How to recruit a federal CIO

There is a growing conviction that the nation needs a top-notch information

technology chief to make e-government a reality. But how do you persuade

a technology titan to abandon the high-powered, high-paying private sector

to join the slow-moving, low-paying government?

Flattery sometimes works.

When Roger Baker's phone rang, it was the secretary of Commerce calling

from Air Force One, which was flying the president to China. The secretary

wanted to know if Baker, then vice president of credit card giant Visa,

would consider joining the Clinton administration as chief information officer

at the Commerce Department. Baker was told he would be in charge of turning

a $1 billion government agency into a workable digital department.

"When you get a call like that, you have to give it serious consideration,"

Baker said. He decided to take the job as a form of public service.

Building an electronic government will no doubt be challenging, it might

be exciting, but it certainly won't be lucrative. Top federal pay of less

than $150,000 a year is far less than the multimillion-dollar salaries that

these high-tech executives can earn. Nevertheless, their names come up the

most often as candidates for a federal CIO post.

Who would want the job? "It depends on how you pitch it," Baker said.

Presidents and cabinet secretaries can be pretty persuasive salespeople.

Here are some of the top candidates for the job of federal CIO, as suggested

by agency CIOs and industry officials:

* Larry Ellison, chief executive officer of Oracle Corp.

* Lou Gerstner, CEO of IBM Corp.

* John Koskinen, former federal Year 2000 czar

* Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc.

* Jack Welch, retiring CEO of General Electric Co.

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