The president's tech job

Presidential candidates rarely, if ever, invoke federal information technology

issues while on the campaign trail. The reason is simple enough: Federal

IT doesn't whip up a whole lot of support.

But the next president, and his administration, will be faced with solving

some perplexing IT initiatives in the federal government. Topping the list

is electronic government. As the public demands more efficient service from

federal agencies, the next administration will have to figure out how to

untangle an incomprehensible maze of incompatible systems so that people

can find exactly what they want, when they want it. Finding a way to secure

government systems from hackers and others bent on gaining access to sensitive

information is another tough IT problem with no easy answers.

So when FCW asked the campaign staffs of presidential candidates Al

Gore and George W. Bush to provide positions on some federal IT issues,

we were not sure what we would receive.

Many of the answers were heavy on rhetoric and light on substance. But

both candidates offered some details of how they will manage federal IT

policy in the executive branch. For example, Gore said he would not appoint

an IT czar to oversee intragovernmental IT policy. Bush said it is a good

idea. Also, Gore said he would require every agency to post progress reports

online and would give each American a free digital certificate to protect

information they file electronically to agencies. Bush said he would set

up a $100 million fund to promote electronic government, and he indicated

he would put pressure on agencies to provide tight information security.

But although the president has much to say about how agencies manage

IT, the real heavy lifters are the federal IT workers — the ones who come

up with solutions to make e-government a possibility, who figure out how

to stop intrusions into computer systems and who create systems aimed at

making government work better.

Therefore, the next president's biggest job may well be making sure

federal IT workers have the resources they need to make those possibilities

have more of a chance for success.

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