Senators launch e-gov, systems czar bill

Senators launch e-gov, systems czar bill


Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's E-Government Act of 2001 may steal the wind from President Bush's plans to use the Internet to make federal offices more citizen-friendly.

The bill, co-sponsored last week by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and nine other senators'seven Democrats and two Republicans'would create a government-wide chief information officer post in the Office of Management and Budget. The systems czar would oversee a newly created Office of Information Policy and a $200 million annual budget.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman says he envisions a governmentwide CIO who has broad authority over federal IT budgets and projects.
'What our bill tries to do is put information technology to work to overcome arbitrary or jurisdictional boundaries so that we can provide the public with seamless, secure online services,' said Lieberman (D-Conn.).

Governmentwide CIO?

Although Bush has maintained that he supports the creation of a senior systems official, the administration has not clarified whether it would create a governmentwide CIO post or perhaps empower someone within OMB to take such a role.

OMB deputy director Sean O'Keefe has said he opposes creation of a new CIO office. He has said IT oversight would be handled by the deputy director for management, who would report to O'Keefe. This is basically the same approach the Clinton administration took. Bush has yet to fill the deputy director for management post.

Lieberman and Burns did have some talks with O'Keefe, but no other Bush administration officials took part, Burns said.

Under the bill, the governmentwide CIO would report directly to the OMB director and would be charged with studying the feasibility of integrating federal systems across agencies. A chief goal is easing information collection so citizens need only provide basic information to the government once, Lieberman said.

The CIO would develop software for assembling, documenting and validating the accuracy of electronically submitted data and setting up a distributed system involving at least two agencies to provide easy public access to government data, the two senators said.

Broad mandate

The CIO's duties would be broad. Lieberman said he would want the systems czar to review agency IT budgets, decide which investments meet performance results, review legislative proposals and advise the OMB director on resources needed to run the government's systems.

'We want to build on the FirstGov Web site, launched last year, so citizens can access their government through a single, centralized portal,' Lieberman said.

The bill also calls for improvement of the centralized FirstGov portal, establishment of an online directory of federal sites, creation of an index of federal resources and formation of a national online library.

The bill would also order federal courts to create Web sites and post all public information. A court could opt out but would have to justify its decision to Congress.


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