Legislation may broaden OMB’s e-gov perspective, agency IT managers say

Agency CIOs and IT managers want the E-Government Act of 2002 to help the Office of Management and Budget see the e-government forest for the 25 Quicksilver trees.

Many observers expected HR 2458, which is awaiting President Bush’s signature, to create a new level of visibility for all e-government projects, not just the highly publicized 25 Quicksilver initiatives.

“A lot of good has come out of the 25 e-government projects, but having a bill and having Congress more involved will create a more balanced approach in some ways than what we’ve seen before,” said a government official who requested anonymity. “From the beginning, my concern has been that too much attention has been paid to the e-government projects, many of which are not all that well thought-out or developed. OMB has been too narrowly focused in many ways.”

The bill codifies much of what has been OMB’s approach over the past 18 months to help agencies integrate IT with their business processes, collaborate on projects and measure success.

Formal role for OMB

Kevin Landy, counsel for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), the bill’s sponsor, said one of the main goals of the bill has been to promote better management of e-government.

And, maybe more importantly, it also formalizes OMB’s role in the application of e-government across the government, federal officials said.

“The fact that we have a bill endorses and validates the way we have been working with OMB over the last year,” said W. Hord Tipton, CIO of the Interior Department. “This will sustain and maintain e-government to make sure this isn’t just this current administration’s initiative.”
Mark Forman, OMB’s associate director for IT and e-government, called the act the most sweeping IT bill since the Clinger-Cohen Act.

The bill will affect all agencies. The measure’s creation of an Office of E-Government will formalize much of what Forman and OMB have been doing, and the office’s director will become the de facto federal CIO.

Landy said the authorization of a $345 million e-government fund, along with the security, privacy and work force training provisions, will affect agencies significantly right away.

Dave McClure, former director of IT management issues for the General Accounting Office and now vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government, said the bill builds on the momentum of Clinger-Cohen.

“The legislation legitimizes e-government within OMB,” McClure said. “This legislation and the outcome of the studies the bill calls for will accelerate e-government more than the Government Paperwork Elimination Act ever did.”

That boost to e-government will give agencies another angle to look for direction from OMB, the government official said.

Money helps

Tom Hughes, CIO of the Social Security Administration, said the funding for e-government will help agencies change the way they do business.

“Where there is money, agencies will want to participate effectively,” Hughes said. “It is a statement that there will be a greater emphasis on e-service to the public.”

McClure also said a number of provisions in the bill, such as those regarding privacy, data sharing, records management and geospatial standards, could produce significant policy decisions to help solidify e-government efforts.

“This will be a big lever to get things going,” McClure said. “It adds dimensions to the e-government agenda that has not been there before.”


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