Report urges president to focus on IT

Report urges president to focus on IT

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

The first of an expected flurry of recommendations for the new president'whose identity was still uncertain at press time'urges him to embrace performance-based government and information technology to deliver services to citizens.

A bipartisan position paper recommends creating government- wide chief information officer and chief knowledge officer positions to oversee technology issues. An outsourcing czar also should be a member of the new administration, the proposal says.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's official Web site lists the establishment of a governmentwide CIO as a priority. Vice President Gore historically has backed using IT as a way to reform government [GCN, Sept. 04, Page 24].

Pushing performance

The position paper, co-sponsored by the Reason Public Policy Institute and several commercial and educational groups, urged the creation of the three government- wide positions to ensure that agencies follow performance-based policies.

The report contains comments, identified as progress points, challenges and recommendations, from 140 government and industry leaders on four areas of concern. The report, 'Transitioning to Performance-based Government,' and full transcripts of focus-group conversations, is available at

In addition to information technology and e-government, the groups studied:

' Management issues, urging that appointees and career managers be held accountable for their performance

' Federal employment worries, suggesting a complete overhaul of the compensation system for better recruitment and retention

George W. Bush has supported the creation of a governmentwide CIO post.

' Contracting and procurement, noting that program and contract staff need to work together to ease tensions.

As the outcome of the election remained in doubt last week, transition teams for both Bush and Gore prepared to take over the government next month. The Supreme Court set aside a Florida Supreme Court ruling extending deadlines for manual counts, and some state court proceedings continued.

Intense interest in the post-election presidential contest created a huge upward spike in visits to the Supreme Court's Web site.

Once lawyers started to argue the historic case before the high court, the Government Printing Office, which operates the court's site, had to add extra servers to handle the traffic.

Between 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, and 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, the site recorded 570,000 hits, GPO spokesman Mike Bright said.

When the site started to experience slowdowns on Dec. 1, GPO workers set up a Big-IP load balancer from F5 Networks Inc. of Seattle to distribute traffic more evenly between the court's primary and backup servers, Bright said. As the day went on, GPO transferred more Compaq AlphaServer 1200A servers from its two server farms to the court's site.

GPO now has 14 servers on the Supreme Court site, which went live last April. A 155-Mbps Synchronous Optical Network OC-3 connection links GPO's network to the Internet, Bright said.

The dangling election outcome left more than just the candidates on uncertain ground.

Without a decision on the winner, the General Services Administration had refused to release $5.3 million in transition funds to either team.

Balancing act

Staff members contacted both campaigns to determine e-mail domains, technological requirements and office layout preferences, said David J. Barram, outgoing GSA administrator (see story, Page 46).

Technology that has been developed over the past four years will help the current transition teams accomplish in hours and days tasks that used to take days and weeks, Barram said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Janet Reno said the Justice Department was ready to conduct background checks on both candidates' prospective appointees to speed the process.

The refusal to release funds, however, prompted a Dec. 4 hearing by the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), who chairs the subcommittee, sought explanations for withholding the funds from Bush.

Barram told the subcommittee that the Presidential Transition Act forbids the release of funds until a winner is clearly apparent. Subcommittee members suggested releasing some funds to both Bush and Gore, but Barram and Sally Katzen, Office of Management and Budget deputy director, said that would violate regulations.

While laws prohibit the release of funds, Barram said GSA contact with both camps would speed the transition once the legal battles are over.

Meanwhile, those who took part in the focus groups want the new president to consider the IT quotient of potential appointees.

Participants urged the new administration to communicate the importance of IT to all political appointees. They also suggested giving each agency's chief information officer more power and a solid place at the management table.

At least one participant maintained that all political appointees should have a background in IT so they 'understand the vision and know where government is trying to go and understand the possibilities of what can be accomplished.'

IT is key to performance-based governing, the position paper states. The new administration needs a clear vision of electronic government and must be prepared to address its challenges through initiatives or a reorganization commission, the report notes. The governmentwide CIO would drive the move, focus group said.

Staff writer Patricia Daukantas contributed to this report.

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