OMB wants 2004 to be a breakthrough year for e-gov

While agencies inch closer to green on meeting the President’s Management Agenda, the Office of Management and Budget is beginning a push for the next stage.

OMB’s long-term goal for next year is for agencies to move beyond green and achieve breakthrough performance, said Tad Anderson, OMB’s associate administrator for e-government and IT.

“Breakthrough performance means many things to many people,” Anderson said last night during a panel discussion on the federal IT outlook for 2004 sponsored by Dutko Government Markets of Washington. “It could mean agencies are using their enterprise architecture as a tool for not just IT managers, but for all government mangers. It could be where IT investments are consolidated more broadly, across departments and managed as portfolio investments.”

OMB evaluates major agencies quarterly with scores of green, yellow or red for their efforts to meet the agenda’s goals. Green means an agency has met all standards for success; yellow means it has met some but not all the criteria; and red means there are serious problems.

Three agencies—the departments of Commerce and Education and the Environmental Protection Agency—are close to earning a green score, according to a recent OMB breakdown of agency progress.

All three agencies have met the criteria in four of five categories defined by OMB as needed to get a green score. Commerce and Education still must have 90 percent of IT systems secure and verified quarterly by their inspectors general. EPA still must bring its projects in within 10 percent of budget and completion schedule.

The National Science Foundation is the only major agency to earn a green score in e-government so far.

“Many challenges still remain and essential cross-agency cooperation is required to achieve these goals,” Anderson said. “There is nothing more daunting than trying to get people to think beyond the ways they have always done things. There is a really entrenched way of thinking that is more agency-centric than citizen-centric.”

Gerry Wethington, the Missouri CIO and president of the National Association of State CIOs, said getting past that agency-centric point of view is a matter of changing old habits and knowing the customer.

“Agencies need to understand their roles and responsibilities and ask themselves why they are doing certain things,” Wethington said. “To change the way we do business, I always ask about business processes or procurement regulations and people usually say they are rooted in law or regulations. But about 65 percent to 70 percent of the time it actually is folklore, and is done a certain way because it’s always been done that way.”

Wethington, who was joined by Lee Holcomb, the chief technology officer for the Homeland Security Department, Stephen Galvan, Small Business Administration CIO, and Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a trade association in Arlington, Va., said looking at business processes from a citizen’s perspective is the way to achieve the breakthrough performance Anderson is talking about.

“We don’t want citizens to navigate our bureaucracy,” he said. “We are bringing citizen focus groups together to tell us how they want to re-engineer the business processes.”

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