House bill concedes on IT czar

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Rep. Jim Turner thinks federal e-government initiatives should be led by an IT czar, but he'll settle for a lesser leader.

Turner (D-Texas) introduced legislation in the House July 12 to create the post of federal chief information officer, but instead of a technology titan who reports directly to the president, Turner said he would settle for a federal CIO who reports to the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

A Turner proposal to create a top-level CIO last year was opposed by the Clinton administration, and this year the Bush administration has made it clear that it does not want a senior-level CIO either. Turner said his new bill "makes that concession" to the White House.

A federal CIO is "absolutely necessary," Turner said. Without one, agency secretaries and other top policy-makers "treat IT as an afterthought," he said.

Turner's bill is a companion piece to the E-Government Act of 2001 that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced this spring in the Senate. Under the bill, the CIO would have a $200 million-a-year fund to pay for innovative multi-agency e-government projects and preside over a new Office of Information Policy within OMB.

The bill covers dozens of e-government issues, from requiring federal courts to establish Web sites to creating an online national library and an online federal phone directory. It would set standards for federal Web sites and create a federal information technology training center.

"The need that drives this bill is clear," Turner said. "When it comes to information technology, the Internet and government/citizen interaction online, the federal government is playing catch-up with the private sector. And while we play catch-up, we're losing millions of taxpayer dollars to redundancy and inefficiency, and we are wasting the time of millions of citizens who deserve a modern, efficient government that reflects the technological leaps and bounds of the last decades."

Turner has gathered 36 co-sponsors in the House.

The Bush administration has appointed an associate director of information technology and e-government who reports to the OMB deputy director for management — a post that so far remains unfilled. The president has proposed a $20 million fund for e-government projects in 2002.

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