It’s not easy being green

Agencies strive to make top grade on OMB e-gov goals

Mark Forman’s goal is to fundamentally change how agencies plan and implement technology. His approach—speaking softly but carrying a big stick—appears to be working.

The Office of Management and Budget last week released a midyear agency report card detailing improvements in current status and progress toward meeting the administration’s criteria for the President’s Management Agenda.

The administration, led by Forman, OMB’s associate director for IT and e-government, re-evaluated 26 agencies’ efforts and compared them with an initial review done in February.

The National Science Foundation earned the top, or green, ranking for e-government and was second overall, and 16 other agencies showed measurable progress toward meeting the administration’s e-government goals, one of five categories that make up the management agenda.

OMB gave major agencies scores of green, yellow or red for their efforts to meet the agenda’s goals. Green means an agency has met all standards for success; yellow means it has met some but not all the criteria; and red means there are serious problems.

“We are very happy with agency progress,” said Forman. “Agencies making progress on e-government understand that it has to interface with other areas like financial management.”

In fact, Forman said, at least two other agencies are close to reaching the green plateau.

The Office of Personnel Management and the Labor Department are nearing the goal, thanks in part to their work on some of OMB’s 24 e-government initiatives.

“OPM has embraced e-government as a part of its enterprise architecture, cleaned up its modernization plans, and its business cases are in a good place,” Forman said. “This is a real change for OPM.”

Forman said Labor’s work on the GovBenefits portal, along with its management review board, which monitors progress on departmentwide reform, has moved the agency closer to green.

“It is no surprise that agencies doing well with their e-government projects did well in the report card too,” Forman said.

Agencies showed the most progress in the areas of e-government and financial management. OMB gave 16 green and 10 yellow scores for e-government and 16 green, nine yellow and one red for financial management. Agencies showed less progress in the three other areas: 12 green for human capital, 13 green for competitive sourcing and nine green for budget and performance integration.

Follow the leaders

The report card came on the heels of a July 10 memo President Bush sent to department chiefs commending agencies who have actively engaged in e-government and urging those who have not “to follow their lead.”

“The memo tells senior managers to support the CIOs in this agenda, and that has a positive impact on agencies,” said Mayi Canales, acting CIO of the Treasury Department and co-chairwoman of the CIO Council’s E-government Committee. “The CIO Council committed to making major progress on the 24 initiatives in 12 months, and the report card helps us focus on things like capital planning, enterprise architecture and security.”

The memo came at an interesting time—just before the release of the report card and amid agency development of fiscal 2004 budget requests. Canales said agencies will need to create some joint budget requests, which will be a new and tough challenge.

“We cannot continue with siloed budget requests,” she said. “The timing of the memo shows that the administration understands how difficult joint budget requests are, but we should continue to do them.”

In recent months, Forman has been pushing agencies in this direction. He has selectively mandated that agencies work together on some major e-government initiatives by tapping Clinger-Cohen Act authority that gives OMB authority to reprogram agencies’ IT funds. His message, in a series of letters, has been straightforward: Work together, or the administration will force you to do so by co-mingling your funds.

Forman said the CIO Council is analyzing each agency’s programs for opportunities for joint efforts. Based on the reviews, agencies will be able to submit any joint requests to OMB.

Tad Anderson, OMB’s government-to-business portfolio manager, said agencies have made significant strides in the capital planning process, which has helped with the e-government projects.

Tony Frater, the agency’s government-to-government portfolio manager, said the emphasis on capital planning also has improved the business cases agencies have submitted.

Forman said the improvement in business case submissions has reduced the threat of elimination for many projects.

“There were 400 cases on the high-risk list, and now a vast majority have moved off the list,” Forman said. “I don’t anticipate a huge hit list for 2003.”

Almost green

The Agriculture Department is headed for green in part because of its work on business cases, according to the scorecard report. OMB’s evaluation identified 28 successful business cases for USDA.

The Education, Justice, State and Veterans Affairs departments also received praise from OMB for their increased attention to business cases.

Other agencies earned high marks for security improvements.

NSF moved to green because it made significant progress in eliminating security weaknesses as well as in using technology to link all five management agenda items.

NASA, OMB said, strengthened the role of its CIO by improving the capital planning process and IT security tracking.

The Interior Department received the most negative evaluation. OMB said it needs to “aggressively pursue its management agenda for human capital, e-government, and budget and performance integration.”

State also did not fare well outside of its efforts on business cases. OMB said it needs to “complete its enterprise architecture and an adequate security corrective action plan.”

“You see so many green lights because agencies understand this is a priority,” said Kim Nelson, CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency. “CIOs clearly understand the president wants to make e-government happen and expects us to work together to find solutions and not hurdles.”

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