Drive IT with dollars, not dictates
- By William Matthews
- Sep 22, 2000
The nation needs an information technology chief to oversee federal IT projects,
a presidential advisory committee has concluded. But instead of a controlling
"czar," the committee has called for a beneficent banker.
The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee recommends setting
up an Office for Electronic Government to try to better coordinate agencies'
IT projects and policies.
But the chief of the new office would not set IT priorities not through
czar-like dictates. Instead, the chief would be able to use an annual $100
million bankroll to encourage cooperation among agencies on IT research
projects, PITAC suggested in a report to be sent to the president and Congress.
The recommendation spelled out Wednesday is the latest in a spate of plans
to create a top-level government post and appoint a technology expert to
oversee federal computer projects.
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to create a cabinet-level
post of federal chief information officer that would report to the president
and play a major role in setting the government's IT agenda.
Under the advisory committee's plan, there would be no CIO. The head of
the Office for Electronic Government would fill that role but would report
to the director of the Office of Management and Budget instead of the president.
With a soft touch and hard cash, the head of the Office for Electronic Government
would "promote innovative and cross-agency efforts," especially those that
offer no immediate payoff or are considered too experimental or risky.
The advisory council noted that the federal budget-planning process, in
which budgets are written agency-by-agency, makes it difficult to carry
out the kind of multiagency IT projects needed for effective electronic
government. And the year-to-year focus in federal budgeting discourages
agencies from planning long-term IT research and development projects that
do not yield short-term results.
But with $100 million per year to spend, the advisory council estimates
the Office for Electronic Government could fund 10 to 20 long-term research
projects each year.