E-gov on the chopping block

White House officials are urging House and Senate lawmakers to maintain a separate funding account for high-profile Gov 2.0 and “eGov” initiatives such as Data.gov, Federal IT Dashboard and Challenge.gov rather than merging them with other funds as currently proposed.

Under the House and Senate budget bills for fiscal 2012, the flagship Electronic Government Fund would be combined with another fund. Both bills also would maintain recent dramatic cuts to the electronic government fund.

In a statement on Nov. 10, Office of Management and Budget officials argued that combining the eGovernment and Federal Citizen Services funds into a single pool would introduce uncertainty about how the funds would be allocated, given the different purposes of the funds.

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Furthermore, White House officials urged Congress to provide “adequate funding” to maintain the initiatives, saying they enhance transparency and oversight and “yield a high return on investment through cost-saving efficiencies.”

The eGovernment fund has been under siege in budgetary talks in Congress. Earlier this year, the fund was reduced from $34 million in fiscal 2010 to only $8 million for fiscal 2011.

For fiscal 2012, the House has voted to consolidate the transparency fund with the citizen services fund. The full distribution of the funds was not clear, although the Sunlight Foundation estimated the eGov initiatives would receive about $13 million.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to reduce the consolidated funding, also leaving the impact on the eGov initiatives unclear. However, the Sunlight Foundation forecasted that the transparency initiatives would suffer severe cuts.

“Many programs will be terminated. Data quality will suffer. No fixes or improvements to current programs are likely,” the foundation said in its blog on Sept. 16.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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