Evans: Use IT as a utility

The Bush administration is trying to consolidate information technology systems and turn them into a “utility” instead of keeping them as stovepipes, according to Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and information technology.

“IT is a utility, and it’s dependable, and it’s there,” Evans told the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association on the second day of its annual GEIA IT spending forecast for the federal government.

Evans told the gathering that IT should be seen as an enterprise, not focused around individual agencies. Agencies are going to be using common solutions more and more in the coming years as they shut down their legacy systems.

For example, during the recent hurricane disasters along the Gulf Coast, she said a number of e-government initiatives were tapped to keep government agencies operational, regardless of the type of agency.

Among the services tapped:

* The Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration used the National Finance Center and epayroll.gov to make sure 67,000 customers were paid.

* USAServices.gov helped the Federal Emergency Management Agency add call centers and handle over 1 million calls.

* Hurricane victims were advised to check out govbenefits.gov for benefits they might be eligible to receive in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“Services were reliable. As a utility, they were there,” Evans said.

Evans also said the war on terror and hurricane relief would take precedence over IT spending in next year’s budget. The GEIA report for civilian agencies in fiscal 2006 would grow about 2.8 percent, with the largest increases for the Department of Homeland Security, Commerce Department and Department of Veterans Affairs.

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