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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

CIO departures put innovation at risk

When David Wennergren, the Defense Department’s assistant deputy chief management officer, announced his retirement last week, he joined a growing list of high level government IT officials who have left government service.

In addition to Wennergren, there is Roger Baker from Veterans Affairs, Linda Cureton from NASA, G. Kelly Croft from Social Security, and Richard Spires from Homeland Security.

A certain amount of churn is to be expected, especially when the second term of an administration is less than a year old.

But here’s my worry, and a few executives have voiced a similar concerns: At a time when the government can least afford it, are we faced with a leadership vacuum? Will the opportunities to bring fresh, new solutions to the government diminish?

Technically, Wennergren isn’t a CIO, but I include him in this group because he has always been at the forefront of innovation and pushing the envelope as far as using technology to achieve mission success.

These departed government executives all have a reputation for being risk takers and advocates for change. We need that kind of leadership today.

It’s not that we don’t still have people like that in government; we just need more of them. We can’t afford not to have them.

While the reasons for each of these individuals to leave are varied, there also is a sense that the job is needlessly frustrating.

Perhaps some of the reform legislation will help by empowering CIOs with more budget authority. Perhaps this is just a phase and we should take the departures at face value.

But when you look at them as a whole, it’s a disheartening trend.

Who is going to fill the void? And more importantly, if the perception is that frustration with the job played a role, then who will want to fill the void?

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:51 AM

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