward.

TechAmerica's survey found among other things that conflicting priorities among program units, followed by shortage of time for strategic thinking, inadequate budgets, and the pace of technology change are the greatest barriers to CIO effectiveness.

Surprisingly, according to survey results going back to 2004, the trend has been toward fewer and fewer government CIOs having to report directly to secretaries, bureau heads, or deputy secretaries. This shifted a bit in 2008 as none of the CIOs report directly to agency CFOs, but the number of CIOs reporting to the top had decreased each year from 89% in 2004 to 65% in 2007 before bouncing back last year.

Take part in InformationWeek's Government IT survey before March 6 and be eligible to win an iPod Touch. Find out more.

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Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading
Kelly Jackson Higgins 2, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading