What would governmentwide CIO do?

What would governmentwide CIO do?

Turner's bill sparks debate, but creating the job in an election year isn't likely, Treasury's Flyzik says

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

ATLANTA'Debate over a governmentwide chief information officer focuses on two issues: Is the job really needed, and what would such a systems czar actually do?

Any attempt to establish the position during an election year is unlikely, said James Flyzik, Treasury Department CIO and vice chairman of the CIO Council. He spoke last month at the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils' Management of Change Conference.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) recently introduced a bill that would mandate the creation of a governmentwide CIO position [GCN, July 3, Page 6]. Turner's CIO of the United States Act, HR 4670, would direct this top-dog CIO to provide senior systems leadership, improve project coordination for multiagency initiatives and foster innovation.

Talk about it

'The purpose of the legislation is to cue up the discussion' to help define the role of a governmentwide CIO, Flyzik said.

The authority and success of a governmentwide CIO would depend on where the position fits in the executive branch hierarchy, said Richard Jennings, vice president and general manager of Computer Sciences Corp.'s technology management group.

Several issues are under discussion, including to whom the CIO would report, the extent of the position's authority, the areas of responsibility and budget oversight.

Under Turner's bill, a governmentwide CIO would head a 12-person Office of Information Technology within the Executive Office of the President. The chief responsibilities would entail providing technology, policy and management leadership across government.

Both of the leading presidential candidates have indicated they would create a governmentwide IT leadership post. Republican George W. Bush has proposed naming the head of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as the governmentwide CIO. Gore has not specified where the job would fit in the administration's ranks or who should fill it.

The budget issues are significant, government officials acknowledged. Turner's CIO Act would create an IT fund that the system czar would control. In recent campaign speeches, both Bush and Vice President Gore have said the government needs to fund more cross-agency systems efforts.

If 1 percent of agency budgets were set aside for governmentwide projects, the result could induce agencies to work together, Flyzik said. Agencies could reinvest savings in further systems improvements, he suggested.

That concept was detailed in draft versions of Access America, the National Performance Review's 1993 blueprint for federal IT reform, Flyzik said. It never made it to the final report, he said, because lawmakers worried that such a fund would be outside the traditional appropriation process.

The federal budget process makes planning IT investments difficult because agencies must make estimates three years in advance and some numbers end up being placeholders, said Stephen Hawald, CIO of the Education Department's Office of Student Financial Assistance.

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