Agencies miss e-gov funding

e-Authentication gateway presentation

As agencies advance in their deployment of the 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives, they are discovering that funding really does make a difference.

An example is the cross-cutting e-Authentication Initiative, which is making big strides. The initiative is operating a prototype authentication gateway, forming a public/private credentialing consortium and receiving governmentwide interest in its services, said Adrian Fish, deputy project manager for the initiative at the General Services Administration.

However, because of funding issues—including the delay in approving the fiscal 2003 budget request —e-Authentication probably is going to miss its first major milestone of transitioning to a commercial production gateway in September.

"I don't think we're going to make it now" because of the funding problems, Fish said. "We can continue to do business [on the prototype gateway], but it's not really where we want to be in the future."

She was speaking Feb. 11 with other e-government initiative leaders at the e-Gov Web-Enabled Government conference in Washington, D.C.

Other initiatives may not be experiencing the same setbacks and delays because of funding, but their lead agencies are finding that what looks good in a business case is more difficult to put into practice, officials said.

The e-Grants initiative's executive board—made up of senior officials from each of its 11 partner agencies—agreed on a funding equation based primarily on the size of each agency's grants program, said Charles Havekost, project manager for the initiative at the Department of Health and Human Services. Seven of the 11 agencies have come through with their promised funding and resources, but it is still difficult to convince the other four to do so, he said.

Much of the work on the initiative has been deciding governance issues and deciding where to focus the common efforts. However, money will be particularly important as the initiative moves into its second phase—enabling users to apply for grants online.

The GovBenefits initiative worked out a similar funding mechanism among its partners, and although getting the commitment from the agencies was easy, getting the money itself has been more difficult, said Denis Gusty, project manager for the initiative at the Labor Department.

But as GovBenefits demonstrates its advantages, getting the funding from partners has become easier, he said, noting that the trend should continue.

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