E-gov fund ambition shrivels

The administration is asking for a much smaller central e-government fund than in recent years.

The fiscal 2005 budget request includes $5 million for the e-gov fund, down from the requested $45 million for fiscal 2004, and closer to the $3 million Congress granted for the fund last year. In addition to the $5 million, the 2005 budget proposal assumes $40 million for e-government from surplus revenues generated in the General Services Administration's General Supply Fund, which is made up of fees from agencies and vendors using GSA's supply services.

When President Bush first proposed the fund in fiscal 2002, he committed to making available $100 million over three years, a goal he is far from meeting.

"Proposals for funding will be required to meet capital planning guidelines and include adequate documentation to demonstrate a sound business case, attention to security and privacy, and a way to measure performance against planned results," the budget documents state. "In addition, a small portion of the money could be used for awards to those project management teams that delivered the best product to meet customer needs."

The E-Government Act of 2002, which is aimed at improving e-government management and establishes criteria for how the fund should be administered, authorizes $345 million over six years. For the past three years, the administration had requested $20 million to $45 million, but Congress continually slashed the fund, calling on agencies to find the resources to fund the 24 e-government initiatives.

David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), said that by now, $95 million should have been appropriated to encourage crossagency initiatives, but "instead, the total amount appropriated for the last two years has been a mere $8 million."

"Given the present fiscal environment and the view of appropriators, I think that the administration feels they had zero chance in asking for more," he said. "On e-government issues in general, there's just no coordinated political constituency pushing appropriators to allocate money. They see no political benefit in targeting funds toward E-Gov projects, which would require taking away money from other pet projects. In addition, appropriators see the E-Gov fund as duplicative spending."

Marin said appropriators need a longer-term view of the e-government initiatives, recognizing the need to invest money now to save money down the road.

The fund is included in the GSA request. Also in this budget request, each agency was required to identify in their business cases how much money they would contribute to the e-gov initiatives in which they are involved.

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