Administration vacillates on governmentwide CIO

Administration vacillates on governmentwide CIO


President Bush remains undecided on the fate of the long-discussed governmentwide chief information officer post, Rep. Tom Davis says.

Congressional leaders, Office of Management and Budget staff and White House officials plan to meet soon to discuss the matter, said the Virginia Republican, who introduced a bill to create a federal CIO during Congress' last session. Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), who introduced a separate yet similar bill, will also take part in the discussions.

Joseph Lieberman
Proponents of a systems czar maintain that a governmentwide technology guru could better oversee crosscutting projects and direct much-needed funds more efficiently. Opponents say the position would add an unneeded micromanager.

During his campaign, Bush tentatively supported the idea of a governmentwide CIO but has yet to create such a post. Many observers, including the CIO Council, the General Accounting Office and industry associations, have attested to the need for a federal CIO.

White House officials have said little'pro or con'about the post. But last month Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told the congressional Internet Caucus the Bush administration opposed the creation of a separate CIO office.

A federal CIO position would provide 'absolution' to agency CIOs and make them feel as if they were no longer under the gun to perform, he said. The Bush administration is recruiting a deputy director for management who would be in charge of supervising agency CIOs, O'Keefe said.

But Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said OMB lacks the visibility necessary to bring agencies together for wide-ranging electronic-government efforts. Lieberman, who last session also introduced a bill to create a federal CIO post, said he would reintroduce his bill after Congress' Passover-Easter recess.

The Senate bill would earmark $200 million for governmentwide projects. The Bush administration has agreed to create a $100 million fund over three years.

Bill barrage

Both Turner and Davis plan to reintroduce their bills after hammering out details with White House and OMB officials.

The meeting will not take place until OMB is fully staffed.

Davis, who expressed surprise at O'Keefe's comments, said the hurdle in creating a federal CIO is that no one wants to relinquish control over projects and funding.

The lawmaker envisions creating a position with direct access to the president. Someone with such clout would have a better chance of getting agencies to collaborate, he said.

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