Official touts Bush's efforts to improve e-government

In taking stock of the administration's progress in digitizing government services during President Bush's time in office, the White House's deputy e-government chief noted on Thursday that government-wide Web sites have helped eradicate some of the bureaucratic maze.

At a gathering of information technology leaders from the public and private sectors, Timothy Young, deputy administrator of e-government and information technology for the Office of Management and Budget, rattled off names of government-wide Web sites such as GovBenefits.gov, Grants.gov and USAJobs.gov that did not exist prior to 2002.

Before USAJobs.gov, federal government job seekers had to visit a plethora of sites for each agency to find openings. "Now you can apply for all those jobs at one site," Young said.

Under OMB E-Government Administrator Karen Evans, Young has helped lead the planning and rollout of the administration's electronic government initiatives for more than four years.

"Imagine what would happen if we took all these services away," he said. "Think of what the labor unions would do if we did away with USAJobs.gov."

Young also pointed to the success of the recent on-budget and ahead-of-schedule launch of USAspending.gov, a single database, mandated under a law authored by Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that allows citizens to search government contracts and grants.

"Technology and government doesn't sit on the left or the right side of the aisle," Young said. "I look at the vision of e-government beyond 2008 [when Bush's term expires] and I see great things."

Yet, during a question and answer session, Young acknowledged that not everyone is welcoming this electronic consolidation of services.

An audience member asked him about a provision in the federal government's massive fiscal 2008 spending bill that places limitations on the consolidation of agency human resources systems.

Some view those restrictions as Congress saying "'this is bad government. I'm not so much convinced of that,'" Young said, adding that change is difficult.

For the remainder of Bush's term, "My sole goal is to focus on execution. No more new plans," he said. And he wants to "institutionalize" the e-government office within OMB so that the next administration will understand its importance.

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