Vendors hear e-gov progress report

GovBenefits

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Recreation.Gov

The Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives are all moving ahead, with projects such as GovBenefits and Recreation.Gov leading the way, said the managers who run them.

The five Office of Management and Budget portfolio managers spoke Jan. 7 at a meeting of the Industry Advisory Council in Falls Church, Va. The information technology industry executives in attendance peppered the speakers with questions about funding, timetables and new contract opportunities.

Dan Chenok, OMB's branch chief for information policy and technology and the panel discussion's moderator, assured the business leaders that e-government initiatives will not lessen vendors' chances of landing new contracts. He explained that although agencies are moving from custom-built systems to commercial products when possible, they need systems integration and other services to bring it all together.

"There are lots of new opportunities that can be created through this process," Chenok said.

In October 2001, the government selected 23 e-government projects to serve as the program's signature initiatives. A 24th was added in January 2002. Congress approved about $345 million in funding over four years for the effort, formally called the E-Government Strategy. President Bush signed the E-Government Act of 2002 into law last month.

Some of the projects are moving ahead at a rapid clip. The GovBenefits Web site for example, launched last April, gave Internet users access to 55 government benefits programs. "It's up to 200 now," said John Womer, who oversees the project. "Early this year, we hope to finish putting in every government benefit program."

Womer also manages Recreation.Gov, an Interior Department effort to draw information from various government sources of recreational information and make it available through a single Web site. Much of that project was conducted throughout 2002, and all that remains is to integrate reservation systems, so travelers can plan a lengthy road trip via the site.

"It's a trip planning across all these public lands without having to wander from one site to another site to another site," he said. "It seems easy, but it's taken us a while to get there."

Jeanette Thornton, the portfolio manager responsible for electronic authentication, said NASA and the departments of Defense, Treasury, and Agriculture have been cross-certified on the federal public-key infrastructure bridge. The security measure allows agency members to validate their identities when communicating electronically with other agencies.

The portfolio managers agreed that the representatives of the individual agencies they work with are interested and helpful. The most visionary agencies are running full-tilt, Womer said.

"The Department of Labor runs the government benefits Web site. They are an extremely energetic organization that gets what's going on and gets it in a very, very big way," he said. "[The Internal Revenue Service] is another example. IRS really understood what the benefit of this could be to the citizens and to the government, and worked very hard to make this happen."

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