Lawmakers press for fed CIO czar
- By William Matthews
- Sep 18, 2000
It's time to put an IT expert in charge of the government's information
technology, according to members of a House government reform subcommittee — technology leadership by a lawyer has yielded woeful results.
Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) blasted Sally Katzen, the Clinton administration's
top IT policy official, for failing to stop federal agencies from spending
billions of dollars on computer systems that ultimately didn't work, and
for presiding over government computer systems that have earned a D-minus
average on recent security tests.
Katzen, deputy director for management in the Office of Management and
Budget, returned fire, blaming Congress for inadequate funding for security
proj-ects and faulting prior administrations for flawed computer system
The showdown occurred Sept. 12 while the Government Management, Information
and Technology Subcommittee that Horn chairs considered whether the nation
needs a chief information officer.
Two subcommittee members — a Republican and a Democrat — have introduced
bills in the House to create a cabinet-level CIO position. A similar bill
is pending in the Senate.
The CIO would be the chief policy-maker and adviser to the president
on information technology issues — a role Katzen fills now in her job at
OMB, with help from the agency's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who introduced one of the House bills, agreed
that "OMB has the responsibility" to oversee the government's use of information
technology, but he added that OMB "simply is unable to devote the attention
needed to carry out those responsibilities as required by law."
Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), author of the other House measure, reminded
Katzen, "You are trained as an attorney," not a computer specialist. "And
you wear many hats," he said, citing Katzen's multiple oversight responsibilities.
Katzen noted that as deputy director for management, she also serves
as chairwoman of the CIO Council, the Chief Financial Officers Council,
the Chief Procurement Officers Council and on other policy-making boards.
"What we are trying to do is put someone with an IT background" in a
position to oversee federal IT programs, Turner said. Naming a federal CIO
to focus solely on information technology matters would lead to better cross-agency
coordination of IT projects and faster progress toward digital government.
The hardest slap at Katzen came from Horn, who asked why she failed
to "pull the plug" earlier on wasteful computer system purchases by the
Federal Aviation Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
Rather than cancel the troubled systems, Katzen said, OMB ordered reviews
and discussed problems with agency chiefs. "We worked together. We're collegial,"
"Yeah," replied Horn, "collegial with taxpayers' money to the tune of
Horn asked why government computer systems overall received a grade
of D-minus in a security analysis by the General Accounting Office (see
story, Page 50).
"We do not completely agree with the grades," Katzen said, and blamed
Congress for not fully funding several computer security projects.
Katzen opposed appointing a single CIO, arguing "IT leadership must
be part and parcel" of the budgeting and management operation headed by
OMB. She cited the uneventful Year 2000 computer date rollover as a key
success under OMB leadership.
But Davis noted that OMB turned the Y2K proj-ect over to John Koskinen,
whose job was to concentrate solely on solving that problem. Koskinen's
success seems to underscore the need for a federal CIO, he said.0Related links: