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Survey: Budget cuts prompting hard choices for CIOs

May. 3, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
Federal CIOs say tightened budgets are forcing them to make hard choices over what level of support and services they can provide. Many admit they are struggling to meet a variety of administration IT management goals, such as consolidating data centers.
Federal CIOs say tightened budgets are forcing them to make hard choices over what level of support and services they can provide. Many admit they are struggling to meet a variety of administration IT management goals, such as consolidating data centers. (Microsoft)

Tight budgets are forcing many federal chief information officers to consider staffing cuts, reduced contractor support and reduced levels of service, a new survey finds.

In addition, some CIOs are considering doing "earlier or more frequent contract competitions in hopes of getting better labor rates from contractors," said the latest annual survey of federal CIOs released Thursday.

"There is really not much left to work with for cuts; we are operating at bare bones right now," one unnamed CIO was quoted as saying in the survey, which was conducted by TechAmerica, an association representing federal technology contractors and consulting firm Grant Thornton. They conducted the survey by interviewing 40 CIOs, deputy CIOs, chief technology officers, heads of major IT divisions and representatives of oversight and congressional organizations. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and CIOs from the General Services Administration and Defense and Interior departments also participated.

Most federal CIOs said a 10 percent budget cut would force them to eliminate or lower performance levels of certain IT services. Rather than round-the-clock help-desk support services, for example, feds may find some services reduced to five days a week for 12 hours, some CIOs said. Cybersecurity remains the top concern for CIOs, followed by controlling costs, IT workforce and hiring, executing IT reform initiatives, addressing security of mobile technology, and developing a mobile strategy.

CIOs said they are struggling to prioritize unfunded mandates and governmentwide initiatives from the Office of Management and Budget.

When asked to rate the administration's 2010 IT reform plan which calls on agencies to consolidate data centers, adopt cloud computing and share IT systems, among other things agencies gave the plan a C-plus or 3.5 out of five for feasibility.

They gave their progress so far in following that plan a C, or three out of five. And in terms of how highly the administration's IT reform plan is valued at their agencies, survey participants gave a combined score of 3.1.

Most CIOs said they support the plan but want to see it improved. For instance, they said agencies' IT environments and capabilities vary so specific goals and deadlines for each agency should be adjusted accordingly.

Budget cuts have forced IT executives to better prioritize IT projects, use agile IT development methods and increasingly engage contractors in their efforts to do more with less. "CIOs feel that budget cuts are on the way, so they are thinking about where to find savings," according to the survey. Others are looking to Congress for seed money to help fund innovative projects to improve security and share more services with other agencies.

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