Chief Challenges

The management agenda of the decision-makers in finance, information technology, procurement and personnel.

It's hard to argue there are too many chiefs in government. If anything, there are too few. The duties of chief financial, human capital and acquisition officer often fall on only one or two people in a department. The resulting multitasking usually leaves at least one title, and sometimes all of them, underserved.

That can cause glitches in day-to-day operations and even more trouble when a key management function suddenly be-comes an emergency. That's happening more often. For example, the Army CFO is under the gun to update the books rapidly so the service can make the case for emergency funding to fix equipment it needs to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Office of Management and Budget is leaning on CIOs to consolidate technology for the lines of business effort, deliver souped-up IDs to those working in federal facilities and make way for Internet addresses for everyone and everything under the sun.

CHCOs are feeling the heat at the Defense and Homeland Security departments, where pay-for-performance systems are under assault in the courts. Pressure on CAOs mounts as spending increases while the size of the acquisition workforce falls; continuing revelations of procurement fraud by top officials and irregularities by popular interagency contract shops don't help.

C titleholders still are fighting for recognition. To win power, some CHCOs are reeling into their offices once-dispersed control over HR funding. OMB-mandated consolidation of IT infrastructure is serendipitous for CIOs, who gain jurisdiction over more systems and dollars.

It's not yet clear whether CAOs, the newest C, will gain the seat at agency leadership tables envisioned for them by the law that created them. Full-fledged CAOs are scarce. Instead, the title is held mostly by officials with myriad other duties. What's more, the new title has created hard feelings among the career procurement executives who've long performed the duties, albeit without the clout associated with political appointments.

C titles still are accumulating authority, even as their responsibilities grow. The policies they set and the decisions they make are changing the way work is accomplished, what is done, the tools used, the way money is spent and accounted for, and the very nature of the workforce.

Each group is coalescing, communicating and commiserating within its own council. The councils are drawing attention to their members, as well. But so far, there's not much cross-council collaboration. That sharing of experience, insight, expertise and lessons could more quickly catapult the chiefs into the councils of power.

Visit the Chiefs Directory online to view and download contact information from the continuously updated database of 500 key decision makers in federal finance, information technology, procurement and personnel.

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