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Congress considering creating Digital Government Office for IT oversight

February 25, 2014

Since the debut of the deeply troubled, a renewed focus on the importance of IT has taken hold in the U.S. capitol. Lawmakers want to avoid similar mistakes at all costs.

The most recent step in this direction comes in the form of a proposed new office that will oversee government IT projects. Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives would create a U.S. Digital Government Office which, if enacted, would be tasked with guiding and developing a wide variety of government IT services.

Additionally, this proposal would make permanent the position of U.S. Chief Technology Officer. As WFAE noted, this position was created by the Obama administration and is officially only temporary. However, FCW indicated that the CTO created by the proposed legislation would differ somewhat, in that this officer would oversee his or her own office, instead of reporting to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as is currently the case. Also, this individual would be able to regulate IT procurement.

Furthermore, FCW reported that this proposal would increase the value of contracts open to bidding, as a means of encouraging competition and enabling small firms to play a greater role in U.S. government IT outsourcing.

"[The bill] gives all American innovators a fair shake at competing for valuable federal IT contracts by lowering the burden of entry," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a cosponsor of the legislation, the news source reported.

InformationWeek noted that both Eshoo and fellow cosponsor Gerry Connolly pointed to the problems associated with as a key example of the type of IT issues that the U.S. government needs to address if it is to optimize its technological efforts.

"[D]espite incremental improvements in federal IT management over the years, the bottom line is that large-scale federal IT program failures continue to waste taxpayers' dollars, while jeopardizing our nation's ability to carry out fundamental constitutional responsibilities, from conducting a census to securing our borders," said Connolly, FCW reported.

The Digital Government Office would likely have a significant impact on these issues. As WFAE noted, one of the provisions of the proposed legislation states that this office would have the ultimate say over major IT efforts at any U.S. agency. Currently, such projects are entirely the responsibility of the individual agency, whose heads may not be best qualified to make large-scale IT decisions.

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