Shining Lights

Government's chief officers are taking on bigger challenges than ever.

When it comes to the concept of chief officers, the federal government has apparently decided you can't have too much of a good thing.

Over the past two decades, government has added more and more chiefs to its ranks, covering not only traditional areas like finance and information, but instituting new positions such as chief risk officer and chief environmental officer as well.

Shortly after taking office, President Obama designated chiefs of performance, information and technology whose responsibilities extend across the entire executive branch. Then, this January, he signed the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, requiring agencies to designate senior officials to serve as chief operating and performance improvement officers. Their job is to save government money by eliminating redundant programs and better coordinating common administrative tasks, such as purchasing.

Clearly, chiefs are more prominent than ever in the federal power structure. In this special annual issue, we focus on four sets of chiefs who are squarely attacking some of government's biggest challenges: the heads of information, finance, human capital and information security.

As the stories in this issue demonstrate, their challenges are many-and growing. That's why throughout the issue, we've focused on the theme of innovation and how it is playing out across each of the disciplines:

  • Chief information officers are in the spotlight not only to address past failures in high-profile projects, but also to implement the Obama administration's 25-point plan for improving federal IT management. The savviest CIOs are leading the charge to shift federal operations out of expensive, resource-hogging data centers and into the Internet cloud.
  • Chief financial officers are at the heart of the mandate for agencies to do more with less due to severe constraints on spending. The sharpest among them are moving swiftly to upgrade internal controls and implement an Obama administration mandate to crack down on improper payments.
  • Chief human capital officers are leading the difficult transition in their organizations from serving as guardians of long-established hiring and personnel management systems to becoming strategic partners with managers in meeting workforce needs and developing succession plans.
  • Chief information security officers are in the unenviable position of trying to fend off attacks on government systems that are growing at the rate of 40 percent a year, while at the same time coming up with new policies that allow government to increase its support for mobile devices.

Addressing such issues requires a set of savvy, committed, experienced leaders. This year, for the second time we have recognized several of them as Chiefs of the Year. In challenging times, these individuals are leading the way in coming up with innovative solutions, providing a shining example to their peers.

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