The Circuit

Carrots, Anyone?

With the Bush administration's emphasis on performance management and accountability, the stick, rather than the carrot, certainly seems in vogue this year. But e-government appears to be fertile ground for new ideas.

Earlier this month, both Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and e-government maestro Mark Forman suggested that good work on e-government projects might be fostered with bonuses.

The notion of rewarding "the federal managers of the two most successful e-government projects with a substantial bonus pool if the projects succeed...may be an effort that is worthy of some form of emulation in all government agencies," Davis wrote in a letter Feb. 8 to Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James.

"Rep. Davis believes that, like the private sector, government should reward those employers who bring greater value to their organization," said David Marin, Davis' press secretary.

The Office of Management and Budget is developing incentives for the interagency teams that lead the 24 e-government initiatives, with bonuses coming from the $45 million requested for the fiscal 2003 e-government fund, Forman noted at a press briefing Feb. 5.

DOD's generous spirit

The Defense Department, which is engaged in an ongoing battle to protect its share of radio airwaves from encroachment by commercial interests, sees things in a different light when it comes to firefighters, law enforcement personnel and other public servants.

DOD maintains that freeing its reserved portion of the radio spectrum to wireless phone traffic and other industry applications could interfere with its own satellite-based systems.

But the department is willing to share portions of the 138 MHz to 144 MHz band on a case-by-case basis with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), state and local governments, and public safety agencies "for the common good," said Steven Price, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for spectrum and command, control and communications policy.

DOD made the offer after a DOD Joint Spectrum Center engineering study identified ways of sharing the band without interfering with DOD operations.

Going, Going, Gone

A high-profile federal grants program that aimed to bring technology to the nation's have-nots is a have-not itself in President Bush's fiscal 2003 budget proposal.

The budget for the NTIA practically zeroes out the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), which aims to close the digital divide by helping state and local governments, schools, libraries and other organizations build networks and buy technology.

NTIA received $42.5 million in funding in fiscal 2001 for TOP, which NTIA administers for the Commerce Department, and in fiscal 2002, the program received $12.4 million for matching grants. For fiscal 2003, however, the administration is requesting only $224,000 for TOP to help close out those existing grants.

TOP "was meant to be a laboratory of sorts, to show individuals how to better use technology," NTIA administrator Nancy Victory said at a press briefing Feb. 4. "Clearly that awareness campaign was successful, but awareness is not the issue any more."

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