Agencies still not owning up to e-government projects

PHILADELPHIA—After nearly four years, some of the agencies managing the 25 Office of Management and Budget-sponsored e-government projects still are figuring out their governance process.

Agency executives have yet to take ownership of certain projects, and they rely too much on OMB to make funding and administrative decisions, said John Sindelar, project executive for OMB’s Line of Business Consolidation effort. Sindelar also worked on the Quicksilver team that initiated these 25 projects.

“All the projects are at various stages, and some are more successful than others,” Sindelar said yesterday during a panel discussion about sustaining e-government at the American Council for Technology’s 2005 Management of Change conference. “As a part of the e-government structure, it takes someone to step up, and that is not happening in all instances.”

Instead, Sindelar said, some agencies find it easier to let OMB deal with some issues. But, he said, OMB “should be the court of last resort in terms of execution.”

“We need to change the mind-set of letting OMB handle all the areas that need addressing,” he said. “That takes time, because it has been this way for years. We are reorganizing how government operates without a mandate from Congress.”

Sindelar said the General Services Administration’s Integrated Acquisition Environment, E-Travel, and the Health and Human Services Department’s are three examples of projects that have successfully dealt with the governance issues.

The goal of agency ownership is integrating the projects as a part of government—in effect, not separating them as e-government, but thinking of them as another part of government, he said.

OMB and agencies may have to take a closer look at why ownership is not being taken in these projects, said Scott Charbo, Agriculture Department CIO.

“Some e-government projects are doing better than others, and we need to spend time evaluating why and where the projects are going,” he said. “The discussion has to occur this year or next year, and some projects will need to be reshaped.”

Barry West, CIO for the Homeland Security Department’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate, also known as FEMA, said what agencies need is an e-government master plan.

“What is the end state of where we are going?” West asked. “We know what OMB has been doing with the Lines of Business work with enterprise architecture and with capital planning and investment control, but how does it all come together?”

West said a master plan would help not only the e-government projects but also information-sharing across government. The plan must come from Congress, West added, because only lawmakers can hold agencies accountable to bring all portfolios together.

“Agencies do not have enough time or resources, and there are too many other political issues,” he said. “Plus, most are looking at their own issues and cannot see the larger picture many times.”

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