Survey finds CIOs worried about staff levels, funding

The government's top information technology officials are committed to protecting federal computer networks from hackers and developing user-friendly Web sites, but they are worried that insufficient funds and staffing problems could hamper their efforts, according to a recent survey.

Federal IT leaders have focused on presenting solid business cases to justify technology projects to lawmakers and expanded electronic government projects to make federal services more accessible to citizens, according to a report outlining the survey results. The survey, conducted by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) between August and December 2002, involved interviews with 35 chief information officers at more than 30 federal agencies and legislative branch organizations. In addition, the industry association interviewed congressional staffers and officials at the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees IT projects.

The CIOs surveyed told the ITAA that they are concerned about OMB "constantly raising the bar" on the number of projects where managers have to present business cases to receive funding. That number has quadrupled over the past year, CIOs said, and the program offices for these projects do not have enough skilled managers to handle all the new work.

In general, CIOs believe that agencies are understaffed for IT projects, according to the survey. "Their effort to address the e-government initiatives and security raise human resource concerns related to the lack of technical and program/project management support staff."

The Office of Personnel Management has made some improvements to the IT recruitment process, including offering more attractive compensation packages, but the CIOs were still concerned about an inability to attract mid-level technical staff in the area of cybersecurity and solution architects, the survey found.

"Even more widespread was the concern voiced by CIOs that they did not have adequate mid-level program and project managers to provide the management oversight to the ever-expanding contractor community that is serving federal information technology efforts," the ITAA report said. CIOs were also worried that technology experts will lose interest in working for the government when the economy improves.

Federal technology leaders were also concerned that they didn't get enough funding for interagency e-government projects in the fiscal 2003 appropriations package. The interagency project fund received $5 million rather than the $45 million originally intended for the fund.

For its part, OMB, which oversees federal IT projects and recommends funding levels, would like CIOs to continue to "improve on the delivery of major information systems and ensure that they are delivered on time and within budget and contribute to their department's mission," the report said.

Both OMB and congressional staff agreed with CIOs that a "shortage of skilled program and project managers" is a "key barrier that needs to be lowered if the CIOs are going to be successful in delivering these major systems."

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