Despite lack of new funding, e-gov projects to move forward

The Office of Management and Budget has provided almost $5 million in funding for only a few of 24 electronic government projects, but the remaining projects will still move ahead, the Bush administration's e-gov chief said Monday.

OMB has marshaled a total of $6 billion to support its 24 e-gov projects, allowing each project to move forward this year, Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government, said Monday at the launch of GovBenefits.gov, the first of OMB's 24 e-gov projects to debut.

The $6 billion figure is not new funding. Rather, it includes staffing, reprogrammed funding, IT support and related office support. Last week, OMB handed out most of the $5 million in its e-gov fund to five projects. Only three of the funded projects were included on the original list of 24 projects the administration said it would pursue when it launched a roadmap for its e-gov initiative in February.

"All 24 e-government initiatives are proceeding," a statement from OMB said. "That some initiatives did not receive initial support from the e-government fund does not place them in a different status. The realignment of the large amount of redundant spending on activities related to the 24 e-government initiatives has enabled these initiatives to continue moving forward. The projects that received initial support from the e-government fund were components of the initiatives that could not be addressed by redirecting redundant funding."

Forman said recent expenditures from the $5 million fund were focused solely on projects that integrated information across several agencies, such as GovBenefits, FirstGov.gov and the Small Business Administration's BusinessLaw.gov Web site. Also included in the recent round of funding was the General Services Administration's e-authentication initiative, which is working to create a federal public key infrastructure.

A brief survey of the projects shows a variety of initiatives at different stages of development and funding:

  • SBA received $740,000 from the e-gov fund for BusinessLaw.gov. The site helps small businesses determine whether they are in compliance with federal, state and local regulations. "Our success is measured in terms of our ability to answer five questions for the businesses," said Jim Van Wert, SBA's senior adviser for policy, planning and e-government. "These are: What laws pertain to where I live? Where do I find these laws and how do I understand them? Do I comply with these laws in my current state? If not, how do I learn to comply? And if complying requires some action such as a registration, license or permit, how do I do it online?" Van Wert said the project requires considerable teamwork across all levels of government.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is moving ahead with its five e-gov projects, though officials aren't sure where the funding is going to come from yet. Some money may come from OMB, some from OPM funds and some from other agencies, said OPM Chief Information Officer Janet Barnes. The five projects are an electronic training portal, a one-stop federal recruitment site, an online security clearance process for federal workers, a human resources data standardization project and a payroll consolidation project. OPM has completed preliminary business cases for the first four projects and expects to complete the payroll project's business case by the end of the month.
  • Interior's two projects are Web portals aimed at breaking down barriers between federal, state and local agencies, and both will draw funding from participating agencies. The first is the Recreation One-Stop, a $4.1 million, five-year project to turn the existing Recreation.gov site, which currently has information about outdoor recreation opportunities on federal lands, into a compendium of information on recreation sites on federal, state and local lands, and maybe even privately owned sites.

    Interior is also trying to develop working groups with state and local governments on its second e-gov project, the Geospatial One-Stop site. The $20 million, seven-year project will draw its funding from participating agencies and aims to create a portal for online mapping tools that people can use to analyze a host of issues, ranging from overpopulation to housing to water resources. Interior also wants to develop common standards for mapping data.

    Shane Harris and Brian Friel contributed to this report.

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