After finding success in 2005, OMB sets e-gov bar high in 2006

Karen Evans likes to say that fiscal 2006 is the year the rubber meets the road for many of the Office of Management and Budget’s E-Government initiatives.

To that end, Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and IT, established some high goals for agencies after the government made progress against many of the E-Government milestones the administration set last year.

In its annual Expanding E-Government report sent to Congress to coincide with the third anniversary of the E-Government Act of 2002, OMB said agencies fully reached two of the five goals it set last year and came close on two others.

This shows real progress, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee and co-author of the E-Government Act, who said he will continue following these developments closely.

“I’m quite pleased with the federal government’s success in implementing E-Government initiatives,” he said. “As we continue to move forward, Congress must ensure that our government is utilizing the latest technologies to improve operational efficiencies and streamline the delivery of services.”

Specifically, all agencies met OMB’s goal of implementing “effective” enterprise architectures aimed at streamlining their business functions by the end of June 2005, and 21 of 25 agencies—84 percent—have acceptable business cases for their ongoing project expenditures, the report said.

Next year, OMB wants 90 percent of agencies to have acceptable business cases for their systems and said it “will use the appropriate management tools to ensure agencies manage or mitigate risk” associated with high-risk projects. Projects are put on the at-risk list if they don’t meet at least one of the three major requirements: adequate security, a qualified full-time project manager or defined performance measures.

Also, agencies must continue using their EAs “to eliminate redundant business functions. This elimination … will show true cost savings and not just ‘cost avoidance’.”

This goal may seem modest, but it reflects a culture change within many agencies by forcing them to alter many longstanding business practices, said Fred Thompson, vice president of management and technology at the Council for Excellence in Government of Washington.

“EA is a big deal,” he said. “It’s a hard issue to sell to program managers, but it’s where a lot of the progress [and savings] will be reaped.”

But agencies fell short in meeting OMB’s cybersecurity goals last year, with roughly 85 percent of agency systems being secured and accredited by Sept. 30, 2005. The goal for last year—and now this year—was 90 percent.

Still, OMB said the government overall continues “to improve our response to security incidents.”

The administration also said the government fell short in assessing its IT workforce, as less than half of agencies have closed training and educational gaps for their IT employees. While all agencies identified and assessed their workforce competency shortcomings, OMB hoped that 50 percent would have resolved those gaps.

OMB did not release the percentage of agencies that did meet that goal and said it will be working with the CIO Council to help the government fill in those gaps with specialized programs, such as recruitment activities.

And while 20 of 25 agencies are using some level of earned-value management to manage and track their IT expenditures, only seven (28 percent) reached OMB’s goal of having operational costs, schedule overruns and performance shortfalls average within 10 percent of their IT portfolio.

OMB wanted 50 percent of all agencies to meet that standard, the same goal it set for fiscal 2006.

While the report demonstrates agencies still have plenty of work to meet OMB’s goals, it also shows that, from a broader perspective, the government is making considerable headway, Thompson said.

Thompson added that the quarterly President’s Management Agenda scorecard track E-Government milestones with such precision that many agencies end up with less-than-desirable scores. But this report offers more of a 30,000-foot view that shows how far the government, overall, has come. The scorecards “tend to accentuate the negative,” Thompson said. But the “longer-term view of these things shows a lot of progress.”

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