Blueprint light on e-gov funding

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E-government advocates like what President Bush's 2002 budget says about using information technology to transform government, but they say it falls far short on funding.

The president's plan to create a fund to support interagency e-government endeavors "is terrific," said Patricia McGinnis, director of the Council for Excellence in Government. But Bush proposes putting just $10 million into the fund for 2002 and $100 million over the next three years.

A week earlier, the council called for pumping $3 billion into such a fund. "The concept is excellent," McGinnis said, but over time "we will need more investment."

The $10 million "is not adequate," said an aide to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee. "But remember, it's a blueprint. There are likely to be a vast array of changes between this and what the president comes forward with in the budget in April, and what eventually gets passed" by Congress next fall.

Davis is confident there will be adequate funding for cross-government technology initiatives, the aide said.

However, Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.) said she is not convinced. The blueprint is "sketchy," but it's detailed enough to "suggest that our science programs will not receive adequate support from the Bush administration," said Rivers, who is a senior member of the House Science Committee's Technology Subcommittee.

Rivers said the blueprint falls short on investments in research needed to drive growth in the information-based economy.

Funding aside, it is encouraging that Bush "made a concerted effort to touch on the main points" of electronic government, Davis' aide said.

The president called for creating a "citizen-centered government" that would replace the current agency-orientation of government. In such a framework, for example, someone seeking health care assistance could apply at one place on the Internet, rather than at the multiple agencies that provide it.

Bush said the Internet should enable individuals "to penetrate the federal bureaucracy to access information and transact business." In doing so, "the Internet promises to "shift power from a handful of leaders in Washington to individual citizens," Bush said.

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