Again, a choice

Thomas R. Temin

It's gonna be another close one. The presidential election, I mean. In just a couple of weeks, career federal managers will know if things are going to change somewhat come Jan. 20 or change a lot. But change will occur.

GCN doesn't endorse candidates. But we do try to divine how governmental IT and policy might fare under the competing visions of the two major candidates.

You've read here and elsewhere that the e-government movement is a kind of juggernaut that would roll on regardless of which party is managing the government. Republican and Democratic administrations have successively instituted reforms to offer more services to citizens and produce a government that works better and costs less.

But there are important differences. President Bush's ambitious management agenda is flavored strongly with outsourcing, consolidation of services and applications, and a command-and-control oriented Office of Management and Budget.

Clinton's reforms were weighted toward discretion in procurement, do-your-own-thing and agency entrepreneurship.

Gigantic questions loom in this election, and the relatively arcane topic of e-government has never been a key stump issue.

With a Bush re-election, surely the staffing of the appointee ranks would change, but you could expect the policy framework to continue.

Kerry's campaign literature describes a national wireless network for public safety, digital military divisions equipped with advanced communications, application of technology to border control and container screening, and greater spending on scientific research. Less clear is the policy and management environment Kerry would initiate to achieve these objectives.

Clinton and Bush each pursued the right strategy for their times: the near-universal spread of the Internet, and then the need to regain control when, for example, a single department discovered it was fielding 50,000 Web sites.

The next administration will face new challenges including cybersecurity and privacy, consolidating systems, integrating databases and electronic records management. The question is whether you put your faith in Bush's top-down strategy or in what is likely to be Kerry's bottom-up approach.


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