The Circuit

GovNet Waiting Game

When the Bush administration gave Congress an emergency supplemental request for the fiscal 2002 budget last month, some homeland security- related information technology programs made out and some didn't.

For instance, the supplemental budget gave $2.5 million to the General Serv.ices Administration for an Internet Vulnerability Program Management Office to protect against potential disruptions in the IT infrastructure.

Unfortunately, GovNet requests didn't fare so well. Although GSA asked the Office of Management and Budget to consider money for GovNet — the proposed secure intranet for critical government applications — it didn't make the cut.

Federal security experts have briefed Richard Clarke, President Bush's cyberspace security adviser, on the assessment of more than 160 industry proposals for building GovNet, and Clarke is now considering the options.

However, even if Clarke makes a decision, there is still the funding issue to deal with. It appears that GovNet development is in a holding pattern until GSA gets the $5 million request in the 2003 budget to conduct a feasibility study. Money may come from other areas in the meantime, but for now, there is no money specifically for researching GovNet.

Web Site User Demands

Some of the findings in a new report expected to be issued this week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that many government Web site users had little to say when asked what feature they most would like to have added to a government Web site.

But among the suggestions the project did receive, the highest-ranking request — given by 9 percent of respondents — was the ability to access one's Social Security account. Currently, the Social Security Administration Web site (www.ssa.gov) allows citizens to request a benefits statement that is then sent through the mail.

Most of the remaining respondents who had a hankering for other online features said they just wanted faster access to government information.

In another finding, many government agencies became more eager to provide key information on their Web sites after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax scare. For a relatively small number of Internet users, this was an important way for them to get information about government policies and recommendations.

About 7 percent of those who use government sites have turned to them after major events, and about three-fourths of that subgroup went to those sites for information related to the attacks and their aftermath. Half of that 7 percent have e-mailed an elected official in light of the attacks, similar to the number of people who said they wrote to or telephoned their officials following Sept. 11. And, about half have used the Internet to find information about how to get involved politically.

IRS Adds One

There are more changes at the Internal Revenue Service as the agency builds its modernization team. Fred Forman was named the associate commissioner for business systems modernization, reporting to IRS Chief Information Officer John Reece. Forman is the former chief technology officer at American Management Systems Inc.

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