Davis, council push for IT czar

Advocates for a federal information technology czar renewed their push Wednesday despite indications that the Bush administration does not want an IT czar.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said he will reintroduce legislation to create a cabinet-level chief information officer, and a government operations think tank issued a report calling for appointing an "assistant to the president for electronic government" and giving the position "cabinet-equivalent rank."

But the Bush administration appears to have ruled that out. Last month, spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "We don't use the word "czar'." Instead, he said the administration plans to assign the technology oversight duties to the deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget. So far, no one has been nominated for that job.

Davis, who is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, said the Bush administration has not yet given the technology czar idea "appropriate focus."

His bill would create an Office of Information Policy to be headed by a CIO for the United States. Within that office would be an Office of Information, security and Technical Protection. Davis introduced identical legislation last July, too late in the congressional session to have a realistic chance of passing.

The campaign for a technology czar was joined by the Council for Excellence in Government, a think tank devoted to improving the performance of government agencies and branches. The council called Wednesday for the appointment of an "e-government czar" and several other high-level government technology managers.

Patricia McGinnis, director of the council, called for designating the OMB's deputy director for management as the "deputy director for management and technology." And the deputy director should create an Office of Electronic Government and Information Policy to be headed by a federal CIO nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, she said.

With a change of administrations, "the timing is perfect" to create the technology czar post and other positions, McGinnis said.

The technology hierarchy is part of a far bigger plan the Council for Excellence in Government has compiled for creating an electronic government.

Davis, who endorses many of the plan's concepts for using IT to make government more efficient and more accessible to the public, warned, "This isn't going to work without the administration buying in to it."

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