Putnam says e-gov faces a startling array of challenges

Agencies must overcome four challenges to make e-government successful, and none of the four deal with funding or resources, said Rep. Adam Putnam, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.

The Florida Republican told an audience of industry and federal officials yesterday that to make e-government work, agencies must lessen federal managers’ resistance to change; hire talented federal workers; and prioritize cybersecurity and privacy, and intergovernmental coordination concerns.

“We’ve seen progress, and as the administration takes it to the next level, we have to shine the light on the successes and market them,” Putnam said at a lunch sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council, a Washington association. “The magnitude of these challenges is startling.”

Changing the culture, along with matters of security and privacy, are the biggest issues agencies must overcome, Putnam said. He recalled a recent hearing his subcommittee held on smart-card technology in which the General Accounting Office reported that there are 62 smart-card systems in place across government.

“We built up smart card stovepipes just as we appeared to be learning to break them down through the [25 Quicksilver] initiatives,” he said. “This is of great concern to the subcommittee. We have to move forward in a smart way.”

As to security and privacy, the government needs to look at whether it should collect personal data, and whether that data would be helpful in combating terrorism, Putnam said.

Worms and viruses also pose great risk to public and private systems, he added.

“The federal government needs to do a better job of tracking and capturing these people who create and release these viruses,” Putnam said. “We need to change the law enforcement mentality of how they look at these crimes. We will work with the FBI to make sure they have the resources they need and if there are any legislative changes that could help.”

Putnam also is considering legislation that would require publicly traded companies to receive third-party verification that they can protect their IT infrastructures.

“This is similar to the Year 2000 plans,” he said. “This forces executive attention on this serious issue. I think we will strike the right balance with these requirements.”

Putnam’s subcommittee has scheduled at least five more hearings before November, including two with Homeland Security Department officials next week.

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