E-gov at heart of GSA budget

The new money requested by the Bush administration for the General Services Administration's fiscal 2003 budget is in direct response to the focus on e-government and homeland security, officials said Feb. 5.

At $260 million, GSA's budget is relatively small because the agency gets most of its operating expenses through fees from the agencies that use its contracts and buildings. But its policy offices and buildings services are important factors in the administration's plans, said William Early, GSA's chief financial officer.

At the top is the $45 million request for the administration's e-government fund, the central pot of money for cross-agency e-government projects.

Last year, the White House created a three-year, $100-million e-government fund and requested $20 million for fiscal 2002. Congress approved $5 million.

The administration believes the $45 million request for fiscal 2003 has a better chance of congressional approval because it is supported by the detailed plans developed by each of the 24 e-government initiative management teams in cooperation with the President's Management Council, Early said.

"Last year was at the start," he said. "Now they've got projects; they've got business plans."

GSA is the lead agency for five of the 24 initiatives. To help fund those initiatives, the agency plans to use $35 million from its General Supply Fund, which is made up of fees from agencies and vendors using GSA's supply services, Early said.

GSA also is creating an Office of Citizen Services, made up of the support offices for the FirstGov Web portal, the e-government initiatives and the National Contact Center (NCC) at the Federal Consumer Information Center.

To support the new office, GSA is requesting:

* $5 million for further enhancements to FirstGov, such as automated content management tools to make it easier to add and track information and services.

* $5 million for enhancements to the toll-free NCC, which will allow it to expand its contact options for citizens to e-mail, faxes and self-help capabilities such as an integrated voice response system.

The FirstGov enhancements also will build on changes to be unveiled this month, said John Sindelar, deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

Those changes will make the portal more focused on the services citizens want to access from government, in part by ensuring it takes only three clicks to get from the front of the portal to the agency page providing the requested service.

As part of its mission to support homeland security, GSA's request includes $27 million for five new border stations for the Customs Service.

The agency also is requesting $10 million to test state-of-the-art counterterrorism technologies. This includes a cooperative effort with the U.S. Marshals Service to test biometrics to strengthen access controls at federal courthouses, said Paul Chistolini, deputy commissioner of GSA's Public Buildings Service. PBS manages many of the federal facilities across the country, including their security.


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