Senator Seeks Compromise With Bush on E-Gov Bill

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said July 11 he was open to compromise as Congress and the Bush administration work to give information technology and e-government initiatives greater priority within the government.

Lieberman said his e-government legislation is a work in progress that will change as the two sides work to find common ground.

"We will continue to seek feedback from the administration," he said.

Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Lieberman the administration would also work toward a consensus. Their pledges came at a hearing before the Senate Government Affairs Committee to discuss Lieberman's E-Government Act of 2001, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

O'Keefe and Lieberman agreed that the government's IT initiatives are uncoordinated and sometimes redundant, and need to be pulled together cohesively across all agencies. Who should lead that effort is a question Lieberman's bill seeks to address.

Lieberman's bill, S. 803, would establish the position of chief information officer within OMB, reporting to the director. The CIO would provide high-level leadership on IT policy, including interagency integration of computer systems; direction of the CIO Council, which consists of federal agency chief information officers; and administer an e-government fund to pay for interagency IT projects and other innovative uses of IT.

The administration, however, recently created and filled a new IT policy position within OMB. The position, associate director for information technology and e-government, has been given responsibility for many high-level tasks, including oversight of the e-government fund.

Associate Director Mark Forman will also direct CIO Council activities, advise on the appointments of agency CIOs and monitor and consult on technology efforts.

Lieberman's bill would create an e-government fund of $200 million annually from 2002 to 2004. The administration proposes to spend $100 million over the three years.

Currently, the de facto federal CIO is the OMB deputy director for management, who has not yet been appointed.

Many IT industry officials have called for greater attention to IT and e-government at the federal level, and advocated creating a separate office for a federal CIO, saying the deputy director for management's other responsibilities prevent adequate attention to IT.

Lieberman expressed the same sentiment.

"My concern about locating this activity with the [deputy director for management] is that this is a busy office, and the unique opportunity of the CIO will be lost. This is a point we're going to have to work out," he said.

However, Lieberman said he doesn't think the differences are irreconcilable.

"My hope has been that we could move this legislation fairly rapidly in the fall," he said.

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