Champions sought for e-gov fight

E-Government Strategy report

The Bush administration unveiled a plan last week that outlines a timetable for the completion of key e-government projects, and a Bush administration official said March 1 that he is working with Congress to name e-government champions on the appropriations committees to ensure that the projects are properly funded.

Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, told Federal Computer Week that he has proposed to the House and the Senate appropriations committees that they each appoint a person to focus exclusively on e-government issues. Those people, among other responsibilities, would be in charge of ensuring that funds for the interagency e-government initiatives go to the agency leading a particular project rather than being spread among the participating agencies.

"I believe that the appropriations full committee has to have an e-government person as well who can [look out for] the best interests of the citizens and the country," Forman said.

Each of the 24 e-government initiatives is aimed at improving services for individuals and businesses, within the federal government or among federal, state, local and international agencies.

It's unclear if the appropriations committees will agree to name an e-government point person, but committee members and staff recognize the importance of e-government, and "they are very open to the idea," Forman said.

The administration needs to convince Congress that funding projects this way will provide long-term cost savings and help agencies meet the objectives of the President's Management Agenda, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc. "Forman needs to have a very crisp business case to demonstrate to the Hill why this needs to be done this way," he said.

Still, some are concerned that "congressional committees are giving out money to the agencies in their jurisdiction, and they want to see the agency's 'brand' out there in the public eye," rather than centralizing the funding under the agency in charge of each initiative, said Patrick Kirwan, manager of the Inter.national Trade Process Streamlining initiative, which is led by the Commerce Department. He spoke at a Feb. 28 meeting of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Bethesda, Md., chapter.

Proper funding for the projects will be important as the agencies move quickly to develop them. Most projects are scheduled to be completed between Nov. 30 and Jan. 15, 2004, according to the administration's E-Government Strategy report, but some projects did not offer completion dates.

The report also outlines goals for the development of the projects so the administration can measure their progress. For example, the General Services Administration sets March 31 as the deadline to re-host the Web sites for Federal Asset Sales; Sept. 30 to develop a pilot business integration; and March 31, 2003, for the sites to conduct transactions.

OMB's Portfolio Management Office is developing a database to track the teams' progress in reaching their milestones, and one of the subcontractors will build a collaboration Web site to allow members of the initiatives to post documents and communicate with one another, said John Sindelar, GSA's E-Government Task Force project manager.

Missing from the report are details on the roles of individual agencies on each team and the amount of funding each partner will contribute. Those decisions will be made by the lead agency for each initiative, Forman said.

Graeme Browning contributed to this story.

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