OMB chief laments state of federal technology workforce

Federal agencies don't have the right information technology professionals to successfully manage the government's heavy investment in computer systems, President Bush's budget chief said Wednesday. Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels said duplicative efforts, overly complex projects, a lack of standardization and a lack of strong IT leadership make Bush's goal of making government services available on the Internet difficult to achieve. "With all due respect to IT professionals in government, they are probably not the best the nation has to offer," Daniels told a gathering of government executives and public administration experts in Washington. While he said that there are some effective IT managers in federal agencies, Daniels said difficulty competing with the private sector for top talent has left the government without strong leadership in the IT field. Daniels touched on the state of federal technology as part of a broad discussion of federal management issues, sponsored by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government and the National Academy of Public Administration. Federal IT leaders need to push for simple projects without a lot of bells and whistles and for standardization instead of letting project managers develop systems that can't be integrated, Daniels said.

Daniels has had a tough time finding a strong candidate willing to take on the job of deputy director for management at OMB. But that person will serve as the chief information officer for the federal government and will attempt to better integrate the $45 billion to $70 billion that agencies spend on IT each year. "In most areas of life, I consider myself a libertarian," Daniels said. "When it comes to IT, I favor dictatorship." President Bush has made seamless e-government one of his top management objectives. Mark Forman, the new associate director for information technology and e-government at OMB, is heading up a task force to create an e-government action plan for the Bush administration. Because agencies, and even offices within agencies, pursue IT projects separately, the government will have a tough time creating an integrated e-government infrastructure, Daniels said. "Money is spent in a centrifugal way," he said.

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