Yes, there should be an IT czar

Here are the first responses to our question Should there be an IT czar?

E-governance leader needed

The new Digital Era has given rise to the need to transform our governmental structure, which is largely the product of the Industrial Era, to a system based on functionality rather than jurisdiction. This new era requires a new business model, one that will drive change in our structure and in our behavior to respond to and effectively move forward and transform into a Knowledge Age smart government.

What many are talking about is the need for an e-governance program in federal agencies. The e-governance senior executive is similar to a business CEO — leading, communicating and coordinating among the various business lines to change our relationship across government, with our citizen shareholders and with private industry partners. While the e-governance program would work closely with the agency CIO, the CIO's focus is on the tools or the means. The e-governance program's focus is on the business content and how the federal government and citizens wish to interact.

To effectively move government to the next level in service delivery, we must establish a new business model, with an e-governance program as the driver. If we do not, and instead retrofit the Digital Era into the existing technology model, we will be creating "e-stovepipes" along with a new generation of citizens dissatisfied with their government.

Name withheld upon request

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Budget and Control

Should there be an IT czar? Yes! We need one to set direction, set expectations and provide feedback to the government agencies. However, the issues revolve around budget and control.

If the position does not directly control funding, then we have created a situation where the federal chief information officer will be able to espouse intelligent views but ultimately have no enforcement power and, thus, little impact.

On the other hand, a federal CIO that controls all IT budgets could be powerful enough to disenfranchise an agency head.

A compromise position is to make the federal CIO a cabinet position with a reasonable ($250 million?) budget to be spent only by supplementing the budgets of other government agencies. As the needs change from year to year — such as from the Year 2000 problem to security issues to e-government — the federal CIO could direct his funds to programs that support his vision.

Dendy Young

Chairman and CEO

GTSI Corp.

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Good for government

Should there be an IT czar? Absolutely!

Information technology is not a short-term fad, but an ever-growing, vital arena necessary for sharing knowledge now and into the future. The government, limited by its very nature, will need the best leadership from the private sector to drive our bureaucratic stovepipes into some semblance of order and logic.

I raise my hand in vote for Mr. Jack Welch [the retiring CEO of General Electric Co.]!

June M. Helligrath

Head, Systems Branch

PMAM-SYS

Marine Corps Systems Command

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Casting a Vote

As an agency IT manager, I am strongly in favor of an overall federal CIO. Standard policies and practices throughout government must be centralized in one place. A committee of departmental CIOs will not be able to accomplish this as they all necessarily have their own interests rather than what's good for the government as a whole.

A second reason I haven't heard mentioned is the varying degrees of competence among departmental CIOs. The CIO of my department is not very well-respected within the department because he is perceived as dictating from his "ivory tower," usually through publications, and does not work with departmental IT staff. For example, in more than a year on the job he has never met with the IT heads of the departmental agencies as a group even though this group met quarterly before his arrival. He may be a fine fellow in person — I wouldn't know as I've never met him — but as a CIO he hasn't impressed at all.

When a CIO is not too competent, who has the technical knowledge to know he's not making good decisions? A departmental secretary and other departmental mangers don't because IT is a field most of them know little about.

An overall federal CIO and his/her staff would have the technical background to make a more informed assessment of a departmental CIO's actions, policies and practices and could provide feedback to the CIO and to the CIO's management.

With an overall federal CIO, it's less likely individual departments will go astray just because the departmental CIO isn't as competent. So a federal CIO is a must.

Name withheld upon request

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