GITS Board will 'pass the hat' to CIO committee

When the CIO Council's new Electronic Government Committee is ready for business, it will start with a full agenda. Besides finishing 10 projects begun by its predecessor, the committee will have to find money to pay for them.

The fiscal challenge may prove as daunting as the technological ones. It has taken "tremendous effort, way disproportionate to the project sometimes," to fund some of the undertakings of the Government Information Technology Services Board, said Greg Woods, board chairman. And now that the board is being dissolved, its work and its fund-raising challenges will be turned over to the new CIO Council committee.

The committee will inherit projects such as setting up an electronic "government shopping mall" for making government purchases online, promoting the use of smart cards and expanding Access America, which provides online access to government for students and senior citizens.

However, obtaining funding was always a struggle, Woods said. The GITS Board squeezed some money from savings that federal agencies realized from more competitive phone service contracts, pestered agencies for donations and relied on creative fund-raising — such as selling seized assets to pay for a law enforcement project.

In addition, it was especially hard to get agency financing for projects "that cut across agency lines," Woods said. Each agency wanted the others to pay most of the costs.

The CIO Council relies on passing the hat among agencies for its funding. For 2001, the Office of Management and Budget has identified $17 million worth of purchase card rebates that government agencies expect to receive as a possible source of funding to be shared by the CIO Council and two other boards.

Other projects the GITS Board plans to turn over to the Electronic Government Committee include:

* The WebGov effort to create a central World Wide Web site of government services.

* The Electronic Grants program for applying for government aid online.

* Access Certificates for Electronic Services, a digital signatures endeavor.

* The U.S. Business Advisor project to provide online information to small businesses.

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