Interview: CIO wants to blaze IT trail

Interview: CIO wants to blaze IT trail

Roger W. Baker

Roger W. Baker is the chief information officer at the Commerce Department, where he has been responsible for all information technology assets for the past 18 months.

Before joining Commerce, he was an electronic commerce consultant with Meta Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn. Before that he was a vice president at Visa International Inc.

Baker holds bachelor of science and master of business administration degrees from the University of Michigan.

Baker recently spoke with GCN about Commerce's plan to become the federal government's premier digital department.

Who's In Charge

Roger W. Baker

Chief Information Officer

Karen F. Hogan

Director, Digital Department Program

Richard Swartz

Acting Associate Director for Information Technology, Census Bureau

Dennis Shaw

CIO, Patent and Trademark Office

Bernie McMahon

Director for Information Resources Management, International Trade Administration

Michael Garcia

CIO, Minority Business Development Agency

Shukri Wakid

CIO, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Pleffner

Acting CIO, Economic Development Administration

Alan Lorish

CIO, Bureau of Economic Analysis

Robert Kidwell

Acting Director, Office of Information Systems, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


(in millions, fourth quarter fiscal 1998 through third quarter fiscal 1999)

Lockheed Martin Corp. . . .$81.69
Litton PRC . . . .$67.19
Unisys Corp. . . .$34.27
Computer Sciences Corp. .$21.33
IBM Corp. . . .$19.84
Software Performance Systems . . . .$17.48
Dell Computer Corp. . . .$15.57
Electronic Data Systems Corp. . . .$13.59
Raytheon Co. . . .$11.30
Compaq Computer Corp. . .$10.74
TOTAL. . . .$293.00

Sources for this GCN Snapshot
include the Commerce Department
and Input of Vienna, Va.

BAKER: We are, as an organization, moving forward, getting better at information technology.

Rick Swartz, acting associate director for information technology at the Census Bureau, displays an online census form, available for the first time during this year's count. Five out of six households received the short version of the questionnaire, which is the only form that citizens can choose to fill out on a Census Web site. Those responding online punch in a 22-digit number'found on the paper form'that the bureau uses for tracking. After keying in the number, users enter their responses and then review the information before sending it.

We have the Office of the Secretary's intranet up.

[Commerce Secretary William M. Daley] is focused on Commerce turning into a digital department and leading the electronic government push at this moment.

We spend a lot of money on IT. We spent $1.5 billion this year for the transformation that has to take place in the move toward electronic government. We don't have all the money that I'd like to have to do this, but, frankly, we have to change some mind-sets.

Little things that you do can have a tremendous impact. By and large, the issue was that people didn't recognize what they could do on the Internet. They didn't recognize what their customers would like them to do on the Internet.

Funding focus

We actually have $1.5 billion focused on becoming a digital department, not the little bit that really is identified as digital department funding.

The first week I was here, I looked at my first Paperwork Reduction Act request.

It's a wonderful tool. After I looked at the first one, I said I want everyone who puts one of these on my desk'and there are hundreds of them'to answer two questions: Will this information be gathered via the Internet? And, if not, why?

There are some valid reasons why some things can't be on the Internet. Privacy concerns or the security concerns just outweigh [the benefits of using the Internet].

I look at Commerce as a microcosm of federal government. There are hundreds of little development organizations out there that don't work together as a community. Now they are doing their business support the best way possible. But what they don't do is look at, 'If we got together and did this, could we do it much less expensively? Could we have five people doing it rather than 500 people across the department?'

As we go forward, you see me out in the press saying that there should be a federal CIO'and there really should be'and the reasons for that are very simple. Commerce is a microcosm of the federal government.

We found we have 14 data centers inside the department. An enterprise of our size in the private sector would have two or three at a maximum, and by consolidating from that 14'our goal, frankly, is five'we think we can save a substantial amount of dollars and, frankly, do the job better.

Means business

Just having the same e-mail network all the way throughout the department, having a common directory of employees, having a single public-key infrastructure for all employees are things that a private-sector company would look at and say, 'Yeah, we have to do that.'

But it's much harder to do that inside of government because of the way the budgets are doled out.

We are going to change that. We are going to put a much more effective management structure in place at Commerce. The people want to do a great job, but because of the way the dollars in the organization are managed, there is really a disincentive to work together.

Major programs
PKI supports patent application'The Patent and Trademark Office has been using a public-key infrastructure to support the Patent Application Information Retrieval system. The system permits authenticated access to patent application information using a digital signature and establishes an encrypted session for confidentiality. The Electronic Filing System pilot uses both digital signatures and encryption to preserve the integrity, confidentiality and nonrepudiation of patent application data. PTO will expand the program in August, with full production planned for February.

National Weather Service modernization'The project includes $4 billion for radar, surface observing systems and satellites. The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, an information processing, display and telecommunications system, helps the service predict severe weather. This year, the service will begin using AWIPS at all sites.

Decennial Census'Information technology will be used to scan 1.5 billion pages of 2000 Census questionnaires in 93 days at four Data Capture Centers. A client-server architecture will be deployed in more than 500 regional centers and local offices connected by a telecommunications network to headquarters.

Digital Department'Through this top-level initiative, the department plans to move all possible programs to a paperless environment and make the Internet Commerce's chief communications medium.

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