House panel would restore small portion of transparency funding

A House subcommittee has approved a budget for the General Services Administration's electronic government programs, but transparency advocates said it still falls short.

A House subcommittee on June 16 started to restore a small portion of the requested funding for federal e-government and transparency programs that Congress recently had cut.

The House Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee voted on funding for e-government programs at the General Services Administration. It also recommended consolidating several of the programs, making the overall effect less clear. The panel approved a $50 million budget for GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

It also proposed to move funding for the E-Gov Funding into that office. Combined, the fiscal 2012 amount would represent a slight increase from the $42 million those offices received separately in fiscal 2011: that total includes $34 million for citizen services and $8 million for the e-gov fund.


Related story:

Budget cuts hit e-gov efforts hard


Congress recently sharply reduced the GSA’s Electronic Government Fund’s budget to $8 million in fiscal 2011, from a $34 million level last year and $34 million sought by the administration. The E-Gov fund handles programs including Data.gov, Performance.gov and the Federal IT Dashboard.

Under the June 16 subcommittee vote, approximately $13 million would go to the E-Gov fund, while approximately $37 million would go for the remainder of the citizens services office, including USA.gov, according to Sunlight Foundation Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman. "Unfortunately, the $13 million the Subcommittee voted for is significantly lower than the $34 million allocated for the E-Gov Fund in 2010," he said.

The subcommittee’s total for the GSA office fell short of the $74 million that was requested by the administration and also short of the $68 million that was enacted for those programs in the fiscal 2010 budget, according to OMB Watch.

If approved by Congress, the subcommittee’s proposed budget would provide the E-Gov Fund with just over half of the enacted level of dollars it had in fiscal 2010, causing advocates to raise alarms.

“The subcommittee’s bill is a small step in the right direction of protecting critical transparency and efficiency projects,” said Craig Jennings, director of federal fiscal policy at OMB Watch. “We remain concerned that valuable services won’t receive the resources needed to deliver the transparency that the American people deserve. We encourage the House Appropriations Committee to restore full funding to these cost-saving investments.”

OMB was among more than two dozen transparency and government watchdog groups that circulated a letter calling for restoration of the E-Gov Fund earlier this week.

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