CIO czar concept gains momentum

Lawmakers last week announced support for a federal chief information officer

to oversee how agencies create a digital government.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said Friday

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.

The lawmakers will base their broad digital government bills on the

recommendations laid out in a report released Friday by the Democratic Leadership

Council's Progressive Policy Institute.

The institute recommends that the federal CIO report directly to the

president, that new funds be made available for e-government projects and

that a $500 million annual digital government fund be created to fund cross-agency

e-government initiatives.

A law would speed up the development of digital government projects,

which so far have been created unevenly across government, Lieberman said.

Computer security in particular needs special attention, he added.

A federal CIO would be "critical" to improving government computer security,

Turner said. However, the role of the federal CIO "would have to be structured

carefully. I think [there are] agencies [that] may feel uncomfortable with

it. We [have to be] careful about how we structure the CIO with respect

to" the Office of Management and Budget.

A draft of the Information Technology Management Reform Act, which later

was combined with other laws to become the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, originally

included a provision for a federal CIO. But OMB opposed the position and

the proposal was dropped. The law also created the agency CIO position.

Roger Baker, the Commerce Department's CIO, late last year called for

the government to create a central CIO who could offer federal agencies

a common vision on electronic services and the development of information

systems so that agencies' IT projects stay focused on improving the business

of government.

Alan Balutis, deputy CIO at Commerce, said he thinks a federal CIO "is

an important enough policy issue that should be put on the docket for discussion

and debate."

A federal CIO could help coordinate specific IT programs and missions

across government, said Jim Flyzik, CIO at the Treasury Department and vice

chairman of the CIO Council. This is a role that the CIO Council is trying

to fill, but it would need the program and budget authority that a federal

CIO would have to be able to do it, he said.

"We do need some authority that can put in place the things we need

to do on a governmentwide basis," he said. "The need for someone, something,

some organization to have power is there."


Does the government need a central CIO? Send your comments on this story to [email protected]

BY Colleen O'Hara and Diane Frank
Mar. 27, 2000

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