CIO post debated

Experts at a Sept. 18 House hearing widely praised proposed legislation to create an e-government office with the Office of Management and Budget. However, whether the office's leader should be called a chief information officer and be confirmed by the Senate remains in dispute.

The E-Government Act (S. 803), introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and passed by the Senate, would authorize an e-government office within OMB. Housing it there is vital to identifying duplicative technology initiatives and thereby streamlining costs and improving services, said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government.

"We know that we invest redundantly and we know there are ways to fix that," he said during a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee. "It's not rocket science; it's management."

But requiring the leader of the e-government office to be Senate-confirmed would waste time in a rapidly advancing field, Forman said, adding that the functions and responsibility of such a position are more important than the title.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), who introduced a House bill (H.R. 2458) to create a federal CIO position, asked whether the position is diminished in stature without Senate confirmation.

Having the individual confirmed would carry "a substantial amount of weight," said Roger Baker, former CIO at the Commerce Department and currently executive vice president of CACI International Inc. Still, an e-government administrator within OMB would advance electronic services and reduce technology costs, Baker agreed.

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