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E-Government bill waits in the wings; the idea of a federal CIO has been met with resistance, but hope is still alive that the Bush administration will get on board. (Capital Edge: legislative & regulatory update).

Although an increasing number of Americans are looking to the Internet for information from and about the federal government, electronic government (e-government) lacks the infrastructure and organization to properly meet their needs. According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a Washington nonprofit organization that studies how the Internet affects American life, the number of Americans seeking information from government Web sites increased by 70 percent, rising to 68 million people, in the past two years.

To meet citizens' needs and provide a framework for the use of Internet-based information technology to improve their access to government services and information, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee proposed S. 803, the E-Government Act of 2001, which called for establishing a federal chief information officer (CIO) position. But that idea has been met with resistance, and the bill's supporters have had to settle for an amended version.

In late March the committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), agreed to a compromise version of S.803 and sent it to the Senate floor. The bill passed by the committee was a revised version that did not call for the establishment of a federal CIO at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The federal CIO would have been responsible for promoting e-government and implementing government-wide information policy and would have reported directly to the OMB director. The existing Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs would have retained responsibility for information collection review functions; however, the new office of the federal CIO would have overseen information dissemination functions and other functions prescribed by the Paperwork Reduction Act. The revised bill calls for the establishment of an administrator to chair the Chief Information Officer Council and run a new Office of Information Policy at OMB.

The bill Lieberman introduced last year aims to usher in "next-generation government" with the development of the federal government's information management and technology policy and seeks to create greater usability and link information between agencies.

With the use of computers and the Internet rapidly transforming societal interactions and relationships among citizens, private businesses, and the government, the federal government's response has been unbalanced. Most Internet-based government services have been developed and presented separately, according to the jurisdictional boundaries of an individual department or agency, rather than integrated cooperatively according to function. Lieberman's proposal seeks to change this disconnect by promoting interagency cooperation and adequately funding and staffing such functions.

"The private sector has benefited tremendously from the application of information technology" Lieberman says. "Now it's government's turn. We can and must take full advantage of the Internet and other technologies to overcome arbitrary boundaries between agencies, so government can provide the public with seamless, secure online services."

Recently reported by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, the revised bill, which enjoys strong bipartisan support, would specifically

* establish an Office of Electronic Government at the OMB, headed by a Senate-confirmed administrator

* authorize $345 million over four years for an e-government fund to support interagency e-government projects

* require agencies to establish online rule making

* encourage compatibility of electronic signatures

* provide new privacy protections

* improve upon the existing centralized online portal (known as "FirstGov.gov")

* establish an online directory of federal Web sites

* require federal courts to post opinions online

* fund a federal training center to recruit and train information technology professionals

A Lack of Information Technology Leadership

During a July 11, 2001, hearing held by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Lieberman said that the federal government lacked concentrated high-level information technology leadership, which is why he was proposing a federal CIO position. Lieberman stated that Americans should be able to go to a single Internet site, such as the FirstGov.gov Web site, for multiple functions, and it should serve as a portal to other government services. He also said that clear standards for information exchange should be established, with the added caveat that the aim of the bill was not to "automate existing inefficiencies."

Testimony at the July 11 hearing was provided by OMB Deputy Director Sean O'Keefe, IMB Managing Director Anne Altman, Public Technology's Costis Toreagas, National Association of State CIO's President Aldona Valicenti, U.S. Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Greg Woods, University of Illinois Librarian Sharon Hogan, Information Technology Association of America's Barry Ingraham, Council for Excellence in Government President and CEO Patricia McGinnis, and former OMB Director Joseph R. Wright Jr. With the exception of OMB, all witnesses agreed that the federal government needs targeted leadership and investment in information technology.

The Bush administration strongly objected to the creation of the federal CIO post. During the hearing, O'Keefe explained the administration's position that the deputy director of OMB should serve as the de facto government-wide CIO "because all management challenges are intertwined." O'Keefe said this would ensure that federal IT and information management policy would receive senior-level management commitment. In addition, the administration objected to transferring computer security standard-setting functions, currently administered by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), to a new federal CIO office as was proposed in the first draft of S.803.

During the hearing, O'Keefe said that the administration has created the post of associate director for information technology and e-government at OMB. This new position, which reports to the OMB director, will be responsible for "ensuring that the federal government takes maximum advantage of digital technology and best practices to improve quality, effectiveness, and efficiency." O'Keefe further criticized provisions in S.803, referring to the creation of "numerous distinct councils, forums, and boards" within OMB to address information technology issues. He pointed out that OMB currently has the authority to create such boards and that the administrative costs of maintaining all of the proposed groups would be high and would duplicate existing authorities. Finally, O'Keefe recommended that the "numerous reporting requirements for OMB and the agencies" should be eliminated from the bill as it would be "unclear what problems will be solved by establishing more management reporting requirements rather than more efficiently utilizing" information that is currently collected and reported.

In response to O'Keefe's testimony, Lieberman expressed his concern that keeping responsibilities proposed for the federal CIO office with the deputy OMB director would overwhelm an already incredibly busy office. In addition, he indicated that he felt strongly that a federal CIO office should be established.

Cautious Optimism

In the past few months, negotiations between senior congressional staff and OMB officials resulted in a compromise version of S.803. The substitute amendment adopted during the March 21 Senate Governmental Affairs Committee markup eliminated the federal CIO position, opting instead for the creation of an Office of Electronic Government at the OMB, headed by a Senate-confirmed administrator. Lieberman and Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), the committee's ranking member, sponsored the amendment.

The Office of Electronic Government Administrator would report to the OMB director and would be charged with overseeing implementation of e-government. The e-government administrator's specific responsibilities include:

* advising the OMB director on the resources required to develop and effectively operate and maintain federal government information systems

* recommending changes to government-wide strategies and priorities in e-government

* providing overall leadership and direction to the executive branch and e-government by working with officials to establish information resource management policies and requirements, and by reviewing the performance of each agency in acquiring, using, and managing information resources

* promoting innovative uses of information technology by agencies (with an emphasis on initiatives involving multi-agency collaboration)

* overseeing the distribution of funds from and ensuring the appropriate administration of the E-Government Fund

* coordinating with the General Services Administration (GSA) regarding GSA-sponsored e-government programs

* leading the activities of the Federal CIO Council

* working with the OMB director to establish an e-government framework for information technology standards for the government

* overseeing the work of GSA on the FirstGov.gov Web site development

S.803 also codifies the Federal CIO Council, which was originally created by executive order 13011 issued by President Clinton on July 16, 1996. The Federal CIO Council will be responsible for developing recommendations for government information resources, management policies and requirements, sharing best practices, and promoting the development and use of common performance measures for agency information resources. The council will work with the NIST to develop recommendations on information technology standards. This provision was included in the original version of the bill; however, the council will be chaired by the deputy director of OMB, not a federal CIO as conceived by Lieberman's original proposal.

At press time, the measure was headed to the full Senate for consideration, but it is unknown when the bill will be scheduled for a vote. While Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has said that e-government is a high priority, senior governmental affairs staff have indicated they are "cautiously optimistic" that Congress will pass an e-government bill this year. The Bush administration has not yet given its final approval to the reworked measure, but senior Hill staff indicate that, so far, comments back from OMB have been encouraging. Senate staff have indicated that they are also negotiating with their House counterparts. For now, the federal CIO position hangs in the balance.

Canadian Consumer Protection

Most U.S. businesses might not have noticed that their neighbors to the North passed broad consumer privacy protections earlier this year. But soon all companies that do business in Canada will have to meet the new regulations.

In January 2002, Canada passed the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, providing broad privacy protections for its citizens. However, the law may create data management nightmares and legal headaches for thousands of businesses that exchange data with Canadian partners, subsidiaries, and clients.

Under the law, businesses are required to provide guarantees to Canadian citizens regarding the use of their personal information. For example, businesses can't share data with partners or subsidiaries before first collecting consumers' consent, and they must give consumers access to their data. In addition, the law does not include a grandfather clause, meaning that a company can't use an individual's information if it doesn't have his or her consent when the law takes effect--even if the data was collected 10 years ago.

Initially, the law will affect only Canada's federally regulated businesses, including airlines, banks, telecommunications, and broadcasting enterprises. But almost every Canadian business will be required to comply by 2004--and so will U.S. firms that do business in Canada. In fact, legal experts say that the law may force U.S. businesses that trade individuals' personal data with partners and clients in Canada to draft contracts that obligate them to abide by the regulations.

The law may create challenges for Canadian companies as well. For example, if a Canadian affiliate stores its data in servers located in the United States, it must ensure that the privacy compliance safeguards on the U.S.-based corporate network are up to par with the law.

In general, the law requires organizations to

* obtain consumer consent when collecting, using, or disclosing consumers' personal information

* supply consumers with a product or a service even if they refuse consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of their personal information, unless the information is essential to the transaction

* collect information by fair and lawful means

* provide personal information policies that are clear, understandable, and readily available

Bob Tillman is Director of Public Relations and Advocacy for ARMA International. He may be reached at btillman@arma.org.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
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Author:Tillman, Bob
Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:1895
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