OMB sets e-gov agenda

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 and businesses.

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 strategy.

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 said.

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 Government-to-Citizen Team.

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.

The Game Plan
Government-to-Citizen InitiativesLead Agency
USA ServiceGSA
EZ Tax FilingTreasury
Online Access for LoansEducation
Recreation One Stop Interior
Eligibility Assistance OnlineLabor
Government-to-Business Initiatives
Federal Asset SalesGSA
Online Rulemaking ManagementTransportation
Simplified and Unified Tax and Wage ReportingTreasury
Consolidated Health Informatics*HHS
Business Compliance One StopSBA
International Trade Process StreamliningCommerce
Government-to-Government Initiatives
e-Vital*SSA
e-GrantsHHS
Disaster Assistance and Crisis ResponseFEMA
Geospatial Information One StopInterior
Wireless NetworksJustice
Internal Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiatives
e-TrainingOPM
Recruitment One StopOPM
Enterprise HR IntegrationOPM
Integrated AcquisitionGSA
e-Records ManagementNARA
Enterprise Case ManagementJustice
Cross-cutting initiative
e-AuthenticationGSA

* Business case still required for final approval

Source: Office of Management and Budget

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