Congress, Katzen in CIO showdown
- By William Matthews
- Sep 18, 2000
Members of a House subcommittee made it clear Tuesday they want an IT czar;
they're fed up with the IT queen.
Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) blasted Sally Katzen, the Clinton administration's
top information technology policy official, for presiding over government
computer systems that have earned a D-minus average on security tests and
for failing to halt work on failed, wasteful computer systems.
Katzen, deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget,
returned fire, blaming Congress for failing to adequately fund security
projects and faulting prior administrations for establishing flawed procurement
The showdown occurred during a hearing by the House Government Reform Committee's
Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, which Horn
chairs. The subject was whether the nation needs a chief information officer
or "IT czar."
Two bills have been introduced in the House and at least one is pending
in the Senate to create a cabinet-level post for a national CIO. The CIO
would be the chief policy-maker and adviser to the president on IT issues — a role Katzen claims to fill now as deputy director for management, with
help from OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who introduced one of the House bills, said that
OMB "simply is unable to devote the attention needed to carry out those
responsibilities as required by law."
Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) author of the other House measure, reminded Katzen,
"You are trained as an attorney," not a computer specialist. "And you wear
many hats," he said, noting that Katzen has oversight responsibility for
many matters and serves on many policy-making boards.
"What we are trying to do is put someone with an IT background" in a position
to oversee the government's IT programs and policies, Turner said, adding
that naming a federal CIO will lead to better cross-agency coordination
of IT projects and faster progress toward digital government.
The hardest slap at Katzen came from Horn, who demanded to know why she
did not "pull the plug" earlier on hugely wasteful computer system purchases
by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
Rather than cancel the troubled systems, Katzen said, OMB ordered reviews
and discussed problems with agency chiefs. "We worked together. We're collegial,"
"Yeah," Horn replied, "collegial with taxpayers' money to the tune of $7
OMB stopped the programs "when it was clear to us that this was not the
way to go," Katzen said. She blamed prior administrations for establishing
purchasing practices under which agencies bought custom-built computer systems
that invariably came in over budget and so late they were obsolete. "We
changed that. It took time to turn it around," she said.
Horn asked why government computer systems overall received a grade of D-minus
in a recent security analysis by the General Accounting Office.
"We do not completely agree with the grades," Katzen said. She blamed Congress
for failing to fully fund computer security projects that the administration