OMB set to release electronic services guidance

OMB set to release electronic services guidance

BY CHRISTOPHER J. DOROBEK

GCN Staff

APRIL 24'The Office of Management and Budget this week plans to issue guidance on what agencies must do to comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.

The law requires that agencies be able to handle all transactions with citizens electronically by October 2003.

GPEA is a strong motivator for agencies to make transactions electronic, said Jonathan P. Womer, a policy analyst for OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Womer said the law is tantamount to saying, "This is going to happen unless you can show us why not."

The push toward digital government gives agencies a chance to improve existing processes and systems, he said. Agencies still must demonstrate that systems fit the agency's mission and are cost-effective.

GPEA directs agencies to make processes electronic whenever practical, Womer said, but cost justification is critical. "If it's not cost-effective, that's the way it is."

OMB recognizes that quantifying savings could be difficult and could take time. For electronic initiatives, benefits tend to be widely dispersed but the costs are centralized, Womer said.

Agencies express an eagerness to implement electronic government initiatives but also prefer to follow rather than lead, said John G. Sindelar, chief of staff of the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

Agencies are awaiting the development of a robust public-key infrastructure, Sindelar said. And some agencies have been reluctant to use digital certificates because of concerns that a signature on paper would still be required.

But the guidance will reiterate that electronic signatures are legally valid, Womer said this month at a forum for the Federal Technology Service's Access Certificates for Electronic Services program.

Digital certificates such as those that ACES vendors provide are seen as a way to provide services electronically while meeting security and privacy considerations.

PKI and digital certificates are scalable and potentially interoperable in a way that personal identification numbers are not, Womer said.

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