Commerce gets off paper trail

Tom Pyke likes to think of the Commerce Department as the Department of E-government. So when Congress passed the Government Paperwork Elimination Act in 2000, CIO Pyke didn’t see the edict as much of a burden.

In fact, Commerce is one of the agency leaders in fulfilling this mandate. GPEA’s deadline for letting people or organizations submit information and conduct transactions online, where practicable, is a little less than seven months away; Commerce will have more than 90 percent of its 265 transactions online by Oct. 21.

“GPEA reaffirmed our commitment to putting transactions online and gave us credibility,” he said. “GPEA is now part of our culture, and when it fades away, we will continue to figure out how to put transactions online to serve our customers better.”

Many agencies have struggled to meet the requirement—the Office of Management and Budget estimated in the fiscal 2004 budget request that 52 percent of all transactions will meet the GPEA deadline—but Commerce had a jump on much of the rest of the field. Its initiative actually began almost six years before Congress passed the law.

Pyke said he engineered one of the first uses of online transactions when he was CIO of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1994. Using Mosaic, an early Internet browser, participants in a science and education program run by NOAA entered information in a database that could be shared by all of them.

After the passage of GPEA, Pyke put together a formal plan that started by naming a GPEA coordinator in each CIO office of every Commerce bureau.

“This created visibility and helped our reporting,” Pyke said.

These managers answered to Pyke on their progress in meeting goals and provided biannual reports on their status for the first two years. And since fall of 2002, the GPEA coordinators have sent monthly reports to Pyke.

Pyke created a database to track progress at each bureau and the agency overall. He used the database to respond to OMB’s yearly data calls.

Many agency senior IT managers followed a route similar to Pyke’s—putting together a plan, coordinating the plan at the highest CIO levels and receiving progress reports to take care of any stragglers.

Another important facet of meeting the GPEA requirements was support from the secretary and deputy secretary, Pyke said. The agency executives gave general policy guidance to the CIO’s office, which Pyke disseminated throughout the bureaus.

“Doing GPEA work well has been like motherhood for us,” Pyke said. “We don’t look at this as some additional burden, but as an acceptable way of doing business.”

Many agencies that have found success with GPEA, including Commerce and the Transportation Department, made it a priority from the beginning.

Pyke said Commerce used GPEA as the inspiration to change the way it regarded its business. “Rather than doing something new or different to meet the GPEA requirements, we built it into our processes as we refined them,” he said. “In a number of cases, we simply put the transaction online, but in other cases we changed our business processes to go online.

“We have gone out of our way to identify as many transactions as possible under GPEA,” Pyke said. “We built GPEA into our way of doing things, and we will continue to do GPEA work because it makes sense.”

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