Senators up the e-government ante

Two senators on Tuesday proposed a $600 million fund to promote e-government initiatives across all federal agencies for three years. Senators Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Conrad Burns, R-Mont., are co-sponsoring the E-Government Act of 2001, which would also create a federal chief information officer's position at the Office of Management and Budget. The bill would up the ante on the Bush administration's proposal for a $100 million, three-year interagency e-government fund. Bush proposed the fund as part of his fiscal 2002 budget. Lieberman said that the bill would build upon the e-government work already done with FirstGov, the federal government's de facto home page, "so citizens can access their government through a single, centralized portal." "At this early stage," Lieberman said, "e-government is a loose-knit mix of ideas, projects and affiliations-often uncoordinated, sometimes overlapping and too frequently redundant in their costs." The $200 million-a-year funding package would work much like a venture capital fund, said Christopher Caine, vice president of government programs at IBM, "to support good, new ideas" at the agency level. Lieberman pointed to the significant gap between the $200 million proposed by the bill and the estimated $40 billion that is spent each year by the federal government on information technology, calling the proposed funding measure "a modest investment in efficiency." Pat McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government, threw her organization's support behind the Lieberman-Conrad bill, calling it "a great big step toward excellence in government." The bill would require regulatory agencies to place their rule-making systems online so that users could find information on proposals and make comments. "This is the way to encourage public participation in the democratic process," Lieberman said. "We have only just scratched the surface" with the e-government bill, Lieberman said, calling it "a work in progress." He said he will "continue to seek comments and feedback, especially, I hope, from the administration."
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