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Federal CIOs fret over budget pressures, IT talent and cybersecurity

Kenneth Corbin | May 3, 2013
TechAmerica's annual survey of federal CIOs reveals anxieties over chronic fiscal constraints and lack of budget authority. But there's more: Add security threats and challenges of recruiting and retaining top talent to the list of CIO concerns.

CIOs in the government are also struggling with workforce issues, particularly when it comes to recruiting and retaining top IT talent, for which they compete with private-sector firms that often pay more and can offer a faster on-boarding process.

Twenty-one percent of CIOs surveyed rank human capital as their chief concern, pointing to the fact that many older employees are opting for retirement rather than continue on in the federal government where pay has been frozen and further cuts seem likely. Many CIOs could also do without the tendency of some members of Congress to denigrate government workers over the course of budgeting debates.

"The security of that government job isn't quite the same as it used to be given all the rhetoric on Capitol Hill, so this is putting a lot of pressure on CIOs," DelPrete says. "A number of CIOs are losing staff to private-sector jobs."

Close behind human capital on the list of CIO worries is cybersecurity, which 19 percent of respondents named as their primary concern.

CIOs report that a shortage of qualified workers trained in cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges in that area. At the same time, the administration and many influential members of Congress have identified cybersecurity as a major national security concern, and as a result programs to shore up IT defenses could actually be in line for funding increases.

CIOs are also increasingly worried about insider threats that, though smaller in number, can be more severe than external risks. Survey respondents also report that they have been reaching out to their counterparts in the private sector to develop a more effective response to cyber threats.

"Cybersecurity challenges are continuing to grow, but CIOs are very focused on this. It's a top priority," DelPrete says.

And There's Mobile and BYOD

Among the numerous other tasks they are juggling, federal CIOs are also pressing ahead with the development of mobility strategies, a push that comes in response to the digital government strategy the Obama administration released a year ago, placing a heavy emphasis on mobilizing the workforce.

Many agencies are working on new mobile device management projects, and advancing technologies to "containerize" data on a phone, partitioning sensitive enterprise information from other content on the device.

BYOD remains top of mind among agency CIOs, with 48 percent reporting that they have a policy in place for employees to use their personal equipment at work, with many more looking seriously at enacting their own framework for BYOD.

CIOs report that their efforts to bring new mobile devices and applications into the workforce are slowed by the same forces that weigh on the larger IT operation--namely tight budgets and talent shortages.

"They're making some great strides in this area, but there are definitely some challenges to work through," DelPrete says. "They need expertise in mobility development, but also money to invest."


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