A bill worth writing about
- By Timothy Sprehe
- Sep 25, 2000
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
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 email@example.com.