OMB sets e-government milestones

OMB sets e-government milestones<@VM>FirstGov site puts on new face

Lending his weight to the administration's push for better agency management and citizen service, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed a ceremonial button to relaunch FirstGov.gov. The redesigned site emphasizes online services available within three clicks.

At the unveiling of FirstGov, OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. talked about the need for coop-eration among agencies.

The administration is tightening the screws on its 24 chosen e-government efforts. Project managers face tight deadlines and will be held accountable as never before.

The Office of Management and Budget last week published its long-awaited e-gov strategy, in which it laid down specific milestone dates for projects.

At least one agency CIO said the milestones, especially the long-term ones, are ambitious.

'The milestones in the next six months are quite reachable,' said NASA CIO Lee Holcomb, who also is chairman of the CIO Council's Federal Architecture and Infrastructure Committee. 'Project leaders were careful to commit to things that are achievable. But the longer-term milestones that include combining technology with cultural and business process changes will be the most challenging.'

Holcomb added it is important that agencies meet the short-term milestones so that projects achieve some early successes.
French Caldwell, vice president and research director for knowledge management at Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said the deadlines will make agencies accountable on IT projects.

'This is a top-down approach to accountability,' he said. 'They are using legislative authorities to drive accountability. But there are certain risks to doing it this way.' The report outlined 26 milestones to be met by Sept. 1 and 20 more by Dec. 31.

A number of additional milestone dates have not been determined.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for e-gov and IT, said the administration might add more milestones or toughen the existing ones.

Forman mentioned the deadlines during White House ceremonies for unveiling the revamped FirstGov portal.

Milestones to go

Many of the milestones still are more administratively oriented than technology driven. For instance, under the Electronic Records Management initiative, lead by the National Archives and Records Administration, the goal is to finalize work plans and select the types of guidance and tools to be developed.

Other projects have more significant milestones. For the Integrated Acquisition initiative, the General Services Administration by June 30 must create a single point of vendor registration.

The initial online screening tool for 20 benefit programs under the Eligibility Assistance Online project, managed by the Labor Department, must be rolled out by April 30.

Better by June

The Recruitment One-Stop project's front end must be improved by the end of June and add usability that mirrors private-sector Internet recruitment sites.

The release of the strategy report and the relaunch of FirstGov.gov are the Bush administration's first salvo in moving from talking about e-gov transforming government to presenting specific plans, OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said at the FirstGov unveiling.

'When you look at what we are trying to do, it does not come naturally,' Daniels said. 'Each initiative needs cooperation to share resources, and none of this comes easily. This program will focus attention on better management and achieve accountability.'Vice President Richard B. Cheney last week pushed a ceremonial button and relaunched the General Services Administration's FirstGov.gov portal, showing off a reorganized home page that emphasizes links to online government services.

As the Office of Management and Budget's 24 e-government initiatives take shape in the coming months, they will be added to FirstGov, said Deborah Diaz, deputy associate administrator for FirstGov in the General Services Administration's Governmentwide Policy Office.

Design change

Mark Forman, OMB associate director for IT and e-gov, emceed the event in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. He called the re-designed site 'new and improved.' GSA spent $350,000 on the redesign, he said.

'We're working very closely with OMB, closer than we ever have before,' GSA administrator Stephen Perry said.

The home page is now organized into three categories: citizen to government, business to government and government to government. Several agencies had a hand in the redesign, including the Federal Consumer Information Center.

Once GSA chooses a new search engine provider [GCN, Jan. 21, Page 1], FirstGov will become more efficient in the search function, Perry said.

Meanwhile, improvement at the back end will speed up access for citizens and let them download documents in Adobe Portable Document Format, Diaz said.

But French Caldwell, vice president and research director for knowledge management at Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said that the site is getting more of a face-lift than a heart transplant. The change in the search engine at the back end, currently from Inktomi Corp. of Foster City, Calif., will have to change for FirstGov.gov to really improve, he said.

'Dipka Bhambhani

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above