OMB makes plans for E-Gov's Act 2

'We are setting the stage for breakthrough performance.'

'OMB's Karen Evans

Henrik G. de Gyor

Pushes agencies to finish Quicksilver projects and move beyond green

As the E-Government Act turned 1 year old this month, administration officials were looking forward to how the act would shape the next year's agenda, rather than back at what had been accomplished in the last 12 months.

The mandate establishes the framework for almost all of OMB's e-government priorities and goals over the next year and will lead to a new level of electronic government, said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for e-government and IT.

OMB is pushing agencies to move beyond green for the e-government portion of the President's Management Agenda. Doing so hinges on continued implementation of the law, Evans and other administration officials said.

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In Year 2, agencies must finish the 25 Quicksilver projects, push their enterprise architectures forward and improve systems privacy and security controls, Evans said.

'We are setting the stage for breakthrough performance,' she said. 'A lot of these initiatives are becoming a reality now, and agencies are ingraining them in their business processes. When they plan a project, things like e-authentication or online rule-making become an expected part of their business case.'

President Bush signed the E-Gov Act into law Dec. 17, 2002, and OMB issued guidelines in August. Evans said the act codified much of what was already being done through policy or executive orders and at the heeding of the CIO Council.

'Because many of these things are codified, they have stability, and that helps agencies plan better,' she said.

Better planning eventually will lead to better performance, officials said.

For IT managers, what equates to breakthrough performance will be defined in different ways, said Tad Anderson, OMB's associate administrator for e-government and IT.

'It could mean agencies are using their enterprise architectures as a tool for not just IT managers but for all government managers. It could be where IT investments are consolidated more broadly, across departments and managed as portfolio investments,' he said this month during a panel discussion on federal IT in 2004 sponsored by Dutko Government Markets of Washington.

But whatever the definition, only a handful of agencies are close to that level of performance, according to a recent OMB breakdown of progress toward getting e-government efforts to green on the President's Management Agenda.

Three agencies'the Commerce and Education departments and the Environmental Protection Agency'are close to earning a green score, the report said.

All three agencies have met the criteria in four of five categories defined by OMB as needed to get to green. Commerce and Education still must have 90 percent of IT systems secure and verified quarterly by their inspectors general. EPA still must bring its projects in within 10 percent of budget and completion schedule.

The National Science Foundation is the only major agency to earn a green score in e-government so far.

OMB evaluates major agencies quarterly with scores of green, yellow or red for their efforts to meet the agenda's goals. Green means an agency has met all standards for success; yellow means it has met some but not all the criteria; and red means there are serious problems.

The law's author, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), will also be keeping a close eye on agencies' progress.

'Although he certainly does encourage agencies and OMB to promote innovation in e-government, he also expects them to rigorously comply with the act's requirements,' a Lieberman staff aide said.

OMB officials know they are under the magnifying glass and must deliver. Getting agencies to change the way they work will be the big hurdle, OMB's Anderson said.

'Many challenges still remain, and essential cross-agency cooperation is required to achieve these goals,' Anderson said. 'There is nothing more daunting than trying to get people to think beyond the ways they have always done things. There is a really entrenched way of thinking that is more agency-centric than citizen-centric.'

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