Federal CIO to head e-gov

Bush blueprint budget

The White House affirmed its intention to appoint a federal chief information officer last week, an indication that the new position would be separate from the head of management at the Office of Management and Budget.

The Bush administration has repeatedly denied it would name an IT czar, but the president will appoint a federal CIO to provide leadership and coordination for e-government initiatives, said Jimmy Orr, a White House spokesman.

The Bush administration has been unclear about whether it would include those duties as part of the responsibilities of the deputy director of management at OMB. At least three lawmakers are preparing legislation defining the federal CIO's role.

The White House has not released many details of where the federal CIO would fit in the administration or who will fill the position. However, the federal CIO's primary responsibilities will be to coordinate the many agency e-government initiatives and oversee Bush's proposed $100 million e-government fund, Orr said.

"There is a need for greater leadership and organization. There's no one person overseeing and coordinating e-government," Orr said.

Government and industry officials who support a federal CIO warn that the administration should be careful when outlining the CIO's responsibilities. "The CIO needs to be able to make some tough decisions and to get others to accept them," said Roger Baker, CIO at the Commerce Department.

Whomever Bush appoints, the federal CIO must have the authority and the personality to stand up to government leaders, ranging from agency CIOs to department secretaries to Congress, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division.

The federal CIO will have several functions, including providing the leadership and coordination needed to realize a citizen-centric e-government; lead cross-agency councils such as the CIO Council; and coordinate with state and local governments, Orr said.

One way the CIO may administer the e-gov fund is as a venture capital fund, investing in specific cross-agency technology projects, said Renny DiPentima, who served as the Social Security Administration's top IT manager and who is now president of SRA International Inc.'s government sector.

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