23 e-gov projects to fight for funds

23 e-gov projects to fight for funds

The 23 e-government initiatives recently endorsed by the Office of Management and Budget [GCN, Oct. 22, Page 1] must now enter into further competition for funding.

'Anything can happen in a budget process,' warned Jonathan Wormer, an OMB policy analyst.
With the budget surplus dwindling, several agency sponsors of the 23 initiatives said they have an unsettled feeling after submitting their business cases to OMB.

'I understand the [e-gov projects] could fall into a black hole'that's why we're working so hard,' said Terrence Tychan, deputy assistant secretary for grants and acquisition management at the Health and Human Services Department.

While OMB examines the business cases, agencies are gearing up for what they expect to be an unusually competitive budget season. Some initiatives may end up unfunded, Tychan said.
Thomas Cowley, director of personnel systems in the Office of Personnel at the General Services Administration, agreed.

'Depending on the strength of the cases, some of the projects may in fact not survive,' Cowley said. He said he is optimistic that his initiative for a new human resource data network will survive.

Many other agency sponsors were surprised to hear that OMB would further cull the 23 projects and refused to comment.

Tychan said he suspected it would happen. He said he plans to lobby for whatever money HHS can get for its e-grants portal [GCN, Nov. 5, Page 7].

He still needs $4.5 million, but he thinks he has at least one advantage over his competitors: a legal mandate.

'We have a law that says we have to streamline the grants process,' Tychan said. 'It gives me confidence when I [start to] worry about these things.'

A second business-case report'a capital asset plan from each of the projects that survive the competition'is due on Dec. 10. OMB will compile the cases into what it calls the Quicksilver report, a documentation of agency plans. The business cases must describe the types of technology and amount of money required. 'Those are capital asset plans,' Tychan said.

Wormer, who works for Mark Forman, associate OMB director for IT and e-government, said OMB will continue to lobby for funding of all 23 projects but cannot promise that all of them will receive more money.

Having fund yet?

Meanwhile, agencies cannot release formal requests for proposals for their initiatives because they don't know whether they can pay the tab.

But they can put out requests for information, Tychan said. 'We can take the first step. We definitely want to learn the industry capabilities. [But] we want to make sure we have a source of funds before we get industry spending too much money,' he said.

Finding out what vendors can offer will certainly add to the business case, Tychan said.

At a Washington meeting sponsored last week by Accenture LLP of Chicago and Siebel Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif., Wormer spoke on behalf of Forman.

He told a roomful of federal project leaders and vendors to expect a period of preparation before the government knows which services it needs and where to go for them.

He suggested vendors ease up on their approaches before OMB has conceptualized an enterprise architecture.

'It will be an iterative process,' Wormer said.

Jim McGuirk, vice president of e-government at Siebel Systems, said he is hopeful that vendors can move in on the projects soon.

'Vendors are already knocking on our doors,' Wormer said.

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