IT Security Still Top Challenge for Federal CIOs

Security, infrastructure, management and resources top federal CIO concerns.

by / February 25, 2009

The greatest challenges facing federal chief information officers today are -- in order of priority:

  • IT security
  • IT infrastructure
  • IT management
  • Resources
  • IT workforce
  • Application systems

These results were according to the 19th Annual CIO Survey released today by TechAmerica, formed by the merger of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and AeA, formerly the American Electronics Association, and Grant Thornton LLP. The survey reports data from in-person interviews with federal chief information officers from civilian, homeland security and defense agencies in the executive branch, as well as key officials from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Congress.

The theme of this year's survey, Learning from the Past, Transitioning to the Future, focuses on the transition of the federal government from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.

"Many of the challenges facing federal CIOs today carry over from previous years -- along with some progress and an increased understanding of the issues," said Phil Bond, president of TechAmerica. "Now more than ever, a partnership between the public and private sectors in leveraging IT to achieve a more transparent government is essential to securing the public's safety."

As in past surveys, a key line of inquiry was to discern the top priority challenges faced by the CIOs. Once again, IT security was reported to be the top challenge. All of the CIOs reported an active, engaged effort to continue to bolster the security of their systems and networks.

Other issues highlighted in the survey include:

  • IT Infrastructure: According to the CIOs interviewed for this report, IT infrastructure, consolidation, standardization and modernization provide a rare opportunity to improve IT security, improve reliability and customer service, manage costs and even reduce the carbon footprint created by the energy consumption of IT. All of them had IT infrastructure as a high priority and expected to continue with their plans to implement improvements.
  • IT Management: The overall position of the CIOs interviewed was that the CIO position has continued to gain strength, although the CIO position at specific agencies sometimes lost ground because of personnel changes or significant failures. The rationale for this was that the Clinger-Cohen Act has had success in defining an important role for CIOs and that the continued improvement of IT management practices, especially around investment decisions, has given the CIOs increased credibility.
  • Resources: In recent years, CIOs interviewed were concerned about their continuing challenges with making ends meet with what they see as inadequate resources. That trend continued this year, as resources were again deemed a priority challenge. The concerns expressed were similar to last year. The notion of doing more with less is becoming more difficult: CIOs believe that their ability to implement efficiencies and squeeze out additional performance is becoming more difficult, because much of the "low hanging fruit" has already been addressed.

The findings were released at an event held at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C., where high-tech and government executives discussed the impact of the stimulus legislation, and other issues facing the high-tech industry such as health IT, green IT, and e-government, among others. Speakers include: Michael Astrue, commissioner, Social Security Administration; John Garing, CIO, Defense Information Systems Agency; Linda Cureton, CIO, Information Technology and Communications Directorate, NASA; Michael Carleton, CIO, Department of Health and Human Services; Christine Liu, CIO, Small Business Administration; Carl Staton, deputy CIO, Department of Energy; Dave Bowen, CIO, Federal Aviation Administration; Gary Galloway, deputy director of the Office of Information Assurance at the Department of State; John Gardner, director of Enterprise Security Solutions Service, Department of Veterans Affairs; and Brian Burns, deputy CIO for Emerging Technology, Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer.