Administration officials weigh six new e-gov initiatives

ORLANDO, Fla.-A council of budget officials within the Bush administration is weighing whether to roll out six e-government projects in areas that cut across several departments and agencies.

The President's Management Council, comprised primarily of chief operating officers and budget executives at federal agencies, is studying six areas to determine whether they merit funding, Cameron Findlay, deputy secretary of the Labor Department, told people at the Information Processing Interagency Conference here.

Those projects cover data and statistics, human resources, business-management systems, health monitoring, criminal investigations, and monetary benefits. They were chosen as the Office of Management and Budget began assembling the fiscal 2004 budget, Findlay said.

OMB observed similarities in agency requests, he said. For example, the Justice Department asked to fund a system to enhance criminal investigation, and the Environmental Protection Agency sought financing for a similar system.

"These are not yet e-government initiatives. ... They are areas we want to investigate" to determine whether they should be, he said. "What money is available and who should manage [the projects] are still very much up in the air."

The comments came as Findlay, who chairs the management council's e-government committee, explained the budgeting approach that OMB is now taking toward technology and e-government projects. As part of its budget proposal, OMB stressed to other federal organizations that the government cannot keep funding duplicative initiatives.

But Findlay said administration officials are contemplating building teams of agency and OMB representatives around the six areas to evaluate whether they can receive funding to move forward. "The idea is to form teams that will include OMB as well as representatives from those agencies to perform the evaluation," he said.

Findlay also offered advice to federal IT workers and managers on ways to navigate the budgeting system, and on ensuring that they can get the resources they need to meet e-government goals and speedy agency reform.

"When you begin think about a new IT project, you should think, 'Are there other agencies already doing this and can we piggyback?'" with them, he said. OMB will not approve funding requests unless you ask those sorts of questions, he added.

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