E-Gov fund shortchanged again

Congress still does not get e-government. The $820 billion fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that the Senate passed last night allocated only $3 million for the E-Government fund—$2 million less than last year and $42 million less than the president’s request.

The bill, which the House passed Dec. 8, has gone to the White House for signature. It includes $328 billion in discretionary funding and covers all civilian agency appropriations except for the Energy, Homeland Security and Interior departments.

Their funding, along with the Defense and military construction bills, already is signed into law. Agencies had been working under a fourth continuing resolution since November.

“We have never been convinced that the fund doesn’t duplicate what already exists in other agencies or performs unique functions,” said John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee. “It has never been well-justified, and we don’t have a lot of spare cash lying around.”

The president announced yesterday that non-homeland security discretionary spending in his fiscal 2005 budget will be no more than 1 percent. The new budget request is scheduled for release early next month.

This is the third consecutive year congressional appropriators refused to meet the administration’s full request for e-government. The White House fell well short of its e-gov goal of $100 million in three years. The appropriations also are $52 million short of what Congress authorized in the E-Government Act of 2002.

Lawmakers modified previous language that would have changed the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76. The provision limits the application of new streamlined competition procedures to agencies included in the Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, instead of governmentwide. It also eliminates language calling for a demonstrated level of cost savings in order to outsource positions. Agencies now only have to consider cost as one factor.

Congress also removed language that would have given employees, or unions acting on behalf of employees, the right to appeal to the General Accounting Office after losing an A-76 competition.

“The House and Senate voted to restrict those initiatives, but we ended up engineering a position to make the White House happy,” Scofield said. “All of our guidelines were taken out for the most part.”

Although Congress shorted the e-gov fund, the National Archives and Records Administration received $35.9 million for its electronic archives project.

Congress earmarked $88.1 million for the General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, while the Office of Personnel Management received $7 million for some of its e-gov projects. Lawmakers allocated $2.5 million for E-Payroll, $2 million for the Enterprise Human Resources Integration project, and $2.5 million to conduct program and performance measurement.

GSA also received $17 million to support governmentwide financial, IT, procurement and other management initiatives. From that, the CIO Council could fund the administration’s $2.5 million request for Federal Enterprise Architecture efforts. Congress, though, did not fund it separately.

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