Hill wants to know how the budget impasse will affect OMB’s e-government projects

With agency finances in limbo until Congress passes a 2003 budget, lawmakers are gathering information on how a long-term continuing resolution will affect agency e-government projects and other initiatives under the President’s Management Agenda.

Agencies by Dec. 6 must submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations committees detailing the effects of continuing resolutions on how they are meeting administration goals for budget and performance integration, competitive sourcing, e-government, financial performance and personnel management.

“We oppose any long-term continuing resolution,” said John Scofield, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman. “And we want to show how a longer one will affect these programs.”

Agencies will work under a continuing resolution until Nov. 22, and some observers have said Congress may not resolve the budget impasse until February or March.

The federal fiscal year started Oct. 1, but Congress only recently passed, and President Bush signed, the first two appropriations bills for the Defense Department and military construction.

“After members return from the election recess, they could decide to do a longer continuing resolution to February or March, or the appropriators may push to keep members here through Christmas to get it done,” said a House staff member, who requested anonymity. “They will assess everything after the elections and make a determination then.”

An Office of Management and Budget official, who asked not to be named, said e-government projects will continue to operate at fiscal 2002 levels and other IT projects should proceed at a similar pace because major purchases are not scheduled until after April.

Meanwhile other agency IT projects, especially new ones and those having to do with homeland security, face uncertain futures and severe delays.

Mark Emery, the Transportation Security Administration’s deputy CIO, said the agency had to slow down some of the infrastructure work at airports and deferred some system upgrades and other IT security initiatives. Congress in August appropriated $3.8 billion in emergency funding for TSA, but much of it was earmarked for specific projects.

“I’m not sure of the long-term effects, but we will find a way to get everything done,” Emery said. “We are looking at every penny and spending only where we have to.”

Jim Flyzik, special adviser to White House Office of Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, said his office expected the budget slowdown, but with more money it could “do more to get the new Homeland Security Department ready.”

Preparing for delays

Other agency CIOs and chief financial officers are preparing for potential delays.

“I’m not experiencing any material disruption,” said Joe Hungate, CIO for the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. “It adds another layer in administrative delays, because whatever you do must be checked against the continuing resolution. But my initiatives are continuing as planned.”

Hungate said that the longer agencies wait, the harder it will be to move forward with new projects.

“Last year, I would have been screaming because I was expecting new money to launch new things,” he said. “I would have been dead in the water, because I couldn’t do anything. So I imagine anyone launching a new project must feel handcuffed.”

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