A bill worth writing about

The concept of a federal chief information officer held little appeal for

me until I saw H.R. 5024, the Federal Information Policy Act of 2000, introduced

by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

I love H.R. 5024. The bill would establish an Office of Federal Information

Policy in the Executive Office of the President, but not in the Office of

Management and Budget. The federal CIO, as head of the office, would report

to the president. The new office would have oversight of information resources

management, information collection and dissemination, statistics, records

management, privacy and security, and information technology. The bill

would also create an Office of Information Security and Technical Protection

under the CIO.

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, those functions now belong to OMB's

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Since its founding 20 years

ago, OIRA has focused first on regulatory review and second on paperwork

reduction. Information policy came in a distant third.

Of the six OIRA administrators, four have been regulatory lawyers and

the other two were regulatory economists. These good people were more or

less educable on information policy issues, but it was an uphill struggle.

Never, for example, has OIRA had an administrator or deputy administrator

with an IT management background who could hit the ground running on information

questions.

H.R. 5024 delivers a message to OMB. OIRA wants to do regulations and

paperwork reduction. Fine, let OIRA keep regs and paperwork reduction — and nothing else. The bill strips OIRA of all other Paperwork Reduction

Act functions, stating that "the current statutory framework for the management

of federal government information resources is fundamentally flawed by its

reliance on direction and oversight by the Office of Management and Budget."

Best of all, I like H.R. 5024 because of its potential for redefining

next year's debate on reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The

paperwork reduction issue will not go away. Business interests want paperwork

reduction to stay in the law, no politician dares oppose it and Davis' bill

leaves it alone.

But the bill represents a declaration that federal information resources

management is much more than just paperwork reduction. The bill says that

other issues are very important, too — things such as the Clinger-Cohen

Act, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, computer security, IT management,

statistical policy, federal records and privacy. Information resources management

is so important that it deserves to be elevated into the White House, where

the federal CIO would be a special assistant to the president.

H.R. 5024 will not pass in the 106th Congress. It is too big, too far-reaching

and too late in the session. Its value is that it frames a new discourse

for how the government will manage its information resources in the Internet

Age and the new millennium.

Sprehe is president of Sprehe Information Management Associates, Washington,

D.C. He can be reached at jtsprehe@jtsprehe.com.

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