Online extra: Congress rebuffs E-Gov Fund, centralized hiring site in '04 spending

The $820 billion fiscal 2004 omnibus bill that President Bush signed into law late last month clears $328 billion in discretionary spending, including roughly $57 billion for IT.

The bill covers all civilian agency appropriations except for the Energy, Homeland Security and Interior departments. Their funding, along with Defense and military construction bills, became law last year. Agencies had been working under continuing resolutions since November.

The omnibus bill includes just $3 million for OMB's E-Government Fund'$2 million less than last year and $42 million less than the president's request.

'We have never been convinced that the fund doesn't duplicate what already exists in other agencies or performs unique functions,' said John Scofield, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee. 'It has never been well-justified, and we don't have a lot of spare cash lying around.'

This budget marks the third straight year congressional appropriators refused to meet the administration's full request for e-government. The White House fell well short of its e-government goal of $100 million in three years. The appropriations also are $52 million short of what Congress authorized in the E-Government Act of 2002.

Lawmakers also included language modifying the recently revised Office of Management and BudgetOMB Circular A-76. The provision limits the application of the circular's new streamlined competition procedures to the Transportation and Treasury dDepartments and several independent agencies.

Congress also removed language that would have given employees, or unions acting on behalf of employees, the right to appeal to the General Accounting Office after losing an A-76 competition.

Although Congress shorted the e-gov fund, the National Archives and Records Administration received $35.9 million for its electronic-archiving project.

Congress also OK'ed $88.1 million for the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy and $17 million for its governmentwide financial, IT, procurement and management initiatives. Lawmakers earmarked $7 million for the Office of Personnel Management's Quicksilver e-government projects.

One interesting twist in the bill: Agencies with online employment and resume processing systems will be able to keep them instead of having to shift to the OPM's Recruitment One-Stop portal.

Avue Technologies Corp. of Tacoma, Wash., which provides a jobs Web site as well as employment systems, successfully lobbied to get the provision in the Omnibus bill. It prohibits OPM or any other agency from barring agencies from buying online employment applications and processing services.

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