Appropriators still wary of e-gov funding

Urge changes to budget tool

Despite the administration's efforts, congressional appropriators still seem unwilling to embrace e-government.

In the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, District of Columbia, and independent agencies appropriations bill for fiscal 2007 as reported on the House floor, appropriators allocated $3 million for the E-Government Fund, $2 million less than what the president asked for in his 2007 budget request.

The bill, which passed the House Appropriations Committee Friday, suggests that the Office of Management and Budget's efforts earlier this year on the benefits of e-government and the interagency efforts the program needs to succeed have fallen on deaf ears. The full House has not taken up the measure.

In particular, the language said OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), which assesses programs in the perspective of the President's Management Agenda, is 'drowning in pleonasm, and yet still devoid of useful information.'

The bill said the PART forces agencies to speak in terms of meeting PMA objectives, not in justifying program expenses. '[T]he committee has little patience for secretaries and administrators who cannot explain the rationale behind a program's funding level other than, 'the PART score,' 'getting to green' or 'this is what OMB provided',' the report said.

Also, the bill, as in years past, dismissed language that would have let OMB use $40 million of surplus funds in the General Supply Fund to finance e-government activities.

Moreover, the bill requires the General Services Administration to evaluate whether it is overcharging federal customers for its services and report back to the committee 120 days after the legislation is finalized.

'The committee refuses to relinquish oversight of the development and procurement of information technology projects of the various agencies under its jurisdiction,' the report said.

In response, an OMB spokeswoman said the administration will keep working with Congress 'to provide the needed resources for E-government initiatives.'

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) said his committee will work with OMB to convince agencies'and the appropriators that have their ears'of the importance of e-government, especially in light of recent data thefts within the government.

'I would hope by now that congressional appropriators recognize that failing to invest in e-government initiatives is penny wide and pound foolish,' Davis said. 'Protecting turf, whether among the agencies or on Capitol Hill, is no excuse for stalling the innovative solutions that will save taxpayer money and improve the operations of our federal government.'

Elsewhere, the bill signs off on a provision requested by the administration in the fiscal 2007 budget to merge GSA's General Supply and IT funds into the new Acquisition Services Fund, which correlates with the agency's reorganization and creation of the Federal Acquisition Service.

GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy receives $52.5 million'an increase of $282,000 from last year'for its operations, provided that the office 'will continue to focus on its activities on core policy and regulatory activities that support statutory mission requirements, and eliminate activities that are not clearly policy-related,' the report said.

The legislation also grants $45.4 million for the National Archives and Records Administration's Electronic Records Archive, an electronic archiving system for government documents. This is an increase of $7.9 million from fiscal 2006, according to the House report.

As was the case last year, NARA must submit quarterly reports on the cost, schedule and performance of the ERA projects'which is expected to reach initial operating capability in September 2007'to the House and Senate appropriations committees.

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