Agencies are enlisted to help lobby Congress for more support of e-gov

OMB asks for new effort to convince lawmakers of the initiatives’ effectiveness

As the Office of Management and Budget steps up efforts to lobby Congress on the benefits of E-government, officials want agencies to do their share, too.

In the latest President’s Management Agenda scorecard, nine agencies slipped in the E-government portion, and OMB officials are putting agencies on notice that they must do a better job of promoting their case on Capitol Hill.

In a statement released with the quarterly grades, OMB noted that agencies are having trouble getting congressional approval to reprogram funds for e-government initiatives, and said that agencies, as well as OMB, need “to work more closely with Congress.”

But Congress, while acknowledging OMB’s heightened presence on the Hill, doesn’t appear willing at this point to change its skeptical view of the initiative.

“Funds are tight up here, and there isn’t a lot of support here in Congress” for e-government projects, said John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.

OMB recently tried to bolster support for e-government after Congress required the administration to submit a report detailing agency spending on these projects in the 2006 Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies spending bill.

Agencies are slated to swap more than $192.9 million among themselves to keep 19 e-government and five Lines of Business initiatives up and running this year.

The other six of the 25 E-government projects do not rely on cross-agency funding. OMB also recently added four new Lines of Business—security, IT infrastructure, geospatial and budget formulation—but they are being funded through the E-government Fund.

OMB has been meeting with appropriators’ staff to explain the benefits of the report as an attempt to add transparency to the e-government process, although Scofield said that, to date, the administration has “failed to make the case.”

“They finally got the message this year” and are meeting with the members, he said, but “it’s not like we’re sitting on piles of cash.”

Mark Forman, principal for KPMG LLC of New York and former OMB administrator for e-government and IT, said the scores show that some agencies are not following in OMB’s footsteps. ”It’s time that the financing model is reconciled.” OMB needs to “push the ball forward and hold agencies accountable.”

Forman said agencies must demonstrate strong service-level agreements for these interagency projects. He highlighted the E-Payroll program as an example: It reduced the number of payroll systems from 22 to four, reduced costs and streamlined government operations.

Some agencies are “resisting” the e-government movement, telling their congressional appropriators that they do not support the initiative, Forman said.

There is also the issue of e-government fatigue, said Dennis Heretick, chief information security officer at the Justice Department.

Justice was one of the several agencies to slip into the dreaded “red” zone in the latest round of PMA scores, meaning there are serious problems.

Heretick admitted to being “fatigued” himself, but said that was just part of the job. “The purpose of having achievable and important metrics is so we can improve our service and system support,” he said. Fatigue shouldn’t matter, he said, because “that’s the job we’re supposed to do. If it’s hard work, that’s why it’s a job.”

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