OMB backs off plans for central authentication gateway

OMB backs off plans for central authentication gateway

The administration is scrapping plans for its online E-Authentication gateway, which had been touted as a cornerstone of e-government.

“E-Authentication is moving in a new technical direction that is not centered around the development of a gateway," said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and IT.

The decision follows the release of a scathing General Accounting Office report on the project and inquiries from lawmakers.

Evans would not elaborate on the new plans for E-Authentication.

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration, the project’s leader, has come under fire from lawmakers, who want explanations about why the Quicksilver project is not moving forward.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) recently asked GSA whether the project would be completed by March, as planned, and if a delay in the gateway’s fielding would have a domino effect on the other 24 Quicksilver e-government initiatives.

In a letter to GSA administrator Stephen Perry earlier this month, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee requested a briefing on GSA’s efforts to address E-Authentication’s problems, which were detailed in the GAO report done for Davis.

“According to GAO, essential activities, such as developing authentication profiles for the other 24 initiatives, have not been completed,” Davis said. “GSA also eliminated a step in the acquisition process to award a new contract for the operational systems. This action could mean the GSA will miss an opportunity to explore other potential solutions for designing the gateway.”

GAO reported that GSA has reached few of its policy, procurement and technology objectives for E-Authentication, which OMB has touted as the central cog for e-government.

“The modest progress achieved to date calls into question the likelihood that the project can successfully field an operational gateway, even within the revised schedule,” noted the report, Electronic Government: Planned E-Authentication Gateway Faces Formidable Development Challenges.

GSA expected to finish the gateway last month, but OMB extended the deadline to March. That deadline now might be irrelevant given the changes planned for federal authentication.

GSA declined to comment on the letter from Davis.

Davis said his chief concerns stem from GAO’s finding that GSA’s project schedule is unrealistic.

The auditors said GSA must:

  • Establish policies for consistency and interoperability among different authentication systems and develop technical standards

  • Finish defining user authentication requirements for the 24 other e-government projects. GSA said 12 have been completed

  • Deal with funding, security and privacy problems.

  • GAO does not believe the development work has been mishandled, but the agency should take the time necessary, said John de Ferrari, an assistant director in GAO’s Office of Information Management Issues. Developing policy and achieving interoperability are GSA’s main hurdles, he said.

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