Bush likely to name federal CIO, not technology 'czar'

While the transition staff for President-elect Bush weighs whether to create a senior White House high-tech adviser--or "czar," as some have dubbed the policy position--the Bush administration will probably designate a high-ranking official to serve as governmentwide chief information officer.

Observers believe it is likely Bush will issue an executive order designating the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget as the federal CIO. Bush also is expected to propose creating a $100 million fund controlled by the CIO to support interagency information technology initiatives, according to sources.

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the second-ranking official at OMB would have a focus on high-tech issues. He also said Bush never proposed during the campaign to create a "czar" and that others have used that term, though he added that no final decision has been made.

"We are reviewing and researching a variety of concepts" related to creating a high-level, White House high-tech policy position, said one Bush adviser. This source added: "But we want to make sure we are doing the right thing. This really remains on the drawing board... and there has been distaste about creating something new. When you say 'czar' you think lots of money, office and staff--and no one wanted to create that."

There has been debate within the high-tech community in recent days about whether Bush will indeed create a high-tech "czar," especially in the wake of Bush's meeting with high-tech executives in Austin last week. Those who attended the meeting said there had been some "off-the-cuff" discussions between Bush and the executives over whether it would be a good idea.

The Bush adviser said that while there had been a 5 percent chance of a czar being named three weeks ago, those prospects have grown to about 25 percent since the Austin meeting.

"There are just a whole host of problems if you put one person in charge" of high-tech policy, the adviser said. "If they don't have the staff, what power do they have?... The question is, if the current system isn't broke, why fix it?"

During the Clinton administration, the Commerce Department and the staffs of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore handled electronic commerce and high-tech policy issues. The White House also has an Office of Science and Technology Policy, along with technology-related positions within OMB and the National Economic Council.

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