States enlisted for federal CIO push

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,

Valicenti said.

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.

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