USDA secretary takes e-gov case to Congress

With a portion of their funding for e-government initiatives at risk, Agriculture Department secretary Ann M. Veneman took the unusual step of making her agency’s case directly to Congress.

Veneman recently sent letters to the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that allocate Agriculture’s budget, detailing the benefits of the agency’s e-government programs and explaining how the money has been used over the past three years.

The letters came after the House Appropriations Committee voted to prohibit Agriculture’s Forest Service from spending fiscal 2005 money on four Quicksilver projects—Disaster Management, E-Rulemaking, E-Training and Safecom. See GCN story.

“Each USDA agency and staff office provides a portion of the funds needed to support the USDA and presidential e-government initiatives,” she wrote. “Funding is based on an algorithm that takes into account the agency’s staffing and the portion of IT budget that is targeted to development, modernization and enhancement. No new funding was requested in USDA’s 2005 budget to support them.”

Veneman did not directly ask Congress to support the projects, but made sure lawmakers knew the importance of e-government to her and the agency.

“Meeting the president’s and congressional mandates to simplify and unify services in a manner that our customers demand and within our existing budget has been a formidable challenge,” she said. “Realizing the benefits of our strategy continues to be a high priority at USDA.”

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