E-government bill clears senate government panel

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee easily adopted a bill Wednesday reauthorizing legislation to improve the accessibility of online government information another five years.

The bill, introduced by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., was approved by the committee by voice vote.

The legislation reauthorizes the provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002, which sought to boost initiatives that make government information more accessible online. Lieberman and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., authored 2002 bill.

The 2002 bill also establishes a Federal Chief Information Officer within the Office of Management and Budget. It also requires federal courts to post judicial opinions online.

The reauthorization bill also includes a provision that requires the director of OMB to devise a plan for government information to be made more readily available on commercial and government search engines within one year of the bill's enactment. Federal agencies would have two years to comply with the director's plans.

The bill extends the authorization for the government's Internet portal that provides government information to citizens through fiscal 2012. That section authorized $15 million for fiscal 2003 and "such sums necessary" for fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2007.

The measure extends through fiscal 2012 an initiative to establish guidelines for collecting government geographical information. It also authorizes education programs on accessing government information at community technology centers and public libraries

In July, a GAO report found "significant weaknesses" in information security policies and practices amongst nearly all the major federal agencies. Lieberman's 2002 bill contained the Federal Information Security Management Act, which established guidelines for computer security throughout government agencies and allowed OMB and Congressional oversight.

The report found that agencies placed data at great risk of loss or theft.

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