E-gov needs more dialogue, official says

Agencies partnering on e-government initiatives need to improve their communication, and the Office of Management and Budget should step in to ensure that, one government official said today.

Since the inception of e-gov initiatives two years ago, the roles of the managing partner and assisting partners have changed for several projects. The roles need to be clarified so officials understand the agencies' function in the initiative, said Rosanne Hynes, director for technology and integration in the Defense Department's office of the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.

"Over time, you want to see more clarity of the roles of the players in the initiatives," Hynes said today after speaking on a panel at a DOD e-government summit sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council.

Hynes stressed that the initiatives have been successful so far and OMB has properly managed the programs, but "we're at a different level now, two years into this."

The next step is for managing and partnering agencies to come together regularly, along with OMB, to discuss any issues with the projects. Concerns about resources or technical and acquisition issues should be vetted in a regular forum to ensure the projects continue successfully, Hynes said.

"That's a level in which you can resolve problems before they would need to go forward," she said. "We lacked that interim step. It's a good managing tool. That's something we're discussing with OMB."

Hynes said it's important for OMB to make sure each partner is contributing the right resources to the project, to help reduce the risk to any single agency. "We all need to be working together to put the structure in place to minimize the risk," she said. "It's something where we need to look at OMB's role in overall e-government management."

Improved communication between partners would allow agencies with expertise in one initiative to share its knowledge freely. While culture is a major inhibitor of this knowledge sharing, proper leadership support can facilitate that, she said.

"We need to be willing to put that expertise on the table, and they need to be open to receiving help without feeling threatened," Hynes said. "There needs to be openness on both sides of the partnership."

Funding for the initiatives should also be reviewed, Hynes said. She said the OMB "came up with the best estimate of current federal investment." However, that doesn't mean the funding is accurate, and programs always need reassessment, she said.

"It's time to review that," she said. "You simply do that with any program."

One defense official speaking on the panel shared concerns about funding, saying there is often a perception that DOD has the money and should pay for the activities. However, the official said there should be better governance of these initiatives — including a clear determination of who pays for maintenance of projects.

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