OMB: No call for IT czar

Members of Congress and some agency officials are promoting the plan for

an IT czar, but senior leaders at the Office of Management and Budget contend

that there already is a de facto IT czar — the DDM.

That's the OMB's deputy director for management. Although the post is technically

vacant, some of the duties are being performed by Sally Katzen, who was

nominated for it last June but has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Officially,

Katzen is counselor to OMB director Jacob Lew.

On Wednesday, Katzen made it clear she does not think appointing a governmentwide

chief information officer is a good idea.

"You need support from the top," she told a gathering of federal CIOs. "It

doesn't matter what the title is. You've got the DDM."

Katzen also said there has been substantial support from President Clinton,

who has been outspoken about closing the digital divide and promoting e-government.

And "Vice President Gore's interest is well publicized," she said.

On the other hand, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas)

have suggested that a federal IT czar could speed up progress toward e-government.

And they said they may introduce legislation to create the position.

The Democratic Leadership Council, meanwhile, is calling for an IT czar

who reports directly to the president and oversees a $500 million budget

for e-government projects.

Supporters are inspired by the successful computer transition from 1999

to 2000 led by Year 2000 czar John Koskinen. And recent hacker attacks and

denial-of-service strikes against government and commercial Web sites have

highlighted computer security problems and convinced many that a czar-led

defense is in order.

There also is uncertainty about what exactly e-government is and how federal

agencies are going to get there, which makes a czar with a vision and authority

to implement it appealing.

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