E-gov bill wins some GOP support

The Bush administration continues to deride it, but the idea of an information technology czar to head e-government is attracting bipartisan support in the Senate.

Two senior Republicans and a GOP freshman signed on as co-sponsors to the E-Government Act of 2001 just before Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced the sweeping measure May 1. Eight Democrats also joined as co-sponsors.

The bill's chief provisions would establish a federal chief information officer and an Office of Information Policy to manage the development of e-government. And the CIO would have $200 million a year to fund e-government projects.

Although lawmakers rallied around the plan, administration officials renewed their opposition.

"We don't want to convince folks [that e-government] is going to be the answer to everyone's prayer," said Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. "Unfortunately, there are some [people] running around who are really of that mind — some members of Congress who seem to think that this is going to be the end-all and be-all."

President Bush has suggested giving a lower-ranking OMB official collateral duties as federal CIO and creating a $20 million e-government fund for 2002.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a co-sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Communications Subcommittee, appeared with Lieberman to introduce the bill. Other co-sponsors were Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and freshman Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).

Burns said the legislation would use the Internet to "make government more efficient, accessible and accountable to the citizens it represents," noting that government "has been a sometimes unwilling participant in the technological revolution of recent years."

Lieberman also won endorsements from the American Library Association and such technology giants as IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. ALA president Nancy Kranich praised the bill for recognizing the public's information needs. "For many years, libraries have advocated for equal, ready and equitable access to government information," she said.

Lieberman said e-government is inevitable. "The people are demanding the same 24/7 access to government information and services now available to them from the private sector online."

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