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.
Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.