- By Bruce McConnell
- Jul 01, 2002
Amid the swirl of legislative activity around homeland security, somewhat less attention is being paid to other changes in law affecting information and technology management. One such bill is S. 803, the E-Government Act of 2002, introduced last year and reported by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee this spring.
The "EGA" would be the latest addition to a long series of acronyms — PRA, GPRA, FARA, FASA, ITMRA, GPEA, GISRA — relevant to the federal information technology community. In general, management legislation can perform five functions: set policy, create oversight mechanisms, require action by agencies, establish reporting requirements to Congress and provide funding. The most important of this list are the first and last items. S. 803 focuses on the rest.
The bill has four basic elements. It would codify the organization and function of the office established and led by Mark Forman at the Office of Management and Budget. It would codify a cross-agency e-government fund. It would require agencies to take various actions to promote e-government. Finally, it contains provisions directed at specific programs or issues.
On the first element, the bill now reflects OMB's opposition to the creation of a governmentwide chief information officer. But the functions of the "administrator of the Office of Electronic Government" are in fact the functions of an enterprise CIO. Capital planning and investment control, enterprise architecture and related functions all would fall to this office. The issue has been reduced to nomenclature, and the United States stands at the brink of losing the opportunity to join modern enterprises around the world in having a titled CIO.
With respect to the e-government fund, the bill authorizes this important tool for busting stovepipes. But S. 803 is not an appropriations bill and therefore makes no money available. Without an accompanying appropriations agreement, this new power, like an unexercised muscle, will atrophy.
Perhaps most problematic is the accretion of uncoordinated requirements that agencies must add to their management lists and OMB must integrate into already rapidly changing guidance. The reported version has a section on performance integration, but one that ignores the framework created by the Government Performance and Results Act.
In the information dissemination area, the bill sets up a cumbersome bureaucratic process for setting priorities and schedules, without recognizing that since 1995, agencies have been creating information dissemination management plans for this very purpose.
What is not clear is the business case for this legislation. The benefits are neither demonstrated nor compelling, while the costs, in terms of churn and bureaucracy, are plain. In today's environment, perhaps other priorities are a better use of the legislature's time.
McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC (www. mcconnellinternational.com).