Bill to establish e-gov chief moves to Senate floor

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday approved a bill to establish an OMB administrator to head e-government efforts.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday sent a bill to the Senate floor that would establish an administrator to head e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., last May introduced S. 803, which aimed to enhance the management and promotion of e-government services and processes by establishing a federal chief information officer within OMB. It also would have established a broad framework for the use of Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to government information and services.

The bill passed by the committee Thursday is a revised version of S. 803 that does not specifically call for a federal CIO.

Lieberman and committee ranking Republican Fred Thompson of Tennessee on Thursday offered an amendment in the form of a substitute to S. 803, which was accepted by the committee. That amendment calls for spending $345 million over four years and naming a Senate-confirmed administrator to head an e-government office at OMB, which would also be responsible for information security practices.

The bill also would earmark $15 million in the fiscal 2003 budget proposal for a federal Internet portal and encourages technology use in federal courts, regulatory agencies, attention to privacy provisions, integrated reporting study and pilot projects and enhancing crisis management through advanced information technology.

Other lawmakers such as Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., also have echoed the call for a federal CIO. Davis has said he will wait to see how much effect the government's e-government chief, Mark Forman, and other officials such as President Bush's cyber-security adviser, Richard Clarke, have on e-government efforts.

Lieberman and Thompson worked closely with OMB on the amendment, Lieberman said during the hearings, adding, "We've got a good agreement now."

Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., offered but withdrew an amendment to ensure representatives from state, local and tribal governments are included on the Federal CIO Council. Currently, all members are representative of federal agencies and organizations such as the Commerce, Justice, Defense and State departments, CIA, General Services Administration, National Science Foundation, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

A spokeswoman for Cleland said via e-mail that the senator would "work with state and local governments directly to make citizens' access to government information on the Web seamless and to make government-to-government transactions more efficient."

West Virginia CIO Keith Comstock serves as the liaison between the council and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). NASCIO has been working closely with Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at OMB, and the Federal CIO Council to prioritize a list of new e-government initiatives and encourage state involvement.

"These officials operate services on a smaller scale ... Ideas that work there may work just as well on the national level," Cleland said. "I do believe state and local representatives do play a key role."

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said Cleland's proposal was an "excellent idea" in order for governments of all levels to share best practices in e-government.