New Executive Order Empowers Agency CIOs

A new executive order signed by President Trump “will require that agency CIOs report directly to the agency head” and will “make CIOs voting members of bureau-level IT governance boards in a bid to increase their enterprise awareness, and give them increased hiring powers,” as noted by FedScoop.

Jared Kushner, head of the White House’s Office of American Innovation, said, “The true answer to modernizing government technology is to build the capacity to conduct change on an ongoing basis. By ensuring that agency CIOs are empowered, today’s action by President Trump is a critical step forward in building that change management capacity.”

According to Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, the White House held a call with reporters in which they said “they were inspired to make this move after meeting with private sector tech CEOs at the White House last June,” realizing “one ‘glaring’ difference between private sector and government was the empowerment of the CIO.”

The decision represents a significant position upgrade for agency Chief Information Officers. Reuters quotes an anonymous agency official as saying, “These become real CIO jobs that are analogous to what the CIO of a Fortune 500 company would have. That’s going to up the ante, not just for this administration, but frankly for all the administrations that follow to recruit the best talent into these jobs.”

“President Trump is drawing on the best practices from the private sector and empowering CIOs to lead the technology transformation at their agencies,” Kushner said.

Carten Cordell at FedScoop notes administration officials’ assertions that the new executive order differs from previous efforts, including 2014’s “Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act” or FITARA.

“It actually implements some of the authorities that were put in place by Congress,” the anonymous administration official said. “I try not to throw shade at our predecessors too much because I want to keep this as bipartisan as I can, but the fact is they were given these authorities and never used them —we are.”

Democrat Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operation, praised the administration’s move. 

“We have consistently found that agencies were hesitant to have CIOs report to the secretary or deputy secretary of the agency, that agency CIOs did not have adequate visibility into their agency’s IT budgets, and were often not adequately involved in the management and governance of IT investments until critical problems arose,” Connolly said. “This executive order builds on the foundation established in FITARA, addresses vacancies in federal IT sector that hinder agency IT efforts, and sets a path for better management of IT acquisition.”

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