Panel releases plan to ease grants process

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 awards each year, and in doing so, the government can improve customer satisfaction and boost cost-effectiveness, according to an interagency group.

The Grants Management Committee, which is under the wing of the Chief Financial Officers Council, released its initial plan and status report for streamlining the federal grants process. The council said that as a first step, it will look for ways to streamline the specific infor.ma.tion each agency requests from organizations applying for grants.

The com.mittee presented the plan to Congress last month, and it is the first such report on stream.lining the federal grants process.

The plan is part of an effort first started under President Clinton to comply with the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999. The law requires agencies to develop a plan for streamlining grants management and criticized them for maintaining federal grants systems that are "duplicative, burdensome or conflicting, thus impeding cost-effective delivery of services at the local level."

Brad Stanford, special assistant for electronic commerce at the Office of Naval Research's chief information officer and co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Electronic Grants Committee, said the law is primarily aimed at standardizing data. Doing so would enable anybody using those standards to send or receive grants data, he said.

During the next year, the committee will attempt to figure out a common-sense way to categorize the data that is collected, Stanford said. Agencies collecting data that seems unnecessary will be asked to justify those data elements.

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

The Federal Commons project is coordinated by the Inter-Agency Electronic Grants Committee. The portal contains information about grants throughout the federal government and will include processes for secure online applications.

"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 said Office of Management and Budget officials will ask agencies to suggest legislative changes that could further streamline the grants process. OMB leaders 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 suggestions, the plan seeks administrative changes to make it easier for recipients to carry out grant-support programs.

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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