OMB sets e-gov agenda
- By Diane Frank
- Oct 28, 2001
E-Government Task Force
The Bush administration last week identified the 23 e-government projects
that it hopes will open a new era of cross-agency cooperation to improve
services to the public and eliminate redundant systems.
But information technology experts warn that Bush's ambitious e-government
plan has numerous obstacles, not the least of which are finding the estimated
$400 million to $900 million needed to fund the projects and convincing
agencies to give up control of long-held tasks.
The Office of Management and Budget divided the 23 initiatives into four
customer segments: electronic service to the public, to businesses, to other
governments and within the federal government, with one initiative securing
electronic transactions cutting across all four. OMB did not include the
latter initiative in its initial press release.
The list of projects reflects OMB's interest in eliminating redundant
e-government systems, reducing the government's costs associated with developing
and managing those systems and simplifying interactions with the public
But this plan requires agencies to work together like never before,
said Mark Forman, associate director for IT and e-government at OMB.
The fact that the President's Management Council (PMC), as well as OMB
Director Mitchell Daniels Jr., signed off on the list should garner some
support for it, Forman said.
Additionally, "everyone's getting slammed on their budgets this year,"
Forman said. So although individual agencies may have to give up a little
control on some projects, they will be able to share funding across several
agencies, making it possible to develop better services than they could
on their own, he said.
The cross-agency nature of the projects is reflected in the management
OMB plans to hire four "portfolio managers," who will oversee the work
in each of the four segments. Because this work will cut across agency boundaries,
steering groups with members drawn from four cross-agency organizations
the CIO, Chief Financial Officers, Procurement Executives and Human Resources
Management councils will advise the portfolio managers.
A single lead agency, called a managing partner, will conduct the daily
work on each initiative. Other agencies working in that segment will report
to the lead agency.
The main problem for OMB will be working across those agency lines and
overcoming "institutional resistance," said David Temoshok, who served as
co-chairman of the Internal Effectiveness and Efficiency Team on the task
force that helped Forman develop the initiatives during the last three months.
Temoshok was speaking last week to a group of federal and industry leaders.
To move forward, the managing partners must have the authority to lead
the implementation of their initiative, which will mean other agencies will
have to give up some control over budget, policy and resources, Temoshok
Some agencies might perceive that loss of control as a loss of power,
said Alan Balutis, executive director and chief operating officer of the
Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.
For example, one government-to- citizen initiative would provide online
access to government loans through a single portal, closing down "various
programs that overlap," said Bernadette Curry, chairwoman of the task force's
The managing partner for that initiative is the Education Department,
which provides more than $60 billion every year in student financial assistance.
The Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban
Development also have significant loan programs, but under the new initiative,
both agencies will end up in supporting roles.
But in many cases, the team structure is not much of a change from current
partnerships, said Mayi Canales, deputy chief information officer at the
Treasury Department. Treasury is leading the unified tax and wage reporting
initiative, but will be working with its longtime partner, the Social Security
Administration. "What we're doing is formalizing the relations that we've
had," she said.
These governance decisions will have to be made upfront, said Robert Reeve,
a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers' emerging and integrated technologies
consulting practice who works in the e-government area. "Enforcing the lines
of authority and getting the employees to understand the importance of what
they're doing has to be part of the plan from the beginning," Reeve said.
Management structures will be a significant part of the business cases
that each portfolio team will develop. OMB has asked for an initial business
case by mid-November, with the final draft by mid-December, and next week
Forman will start by leading meetings with OMB budget examiners, the agencies'
PMC members and the appropriate program managers, he said.
Those people are very much the leaders within their agencies, Canales
said. So from the start, "at the highest levels, Mark already has the agreement
he needs," she said.