Havekost: E-gov requires muscle

Implementing e-government sometimes is a matter of pure muscle, said Charles Havekost, chief information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is a forcing function, at times, saying, ‘You’ve got to go down this path,'” he said today during a lunch event sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

Agencies often resist the Office of Management and Budget’s push to shut down individual IT systems and move toward a limited number of common solutions. In one case, when one agency said an e-government initiative did not allow them to conduct all their business processes, Havekost said his response was to remove those business processes.

Instead, “they’ve figured out how to keep doing those things they want to do within the confines” of e-government, Havekost said.

Agencies that continue to fund legacy systems cannot take advantage of new functionality, said David Wennergren, the Navy Department’s CIO. “This network age means you don’t have to build your own stuff anymore.” People nonetheless try to keep information technology systems within their immediate purview, he added. “Maybe we’re all control freaks.”

But agencies already depend on one another for services they cannot immediately control, Havekost said. For example, before e-Grants, agencies mostly relied on the U.S. Postal Service to receive completed grants applications.

When project officials tried to convince skeptical agencies that Web submissions would be more efficient, they argued that nothing would change from an agency control perspective. “We said, ‘We’re going to put an electronic black box in there that you won’t have any more control over than over the post office,’” Havekost said.

Consolidation of IT systems will benefit industry, too, despite the possibility that fewer procurement opportunities may exist, Havekost added. “Fewer systems that service particular business areas and that map to multiple agencies” will mean less administrative burden for the private sector, he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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