Senators: Restore e-gov funding

Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee Jan. 27 asking members to reinstate the $40 million cut last week from the Bush administration's fiscal 2003 request for the e-government fund.

The Senate passed the omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2003 last week with only $5 million of the administration's $45 million request for the fund, which is intended for interagency projects. The bill has passed the House, and appropriators on both sides of Congress will now enter into conference committee for negotiations.

What appropriators must consider is that the small amount requested for the fund now could have large benefits down the line, Lieberman and Burns said.

"The fund provides crucial seed money to promote innovation and help create the government of the future," the letter states.

Lieberman and Burns co-sponsored the E-Government Act of 2002, which is aimed at improving e-government management and includes an authorization for the $45 million in fiscal 2003. The E-Gov Act also establishes statutory criteria for how the fund should be administered, the letter notes.

The lack of a definite plan for the fund's use is a reason often cited by appropriators for not meeting the administration's request.

In the letter, the senators highlight that "one of the most frequently cited impediments to e-government progress is the lack of funding mechanisms for interagency projects in information technology...[and] the e-government fund provides a central funding pool to support collaboratively developed electronic government initiatives."

Although one Senate source cited overall cuts in the budget as the reason the fund was cut, Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for IT and e-government, last week pointed out that $40 million is not a large amount in the overall budget. He stressed that OMB is still working with appropriators to get the full fiscal 2003 request for the fund.

Congress' $5 million appropriation for the fund in fiscal 2002 and the cut in the fiscal 2003 request leaves the administration far short of its goal to bring the fund to $100 million by fiscal 2004.

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