Budget cuts hit e-gov efforts hard
In response to a 75 percent cut in e-government funds for the current fiscal year, the White House is terminating the FedSpace social media network for federal employees and scaling back or stopping further improvements to other high-profile online programs, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said.
Congress has reduced the E-Government Fund budget to $8 million for fiscal 2011 from $34 million the previous year. Therefore, the Obama administration has decided it will continue operating transparency websites — including USAspending.gov, Data.gov, Performance.gov and the IT Dashboard — but will not make further improvements or developments, Kundra wrote in a May 24 letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee.
Data.gov, the IT Dashboard and Performance.gov are at the core of the administration's open-government efforts. Kundra has credited the dashboard with identifying $3 billion in budget savings through the termination of underperforming programs.
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FedSpace running in alpha mode
FedSpace, launched in November 2010 as a pilot program, was designed to
be a collaborative social platform that allows federal employees to more
easily communicate with one another and set up workgroups.
Plans for a Citizen Services Dashboard have also been canceled, and the
implementation of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency
Act, in which contractors and grant recipients enter data on federal
spending into a Web portal, might be slower because there will be less
technical support available, Kundra wrote.
In addition, the administration will be unable to fund efforts to
improve data accuracy or increase transparency, he said. For example,
plans to enhance the IT Dashboard to better integrate it with agency
systems have been postponed.
The budget reduction has forced a reconsideration of all online programs, Kundra added.
“As a result, we have revisited our plans for the [E-Government] Fund
for [fiscal] 2011 and altered the scope of several projects,” Kundra
wrote. “While we believe that we can make progress on several important
initiatives, several projects will experience a sharp decline given the
limited amount of funding. No project will go unaffected.”
Congress drastically reduced the E-Government Fund as part of its
drawn-out debate over the fiscal 2011 budget. Initially, the fund was to
be pared down to $2 million, but supporters got the amount increased to
$8 million. Advocates such as Carper and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.),
chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had
pushed to keep the websites operating.
"It is a prudent decision to keep as many of the E-Gov Fund websites
operational as possible,” Carper said in a statement. “These websites
are an important resource and a critical part of the effort to make the
government more open and transparent, while at the same time cutting
wasteful and duplicative spending throughout federal agencies.”
In a related development, officials recently announced that Data.gov is
shifting to an open-source platform and becoming Data.gov Next
Generation. A General Services Administration spokesman said the
government used funding left over from fiscal 2010 to pay for the
transition, and open-data company Socrata provided some additional
“We augmented Data.gov with the services of Socrata with 2010 funding to
make Data.gov even more robust, accessible and to provide displays of
the raw data in ways the public can use it,” said Steven Hoffman, a GSA
spokesman. The amount of fiscal 2010 money used was not immediately