E-gov managers fight cultural resistance

E-gov managers fight cultural resistance

The managers of the Office of Management and Budget’s 24 highlighted e-government projects are enjoying their newfound access to the chiefs of federal programs and processes. But getting real cooperation is like “herding cats,” said John Sindelar, the General Services Administration’s E-Gov task force project manager.

“They’re going to wait you out” for 12 or 18 months until the administration’s pressure to unify and simplify goes away, said Patrick Kirwan, who is managing the Commerce Department’s international trade streamlining project. He and four other managers spoke yesterday before the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Marsha Rydstrom, the eVital project manager for the Social Security Administration, said she finds that states, which gather the nation’s birth and death statistics, “zealously guard them. States see vital statistics as a state role--they're not having feds dictate how to collect and authenticate them. Ownership is an issue."

Agency self-preservation efforts are another impediment. Kirwan said, “Agencies try to promote their own identity to Congress,” which itself is organized by committees that deal with individual agency missions and projects.

Even OMB’s Quicksilver team members who chose the e-gov projects regressed back to agency self-interest after they initially had “put on the big government hat” to unify and simplify, Sindelar said. He predicted some losers among e-gov projects and said, “They overlap quite a bit. The 24 initiatives could go down to 10 or 12, and you wouldn’t lose a thing.”

Sindelar, echoed by several of the other speakers, said, “The government is still thinking in stovepipes.”

“The technology piece is relatively easy, but the organizational side is hard,” said John Mahoney, manager of the Interior Department’s Recreation One-Stop project. But Charles Havekost, eGrants manager at the Health and Human Services Department, thought technology might be more of a problem. He called authentication “a real hurdle—how much authentication is the right amount for a process.”

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