Coordination Needed in Federal IT, Lieberman Says

WASHINGTON (07/12/2000) - The concept of electronic-government offers unique opportunities for revitalizing some of the oldest ideals of government, but thorough coordination and collaboration are needed to make it a success, U.S.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, said Wednesday in a keynote speech at the E-Gov trade show.

Even though there are many examples in which federal, state and local governments make it possible for citizens to interact electronically with government, there's much more to be done, said Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut.

Lieberman cited projects that let people use the Web to register vehicles, apply for student loans, bid on government projects and even make campaign contributions. Among existing e-government programs are the federal government's Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council, which meets regularly to share technology insights, and its National Partnership for Reinvention of Government, aimed at making e-government a reality.

But those programs are "a loose-knit mix of ideas, projects and occasional affiliations, often not well coordinated, sometimes overlapping in their goals and redundant in their expenditures," Lieberman said. Many efforts are hampered by regulatory and statutory constraints, and "passive" models of government management.

"The result is that the progress of electronic-government at the federal level ... has, I think, been inconsistent," he said. "Some agencies are well ahead but many are lagging. Implementation of good ideas seems particularly difficult for e-government projects in which interagency or intergovernmental coordination is needed."

Lieberman listed five key impediments to progress on e-government. First among them is the need for organizational leadership in the form of a federal CIO.

Various proposals for creating a federal CIO, or IT czar, position are under discussion, and Lieberman said that he supports the idea.

"But this czar must clearly be more than a figurehead," he said. "We must think about how to position an individual with proper authority, visibility, funding and ties to relevant government agencies and existing statutes so that he or she truly is able to lead e-government efforts to interact meaningfully with agency decision makers and to coordinate interagency projects."

Legislation to create the federal CIO position would be introduced by October, but Lieberman said that he does not expect it to be acted on during the current session of Congress.

The other impediments Lieberman listed were the need to focus on the integrated delivery of services to citizens, or one-stop shopping; standards for interoperability; interagency funding mechanisms, and a sense of urgency.

There is a gulf in perception between e-government insiders, such as agency CIOs, the trade press, or government IT contractors on one hand, and government decision makers on the other, he said.

"The insiders believe the government cannot afford to fall further behind in establishing an online presence and using the Web-based tech to achieve its mission," Lieberman said. "People in government, though fascinated by the new world, are in fact much less educated on either the transformative potential of e-government or the details of the pace at which technology is changing the society landscape."

That hurdle can only be overcome by increasing efforts on the part of the insiders to educate the government leaders and give them the opportunity to come up with more well thought-out ideas, Lieberman said.