E-gov bill author is optimistic

E-gov bill author is optimistic

Mark Forman may not be the federal CIO, but his appointment earlier this year as IT point man shows that the Bush administration is aware e-government programs need strong leadership, said the chief author of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s E-Government Act of 2001.

Kevin Landy, majority counsel for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which Lieberman chairs, said Forman’s appointment as director of IT and e-government for the Office of Management and Budget shows there is common ground on which Lieberman and 14 co-sponsors can agree with the administration.

Lieberman’s bill would create the position of federal CIO to oversee all government IT projects. Bush favors using established positions within OMB to serve that function. Although the sides haven’t yet agreed on this or several other key matters, Landy said he is optimistic.

“To me, the differences were not fundamental,” Landy said last month at a meeting of the Industry Advisory Council of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. “They can be worked through and hammered out in committee.”

Although the chances of a compromise grow slimmer as the days of the 107th Congress pass, Landy remains hopeful.

The impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks further reduces those chances. Now, when security, investigation and retaliation are foremost in lawmakers’ minds, e-government is no longer a top priority, Landy said.

“But that doesn’t mean that all other work is grinding to a halt,” he said. “We’re trying to continue our other efforts.”

Another issue on which the sides are split is funding for e-government projects. The administration has called for $20 million this year and $100 million over three years to go to interagency e-government efforts, but Lieberman’s bill proposes $200 million a year for the next three years.

Landy said the fact that both sides had proposed setting aside money for interagency projects was more important than the difference in the amounts.

“This vision is shared by the administration,” he said. “The president’s e-government fund is a little smaller, but if you agree on the idea, you can work out the amount.”

The goal of the bill is to fund and promote interagency IT projects. Individual agencies would still be responsible for their own projects, Landy said.

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