CIO Council consumes GITS board

A key committee created by the Clinton administration to help bring the federal government into the Internet age is being quietly shut down.

The Government Information Technology Services Board will be absorbed by the Chief Information Officers Council, an official at the Office of Management and the Budget confirmed.

It's a friendly takeover, the official insisted. Some of the members of the board are also members of the CIO Council, and "it was everyone's view that the CIO Council could well embrace the GITS Board and bring it within the fold and have a single council."

The GITS Board has supported a wide range of projects to promote electronic government — from providing Internet access to native Alaskans to creating electronic nautical charts to developing plug-and-play computer security systems for government agencies.

Such activity will be taken over by various committees of the CIO Council, including an electronic government committee that is being created, said James Flyzik, who is vice chairman of both the GITS Board and the CIO Council. The GITS Board will be subsumed "over the next couple of months," he said.

"This is just a natural evolution," Flyzik said. "The CIO council [is] moving more into electronic government, and electronic government is the heart and soul of the GITS Board."

The GITS Board was created in 1993 as the Government Information Technology Services Working Group. Its job was to guide government agencies as they began the Clinton administration's effort to "re-engineer through information technology." The working group became the GITS Board in 1996 by executive order.

The CIO Council, which was created by the same executive order, is made up of the chief information officers of major government agencies. The council's mission is to improve the way agencies manage information technology. The GITS Board focuses more on developing specific IT functions.

"The GITS Board is the doer, the CIO Council is the pontificator," said Gary Bass, director of OMB Watch, a public interest organization that monitors federal IT policy and other government activities. "It makes sense to get doers together with talkers."

But there is reason for concern, Bass said. "The CIO Council is already an unaccountable body." Merging it and the GITS Board could increase the council's influence, "and when you add authority to an unaccountable body, that's not good," Bass said. Neither the CIO Council nor the GITS Board hold public meetings.

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