Plan boosts Federal Commons

Initial plan to implement the Federal Financial Assistance Improvement Act of 1999

Technology can improve the way the government delivers the more than $325 billion in grants it makes each year, a multi-agency group said in its initial plan for streamlining the federal grants process. Using new technology can improve customer satisfaction and increase cost-effectiveness, according to the initial plan of the Grants Management Committee of the Chief Financial Officers Council.

The plan specifically highlights the Federal Commons project as a "significant example of the application of technology to the federal grant process."

The Federal Commons (www.fedcommons.gov) is coordinated through the Interagency Electronic Grants Committee, a task force led by the General Services Administration. It provides information about grants across the federal government and will include ways for secure online applications for grants.

"We believe full development and implementation of the Federal Commons will alleviate many of the concerns of applicants and recipients," the plan stated. "Use of the Federal Commons, coupled with the planned changes to the administrative processes, should improve quality, timeliness and responsiveness."

The committee presented the initial plan to Congress last week, and it falls under the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999, which requires that agencies develop a plan for streamlining grants management.

The group said that the Office of Management and Budget will ask agencies for suggestions for legislative changes that could further streamline the grants process. OMB also will ask agencies to list their existing and proposed electronic grants systems. Furthermore, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will review grant-related proposed rules for governmentwide coordination.

In addition to technology-related suggestions, the plan also notes that administrative changes are needed to make it easier for recipients to carry out grant-support programs.

The initial plan was put together by an interagency group spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services, which coordinated the support of 25 grant-making agencies and OMB. The plan also included representatives from state and local governments, American Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and universities and nonprofit organizations.

The group has made some progress already, the plan said, including issuing standards for grant financial systems through the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program.

The group also completed five successful pilots within the Federal Commons dealing with issues such as user registration, account administration and application status checks.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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