CIO Council on track, members say

CIO Council on track, members say

James Flyzik says the CIO Council has boosted interagency IT efforts.

Technology officers debate need for IT czar, greater financial control

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

ORLANDO, Fla.'Members of the Chief Information Officers Council are at odds over whether the government needs an information technology czar and whether they need more control over their agencies' IT purse strings.

Despite these differences in opinion, the council has made strides in achieving its early goal of bolstering interagency IT efforts, council chairman and Treasury Department CIO James Flyzik said last month at the Government Information Technology Executive Council's Information Processing Interagency Conference. He noted, too, that the organization has changed since its creation three years ago.

'It's evolving the way we expected it would,' he said. The first meetings were bonding sessions, and then there was the 'OMB phase' when Office of Management and Budget officials told the CIOs what to do, he said.

Now, the council is becoming the place for IT leadership across government, Flyzik said. 'The leadership has gotten better and better,' he said.

Agriculture Department deputy CIO Ira L. Hobbs, co-chairman of the council's IT Work Force Committee, agreed. 'Some of the efforts have blossomed,' he said.

Transportation Department CIO George R. Molaski, co-chairman of the council's Electronic-Government Committee, said he is less enthusiastic about the council's progress so far. 'We've made progress and we're working together, but there is a long way to go,' he said.

At the conference, the council members discussed issues such as the proposed creation of a governmentwide CIO, IT security, IT work force shortages and electronic government.

The CIOs were divided about the need for an IT czar. State Department CIO Fernando Burbano said John A. Koskinen's year 2000 success illustrated the benefit of such leadership. He also pointed to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which made the CIO position a Cabinet-level post.

Hobbs, however, argued that the CIO Council fosters collaboration. Rather than following czar-imposed mandates, agencies must work together, he said.

The administration continues to oppose the creation of an IT czar because there is senior IT management already within OMB. Speaking at the FOSE trade show in Washington last month, Sally Katzen, counselor to the OMB director, said the OMB deputy director for management is responsible for governmentwide IT issues along with the CIO Council.

The year 2000 problem was different because it had a fixed deadline, said Katzen, whom President Clinton has nominated to fill the vacant deputy post. And, in IT, agencies must deal with a broad range of issues, from system management to the development of e-government, she said.

'A centralized figure will be less of an asset,' Katzen said.

Furthermore, the CIOs within agencies and the CIO Council are working effectively, she said.

Council members also expressed different views on their spending authority.

'If CIOs are going to be held accountable, they need to play a role in the decisions,' Flyzik said.

But Hobbs said that although the CIO should be a senior official within an agency, he does not need to control the dollars.

'Having control of the money isn't always the answer,' he said.

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