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What You Probably Didn't Know About the US CIO Role

Federal CIO Tony Scott

Federal CIO Tony Scott // Susan Walsh/AP

Pop quiz: What is Tony Scott’s job title?

If you’re a regular Nextgov reader, you probably said “federal chief information officer.” But that’s only half-right.

While “federal CIO” is easy shorthand to describe Scott’s role and is the term preferred by the White House and most of the tech trade press to identify him, his official title is also administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology.

But not for long, if the sponsors of a new open data bill have their way.  

OK, here’s the backstory.

The anachronistic “administrator” appellation dates back to the 2002 E-Government Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in the early Web 1.0 days, the measure laid out the administration’s strategy for using “Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to government information and services” and set cybersecurity standards for federal agencies for the first time.  

The law officially established the concept of a federal CIO within the White House Office of Management and Budget. But -- for reasons now unclear -- the Bush administration never formally used that title. President Barack Obama was the first president to use the CIO job title for his first E-Gov administrator, Vivek Kundra. (Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller has here a comprehensive history of the role of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology.)

The new bill -- called  ‘‘Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act,” or OPEN Data Act -- would strike all references to the administrator of the Office of E-Government and IT and replace it with “federal CIO.” What will the new office be called then? Why, the Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer, of course.

The broader bill codifies many of the Obama administration’s open data efforts, for example, mandating by law that agencies continue publishing government-created data in electronic, machine-readable formats on Data.gov.

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