GovBenefits sets the bar for e-gov

The launch of does more than just bring 55 benefits programs onto one Web site, it sets a positive tone for the other 23 Office of Management and Budget e-government projects yet to be finished, government officials say.

Although last week’s Labor Department ceremony introducing the first e-government initiative had plenty of pomp and circumstance, government officials said GovBenefits’ underlying accomplishment is in proving that projects get done when agencies cooperate.

“This is timely and has laid the benchmark for the other
e-government projects,” said Mark Forman, OMB’s associate director for IT and e-government. “
This is just a first quick hit with some initial capabilities. We did not try to get it all done at once.”

The site, which received input from 10 agencies and cost more than $1 million, provides users with an online screening tool to determine which of 55 benefits programs might help them.

Labor deputy secretary D. Cameron Findlay said the department plans to expand the site by 30 to 40 benefits per month until it includes 300 programs, including state and local programs.

“Mark is using this initial launch to encourage others to launch soon,” said Patrick Pizzella, Labor CIO and assistant secretary for administration and management. “Once you nail down the first few projects, you can share your approach and best practices with other projects.”

Forman said GovBenefits could provide components to other projects. For instance, he said, the E-Grants project might be able to use the GovBenefits front-end integration tool that brings together agencies’ disparate Web sites because the grants portal also must consolidate the services of multiple agencies.

GovBenefits has set a high standard for the OMB e-government initiatives, said Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government.

“It is important to have one of these cross-agency initiatives out there for people to use because it makes the e-government managers think hard about what they can unveil that will be equally as useful for their constituents,” she said.

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