It took 20 years to build a community

Frank McDonough

Henrik G. DeGyor

"Perfect storm" conditions are converging for integrated e-government.

One of the president's five management goals is to accelerate e-government. Homeland security has added momentum to intergovernmental initiatives such as disaster management, electronic authentication and wireless communications.

The bursting of the dot-com and telecommunications bubbles, and the revelations of dishonesty in major companies have led the government to reclaim its traditional role as a leader in society.

The fourth storm surge is the emerging federal budget deficit. This will produce pressure to consolidate and share systems.

Things are possible in the government that were not possible five, 10 or 20 years ago.

Still, I must acknowledge that the government has made important progress in the past 20 years. Looking back, the great change is that we built a community that shares ideas and lessons among agencies and with state and local governments.

In the 1970s, there was a sense of isolation among IT officials in government. Today, we take for granted the mechanisms that bring us together. The need for community gave rise to Government Computer News. It has been a principal vehicle for sharing lessons learned within the community.

Another example: The Interagency Re-sources Management Conference celebrated its 41st successful meeting last month. The event began as a forum for records managers, but organizers added IT and telecommunications to the agenda. That brought people from the three communities together and helped to merge their skills, experiences and programs.

The Trail Boss procurement training program, with its 1,300 graduates, added to the community over its 10 years of existence.

Special recognition must go to Betty Moore, who has helped organize and manage every IRMCO meeting and Trail Boss class for the last 22 years. Ande Mann, her sidekick, has been involved in every event since she joined the General Services Administration in the mid-1980s.

A major push in community building came when the Industry Advisory Council was organized in 1991. This brought government and industry officials together in ways that would have been impossible 10 years earlier.

CIOs help

Building on experiences in Canada and Australia, Congress mandated CIOs in 1996. Their prior equivalents, IRM chiefs, often lacked resources and authority. But since passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act, an active CIO Council'led from the outset by James Flyzik'has contributed strong new components to the federal community.

I also must acknowledge three generations of officials in the Office of Management and Budget, GSA and elsewhere who contributed to building the IT community: Frank Carr, Dan Chenok, Mark Forman, Wally Haase, Bruce McConnell, John McNicholas and Frank Reeder, to name a few.

The IT community is a strong one with deep roots, and it is an important resource for change. We know how difficult integrated services delivery is going to be, but there is consensus that this is where we need to go.

If community building was the major accomplishment since 1982, intergovernmental management will be the challenge for the next 20 years.

We are on a long journey, one longer than many feds think it will take to arrive at
e-government. But the convergence of the four storms, coupled with widespread awareness of the need to hire more skilled people, will speed things up.

We have built a strong IT community across government. That community is poised to take the next step towards collaborative e-government.

Frank McDonough is deputy associate administrator for intergovernmental solutions at the General Services Administration.


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