Commerce's CIO calls for federal IT czar

ARLINGTON, Va.—The Commerce Department's chief information officer today called for the creation of a federal chief information officer position to oversee, manage and provide a common vision for information technology programs governmentwide.

Speaking before a large group of industry representatives attending the 1999 Fall Procurement Conference sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement, Roger Baker said the government needs a central manager who can offer federal agencies a common vision of IT for government.

"We need a federal CIO to focus on rationalizing" governmentwide IT procurement and management, Baker said. "Our goals have to be to greatly improve how we manage IT. We have to keep IT tied to the business," he said.

Baker, who is one of the first agency CIOs to formally endorse a position for a federal IT czar, said one of the main advantages of establishing a federal CIO position would be to increase the government's scrutiny of its IT investments. "We're really very unwilling to cut in legacy programs," he said. "Government needs to rethink itself. We need to change our management structure [and] funding philosophy."

Baker also said the government can do more to consolidate its IT resources as a means to lower operating expenses. "There really could be a few federal enterprise networks," instead of the hundreds that now exist, Baker said. "You can easily have a Web farm for the federal government."

Baker said standardization of financial management software across all agencies might be a good place to start focusing government IT initiatives.

This year, Commerce will spend $1.5 billion on IT products and services, Baker said. He also reinforced his support for privitization, claiming that IT products grow from generation to generation in about three months, and the government has no way to keep up with that rate of change.

"I am completely committed to outsourcing as much as possible," Baker said, adding that outsourcing IT alone actually costs more in resources in the long run. "If you outsource the whole business, you can provide business metrics."

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