States enlisted for federal CIO push
- By William Matthews
- Apr 04, 2001
Convinced that the nation needs a top-level chief information officer but
facing an administration that apparently doesn't want one, Rep. Tom Davis
(R-Va.) called on state and local government technology experts Tuesday
to help build a case for a federal CIO.
"The federal government is failing to effectively manage its information
resources," said Davis, who is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's
new Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.
Many state and local governments, by contrast, are making progress toward
replacing "paper-based, stovepipe" government with "integrated, enterprisewide
management systems" that improve service delivery to citizens, he said.
"Most states have created chief information officers or their equivalent,"
said Davis, who has proposed creating a federal Office of Information Policy
headed by a federal CIO. The new office would consolidate power over information
technology now held by the Office of Management and Budget.
Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of OMB, has made it clear that President Bush
does not support creating a high-level federal CIO. O'Keefe said appointing
a powerful CIO might seem to absolve agency officials of responsibility
for their IT decisions.
But a panel of state CIOs and other government IT experts said high-level
technology czars are essential.
All U.S. states except Hawaii have a CIO, according to Aldona Valicenti,
chief information officer of Kentucky and president of the National Association
of State Information and Resource Executives. The association has concluded
"that the federal government needs a federal CIO," she said.
Like states, the federal government needs someone who can oversee technology
from an enterprisewide perspective so that systems adopted by the various
agencies are compatible. Having a federal CIO also would make it easier
for states to coordinate IT policies with those of the federal government
so that systems work together, she said.
About half of the states have CIOs who report directly to the governor and
half have CIOs that report to a state executive, cabinet chief or IT board,
In Pennsylvania, having a CIO has helped consolidate IT operations to save
money and improve services, said Charles Gerhards, the state's CIO. For
example, 16 data centers were consolidated into one and turned over to a
private vendor. The move meant agencies now have access to specialized services
that they could not have afforded on their own.
Gerhards said he is pushing all state agencies to adopt a single e-mail
system and common desktop software so that messages, documents and spreadsheets
created in one agency can be used by any other agency. And adopting common
software will save $9 million over three years, he said.
Similar cross-agency IT decisions would be valuable at the federal level
for interdepartment and intergovernmental transactions, said Donald Upson,
Virginia's secretary of technology.
But federal agencies are strongly inclined to "protect their turf," said
Upson, a former congressional staff member. Unless there is a senior-level
CIO with authority over governmentwide IT management, it will be difficult
to break down the bureaucracy, he said.