Just wait 'til next year
- By William Matthews
- Jun 05, 2000
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
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
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.