Forman: Turn policy into reality

One year away from the congressional mandate calling for federal agencies to offer digital forms and accept electronic signatures, and it still isn't clear whether the government will meet the deadline, according to Mark Forman, the federal e-government chief.

Forman said government is still "thinking in terms of passing paper." However, he said the issue is not just achieving a paperless system, but eliminating the redundancies in government agencies that produce a plethora of similar electronic forms that citizens and businesses must fill out.

During the coming year, Forman said agencies would have to turn policy initiatives into reality, including the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which goes into effect in October 2003.

"We cannot think of IT just in terms of IT anymore," said Forman, assistant director for information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

In the past, vendors took one solution and sold it many times over to many departments. Now, the drive is to find one solution and integrate it throughout government, he said.

"We are no longer going to buy one solution multiple times," he said. "There are dramatic implications for not buying multiple times."

Agencies will have to make a credible business case to purchase information technology. And they will have to provide real milestones, not just say "they will fix it" once the contract is in place, he said.

Speaking at the Input FedFocus 2002 conference in Reston, Va., Oct. 23, Forman told vendors that they are "the engine of our innovations."

He also said government would continue working with the Government Information Security Reform Act even though the law is expected to expire next month and Congress has not yet extended it.

GISRA calls for agencies to do annual self-assessments of their security management practices and submit a report to the Office of Management and Budget.

In addition to submitting an annual report to Congress on agencies' compliance with GISRA, OMB is using the law as an important management enforcement tool for the White House.

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