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A draft of a presidential advisory committee’s report on transforming government calls for the creation of a federal chief information officer who would be responsible for interagency information technology projects.
A draft of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee’s Transforming Government Subcommittee calls for the Clinton administration and Congress to support the formation of a federal CIO position and provide the proper funding so that the federal CIO could coordinate interagency IT programs, said Herbert Schorr, a subcommittee member and executive director of the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute.
"Multiagency projects need one federal CIO," Schorr said. "Something needs to be done to handle the stovepipe situation."
The IT advisory committee is studying how to develop a long-range strategy for using IT to transform government and simplify the public’s transactions with agencies. The committee plans to submit its final report in September.
Schorr provided an overview of the draft report at the dg.o (DigitalGovernment.Org) 2000 conference last week in Los Angeles. The conference highlighted National Science Foundation-funded research in digital government and hopes to encourage partnering between government agencies, academic researchers and industry on future projects.
Agencies tend to spend all their IT money internally, but there needs to be a balance similar to what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has done to solicit research from outside organizations, Schorr said.
"A federal CIO could bring that balance" by requiring upfront investment in IT research, he said.
The committee’s recommendation should give a high-level boost to the idea of a federal CIO, said David McClure, associate director of governmentwide and defense information systems at the General Accounting Office. Senior lawmakers have begun to raise IT issues such as electronic government to the top of the legislative agenda — a sign that Congress may be receptive to the idea, he added.
Some agency CIOs and lawmakers are in favor of a federal CIO. Roger Baker, CIO at the Commerce Department, has said a federal CIO is needed. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said in March that the government needs a federal CIO to speed up the pace of electronic government. They are expected to draft legislation that would create the position. But top IT officials at the Office of Management and Budget say a federal CIO is not needed because the deputy director for management at OMB already serves that function.
Baker, who was one of the first top IT officials to call for a federal CIO, said the position would be most effective in improving the management of IT governmentwide, not in improving technology.
"This is a management issue, not a technology issue," Baker said. The federal CIO needs to identify and manage central priorities for the government and not be prodded by Congress or others to solve specific problems, he said.
George Molaski, CIO at the Transportation Department, cautioned that a federal CIO will not, by itself, solve the IT management problems facing federal agencies. "We’ve got to make a major structural change at the departmental level," he said. "The CIO has to have budgetary control and approval control over any IT expenditures the department has. They need to control the infrastructure, and there has to be agency CIOs who report to the agency head and to the [federal] CIO. Then you’ve got some teeth to do some consolidations and make sure you cross agencies."
Baker and Molaski also questioned the need for government-specific research in IT. "IT is not a core competency of the civilian side of government, and we need to treat it as such," Molaski said. "You don’t need to do R&D to know you can go to one personnel syste
However, John Dyer, Social Security Administration CIO, said the government has some IT needs that deserve dedicated basic research, and the subcommittee’s report addresses the long-range research issues that federal agencies have identified for e-government. The fact that SSA is expecting such large volumes of users is driving the need for research into methods that will accommodate those users.
Still, Dyer said he is not convinced the government needs a federal CIO, agreeing with OMB that its deputy director of management can handle the job.