U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman joined a group of U.S. Congress members on Thursday to introduce the E-Goverment Act of 2001 in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The act is designed to accelerate the federal government's use of technology to better serve citizens and heighten efficiencies, said Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut who introduced the act to the Senate in May with its cosponsor Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican from Montana.
"E-government has been a bipartisan effort, today it becomes bicameral as well," Lieberman said during a press conference at the Capitol. "The era of big government is over; we are committed to a smaller, smarter government. New information technologies are tools to help us achieve these goals."
Specifically, the act calls for naming a federal chief information officer (CIO) who would implement information policy, facilitate coordination across federal agencies, set standards and protocols to be used, and oversee procurement and funding. It would also fortify the Federal CIO Council, created in 1996 to help executive branch agencies share IT ideas and policy recommendations, by establishing its responsibilities and authority by statute.
The act also includes the creation of an e-government fund of US$200 million annually, a single government portal, and a federal IT training center, among other things.
"The goal is simple: decrease the amount of time citizens spend in line and increase the resources they can turn to online," said Representative Jim Turner, a Democrat from Texas who spoke at the press conference.
Turner introduced to the house similar legislation last year that would create a federal CIO with its own office, reporting directly to the president. This year's bill is broader in scope, he said, and places the federal CIO within the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
On Wednesday Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, held a hearing about the act during which Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of OMB, spoke. "O'Keefe supported the bill basically, but we do disagree on implementation," Lieberman said at the Thursday press conference. Many e-government issues are handled by officials in OMB, but are buried under too many layers of management, according to the act's sponsors. They propose that the federal CIO report to the director of OMB. The federal CIO must be made "as closely accountable to the chief executive of the organization as you possibly can," which in this case means President George Bush, Lieberman said.
"President Bush has an MBA (Master of Business Administration). He should know that information flow is critical to effective management," added Representative Jane Harman, a Democrat from California during the press conference. "No CEO would run her company without a chief information officer. The federal government should learn from the private sector."
Lieberman added that he is optimistic that the E-Government Act of 2001 will become law this year.