E-gov requires fed CIO, Bush told

Everyone says e-government will reduce government costs. Now the Gartner Group Inc. says why: "E-government transformation will eliminate at least 30 percent of the current government agencies."

In a message to President Bush, Gartner analyst French Caldwell said that the federal government needs a top-level chief information officer to oversee the downsizing and the impact that "technology-related public policy" will have on the federal bureaucracy.

"The federal CIO should be positioned for success as a cabinet-level position reporting directly to the president," Caldwell wrote.

Increasingly, he said, citizens want "to blur boundaries between agencies and make interactions with the government less challenging." But the federal government is ill structured to respond. Most digital initiatives at the federal level are conceived and carried out by individual agencies operating alone.

"There is no collective strategy," Caldwell said. Thus there is little opportunity to use technology to simplify government, reduce costs or develop common standards for local, state and federal entities.

That's where the federal CIO comes in. Caldwell said the federal CIO should "have a keen sense of political processes and strong motivational skills" to overcome bureaucratic turf protection and inspire new thinking about the functions and performance of government. "Networking and relationship management skills will prove critical in bringing together diverse agencies," Caldwell wrote to the president.

"Through 2020, IT will bring a transformation to government and governing more radical than any changes since the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt — and it begins with your tenure, Mr. President," he wrote.

In the 10 weeks the Bush administration has been in office, it has appeared less enthralled with the idea of a federal CIO.

Rather than appointing a cabinet-level technology czar, the administration proposes to assign CIO duties to a deputy director in the Office of Management and Budget.

Caldwell said "consideration could be given to installing the federal CIO as a deputy in OMB," but he warned that "the OMB mantle and structure could limit the opportunity for success." An OMB-based CIO could be perceived as an enforcer of policies rather than a leader and advocate for new e-government ideas, he said.

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