Treasury CIO Reassignment Raises Red Flags

With the decision this week to reassign Sonny Bhagowalia, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the Department of Treasury, to a detail on the Bureau of Fiscal Service, a Federal News Radio piece by Jason Miller raises the question of whether this decision might be the first in a series of cascading dominoes.

According to Miller, “Usually, when a CIO like Bhagowalia — who has been in his position for almost three years and has had a fair amount of success — gets reassigned to another part of the agency, it raises some red flags. But this one should sound the alarm bells for all ‘legacy’ federal agency CIOs.”

Miller cites multiple sources who “the first shoe to drop in the Trump administration’s plan to replace most, if not every, department CIO aside from the ones they named,” noting one source who claimed the “current belief in the Office of Management and Budget and White House is that CIOs should be business people, not technology people.”

The Trump Administration has been notably slow to fill agency-level CIO roles, a decision that appears to be by design and may hint at a belief on the part of the Trump Administration that CIO roles should be politically appointed, instead of occupied by career executives. Currently, political appointees only make up a third of the CIO positions within the CIO Council, which is comprised of CIOs and Deputy CIOs from 28 agencies and is “the principal interagency forum for improving agency practices related to the design, acquisition, development, modernization, use, sharing, and performance of Federal information resources.”

The prospect of such a dramatic shakeup in the CIO ranks is alarming to many, in light of already existing challenges in filling vacancies. As noted in the CIO Council’s State of Federal IT report, published earlier this year, “many CIOs explained that they had identified well-qualified candidates for cybersecurity positions, but those candidates ended up taking other jobs— often in the private sector. CIOs attributed this to multiple issues with the Federal hiring environment: the process takes too long, relies on a confusing website/ application procedure, and agencies cannot offer competitive salaries.”

Moreover, “even if a candidate does go through the whole process, HR selection officials with limited cybersecurity subject matter expertise may misevaluate candidates’ capabilities, leading to under-qualified candidates advancing ahead of well-qualified ones.”

These struggles persist at a time when a federal CIO has yet to be named, despite OMB’s stated expectation that the hire would be made in May, and the recent recirculation of the job vacancy seems to suggest the spot may remain open for awhile, yet.

Miller sums up the landscape, “So here we are six months into the new administration, and many key management positions, including the director of the Office of Personnel Management, the administrator of the General Services Administration, OMB’s deputy director for management, the federal CIO, the administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and many others, remain unfilled, and in many cases unknown for what the future looks like. If you add to this a potential plan to clean house of legacy career CIOs, federal management efforts surely are on uncertain footing.”





Posted in General News

Tags: Department of Treasury



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