Just wait 'til next year

He would be selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate. From

his post in the Executive Office of the President, he would serve as chief

adviser on information technology matters and preside over the federal CIO

Council.

He would have a staff of 12. But with no formal authority over federal

IT spending, he would not be a "czar."

That's how Rep. James Turner (D-Texas) envisions the government's "chief

information officer."

Turner plans to introduce legislation as early as this week to create

such a position, and he hopes to hold hearings on the subject this summer,

an aide said.

The idea that someone needs to take charge of federal government efforts

to create a workable, citizen-friendly electronic government — and possibly

exercise influence over more than $38 billion in annual federal spending

on IT — appears to be gaining support in Congress.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) has said he, too, hopes to introduce

legislation this year to create a federal CIO. "If we hustle, we can introduce

it in the fall," a staffer said.

But congressional staffers, administration officials and policy experts

agree that there is virtually no chance a CIO will be approved by this Congress

or serve in this administration.

With presidential nominating conventions and re-election campaigns to

distract them, Congress is not expected to accomplish much. And creating

a new senior-level post for an administration that is preparing to head

home is not high on many lawmakers' priority lists.

But introducing legislation and holding hearings this year is a good

way to get a start on creating a federal CIO next year, a Senate staffer

said. But delay gives opponents time to get better organized.

Senior officials from the Office of Management and Budget have already

said they dislike the idea. For now, OMB has the closest thing to a federal

CIO in its deputy director for management — although that post is officially

vacant. OMB also has the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, whose

chief, John Spotila, has warned that a federal CIO "is not a magic wand"

for solving government IT problems.

More resistance from other agencies is likely, said Robert Atkinson

of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank allied with the Democratic

Party. The main job of a federal CIO would be to develop a national IT strategy

that cuts across agency boundaries to provide government services by function

rather than by agency. As such, the CIO would interfere directly with agencies'

traditional control over federal programs, he said.

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