OMB names Microsoft and IBM tools as e-gov platforms

HERSHEY, Pa.—Slowly, a plan is emerging for taking the administration’s 24 Quicksilver projects from ideas on paper to interactive online services.

Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget’s associate director for IT and e-government, said by next summer agencies will choose from two Web service platforms that will let the e-government initiatives more easily handle transactions.

He said the platforms will be the IBM Grid Computing Platform and the next generation of Microsoft .Net using Extensible Markup Language. The platforms will build on what OMB identified in April as the two underlying technologies for the 24 projects, Java2 Enterprise Edition and .Net.

“Not every organization that does a transaction will have to own a piece of software to do it,” he said. “This is one of the big reasons we focused on enterprise architectures, so we can sync this up across agencies.”

Forman laid out the latest details of the administration’s e-government grand design during a speech this month at the Interagency Resources Management Conference.

To provide links between disparate applications, the selected Web services platforms use technologies such as Web Service Definition Language; Universal Discovery, Description and Integration; and Simple Object Access Protocol.

The links between unrelated applications will let agencies share transaction engines or services more easily because different pieces of software or hardware will have interfaces with one another through XML schemas.

Forman said there are many areas where Web services could cut costs by integrating functions. For instance, financial management could include debt collection, payment processing and reporting applications, he said.

The keys to applying a Web services platform include identifying agencies’ common functions and interdependencies and evaluating the barriers that prevent them from sharing information, Forman said.

The plan for meshing some services comes as many agencies are preparing to release the second iterations of their initial sites and portals, although some have yet to roll out their first online services.

The first cycle was getting sites up, displaying simple tools to show that the government can provide integrated customer-centric services, Forman said.

Fall previews

Forman said the first version of the Transportation Department’s Online Rulemaking system and the second iteration of the Interior Department’s Web site will be unveiled in late September. Interior’s, part of the Recreation One-Stop initiative, will debut its second iteration with new functions, Forman said.

The Small Business Administration is planning to release the second version of its Business Compliance One-Stop by early November, Forman said.

Two other projects came online earlier this summer, Forman said. The Health and Human Services Department put an E-Grants portal prototype online, and the Treasury Department’s Simplified and Unified Tax and Wage Reporting project put the 94x series of IRS forms on the Web.

He said Safecom, a multiagency wireless communications project, is one of the few facing continuous challenges. Agencies will have spent $1 billion on wireless pilots by month’s end for fiscal 2002. Forman said he wants to see better coordination on public-safety projects that use wireless and will enforce cooperation using his budget authority under the Clinger-Cohen Act to do so.

“We will not end the pilots, but we want to orchestrate the architectures to ensure interoperability,” he said. “We also want to go beyond voice and include data in the programs.”

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