Terrorism, e-gov mingle

The topic this week at the Industry Advisory Council's annual Executive Leadership Conference was e-government, but terrorism was not far from anyone's mind.

Even as the two-day conference got under way in Hershey, Pa., Oct. 15, some chief information officers were conducting urgent calls via cell phone following anthrax scares at some federal buildings in Washington, D.C.

Although no announcements were made about where and what it really was, by the morning of Oct. 16, everyone knew that the Capitol became a target of bioterrorism after an envelope containing anthrax was sent to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

"It isn't that our priorities have changed," said Ira Hobbs, acting CIO at the Agriculture Department. "They have intensified in some ways."

"I thought that terrorism at its worst found America at its very best," said Sean O'Huiginn, Ireland's ambassador to the United States, a luncheon speaker at the conference. One of Ireland's very first electronic initiatives was filing taxes online, he said.

At the conference, nearly 700 attendees from government and industry worked to sort out the next steps in e-government.

"The question is how many times are we buying the same initiative," asked Mark Forman, the assistant director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

The issue of money came up repeatedly in the wake of the worst terrorist tragedies in U.S. history, but executives in and out of government were confident that money would be available for IT initiatives after Congress approved a $40 billion fund to fight terrorism.

"We have to convince Congress that spending money on a tax collection agency is as important as some other government programs," said John Reece, the CIO at the Internal Revenue Service.

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