E-gov fund slashed on Hill

President Bush's plan for an e-government fund to finance cross-agency initiatives has run into trouble on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers in a House appropriations subcommittee slashed the first-year funding last week from $20 million to $5 million. The Bush administration wants to earmark $100 million across three years for the e-government fund.

The House today was expected to begin debate on the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government appropriations bill that includes only the $5 million for the e-government fund. But in a memo, the Office of Management and Budget urged the House to restore the money Bush requested.

"This initiative would play an important role in fulfilling the president's commitment to a federal government that is more efficient, productive and responsive to its citizens," OMB officials told lawmakers.

It is also important for OMB to play a large role to make sure the proposed e-government fund is "coordinated with agencies' other information technology investments," OMB officials said.

The administration is proposing a $20 million fund for 2002 to help integrate IT services in government. By contrast, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is proposing a $200 million e-gov fund a year.

And the Industry Advisory Council has proposed giving preferences to agencies that provide their own money for a project and that also can bring in money from private industry.

But David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said "$5 million is too low. We're not going to be able to work on cross-agency projects with this kind of money."

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the Information Technology Association of America protested the reduced funding level.

"The e-government fund is a critical initiative to boost service to citizens and streamline interagency processes in the federal government, many of which are woefully outdated," ITAA president Harris Miller wrote. "The $20 million contained in the Bush budget for e-government is the bare minimum we need to make sure that the U.S government is on the path to Internet security. Delay will only serve to undermine the online efforts of government agencies and embolden those who would use the Internet for harm."

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