Funding cuts won't kill e-gov

"The Federal Government Is Results Oriented; A Report to Federal Employees,"

Cutting funds for specific e-government initiatives from spending bills will not hamper the overall effort, an official from the Office of Management and Budget said today.

"We just collect money from the agencies — pass the hat if you will — and fund it out of their individual agency [information technology] budgets," said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, during a press conference to highlight a new OMB report on the President's Management Agenda.

However, OMB's relations with Congress over management agenda initiatives could use improving, Johnson said.

"We need to have them be smarter about how to make appropriations decisions and work with us about changing program structure," he said.

Johnson stressed the Bush administration's attempt to foster a results-oriented federal government. "We're not here to spend money, we're here to spend money to get results. I defy anybody in Congress to say otherwise."

Still, the two branches of government have different focuses right now, according to Johnson. "Many people would agree that the executive branch is more focused on agency and program performance than the legislative branch."

Even getting federal agencies to climb on board the management agenda took some doing, he said. "One of their fears was that if we started looking into whether a program worked or not and we found out that it didn't work, then anybody associated with that program might be tainted."

Sometimes managers simply cracked the whip. For example, to get more agencies to secure their IT systems, OMB officials were blunt, Johnson said: "We told them all that they were pathetic."

After about two years of work on the President's Management Agenda, agencies learned "that this was about making program work, making things better, not getting rid of," Johnson added.

OMB's new report finds significant progress in fulfilling the agenda, noting that since 2001, a swath of negative red scores on the quarterly traffic-light colored OMB score card has been mostly replaced by better yellow and green scores.

The score card makes it "very clear what it takes to be yellow and it makes it very clear what it takes to be green," Johnson said when asked about some federal officials who recently have derided the score card as too simplistic.

"Everybody knows that it's going to be harder for some agencies to get to yellow or green than others," Johnson added.

The five initiatives were chosen in part because of the lack of structural impediments against implementing them, Johnson said. The Department of Veterans Affairs does face a legislative block against using money to fund competitive sourcing studies, Johnson said. But, he added that the administration is working with Congress to end that prohibition.

Competitive sourcing of VA jobs such as laundry services could produce over a billion dollars in savings, if Congress "would only allow more competitive sourcing for peripherally related services at VA," he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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