Proposed cuts to GSA's governmentwide policy shop to be felt throughout agencies

Agency requests $45 million for e-government projects

The White House's desire to eliminate what it considers redundant spending at the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy might make things more difficult for one of its own offices.

A proposal to cut $9 million from the government- wide policy budget and eliminate or transfer 92 jobs out of the GSA office's 210 positions could make it harder for the Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and IT to complete its work, according to GSA, OMB and former government officials.

'This is a tough budget year for everyone, and every so often programs like ours come under scrutiny,' said G. Martin Wagner, associate administrator for governmentwide policy. 'It's a refocusing of what we do. Only about one-fifth of the cuts will affect our e-government and IT work.'

Wagner added that his office does a lot more than support OMB and other agencies on IT issues. It also manages real property, travel and mail management.

GSA is going ahead with changes even though Congress still must approve a final budget. 'The budget is an articulation of what the president wants to do, and we anticipate that the budget will end up along these lines,' Wagner said. 'In order to meet these targets, we cannot wait and have to start now.'

'OGP's support for OMB tends not to be readily apparent,' said a GSA official who requested anonymity. 'We will have to manage our workload based on the staff we have. That is something we have not been too rigid about in the past, no matter if OMB or anyone else was asking for help.'

Under President Bush's fiscal 2006 spending proposal, the GSA budget would be $24.4 billion, but 99 percent of that would come from program fees, GSA budget director Debi Schilling said. The agency will seek only the remaining $219 million from congressional appropriations, a slight increase from the $216 million GSA is receiving this year.

The appropriated budget would include a 14.5 percent cut to the governmentwide policy budget to $53 million, down from $62 million this year. The budget cut is an effort to refocus the office on its core mission, Schilling said.

GSA will move some operations out of the office to other bureaus. GSA expects to eliminate 47 governmentwide policy jobs and move 45 positions to other agencies, Schilling said.

The policy office provides OMB with a number of services, including contract support, implementation of initiatives such as the Lines of Business Consolidation and E-Government projects, and governmentwide support of E-Authentication and other public-key infrastructure programs.

'OMB will have to do a better job of prioritizing what it wants,' the GSA official said. 'OGP still will be able to do the job, but we will have to be more creative.'

Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, said, 'OMB doesn't expect any reduction in GSA's ability to support OMB e-gov projects, although some support that currently comes from OGP is operational rather than policy and will be transferred to operating entities in GSA that are better equipped and staffed to provide the support needed.'

Aside from OGP's work with OMB, its employees work on accessibility issues involving Section 508; support interagency councils, including the CIO and Chief Financial Officers councils; provide training programs and professional development for agency IT employees; and work on electronic business applications.

The GSA official said employees likely will be offered buy-outs or early retirement, and many will be transferred to other parts of GSA or other government agencies, and that most of the changes will be completed by October.

GSA's budget also includes requests for $5 million for the E-Government Fund and to use $40 million in surplus revenue from FSS for e-government projects. In each of the last two year's, GSA received $3 million for the E-Government Fund, and last year congressional appropriators denied FSS' request to use its surplus for e-government funding.

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