Feds showed e-Gov progress during '05 hurricane season

Federal agencies made use of a number of e-government initiatives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year, demonstrating their ability to find and provide information and services electronically and more efficiently.

The Office of Management and Budget reported on progress in federal efforts to implement the E-Government Act in fiscal 2005. The $62 billion the government spent last year on IT is resulting in more timely and accurate information for federal decisionmakers and citizens, OMB said.

GeoData.gov, the Web site for the Geospatial One-Stop initiative, served as an online resource for coordinating multi-agency response and recovery efforts. For example, it provided public and first-responder access to 'Geographic Information Systems for the Gulf,' an integrated federal, state and local database developed under a partnership among the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Homeland Security Department and the Geological Survey.

FirstGov.gov, which helps the public locate government information and services, recently enhanced its search function in organizing results from .gov and .mil domains into subject categories. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FirstGov.gov served as one of five topic managers to help the public find information and services distributed by all federal agencies, such as citizens searching for friends, answering questions and making disaster-related information available in Spanish.

In 2005, OMB added privacy to the quarterly President's Management Agenda scorecard and to annual reporting under the Federal Information Security Management Act. Currently, 15 of 26 agencies conduct and publish privacy impact assessments for at least 90 percent of their major systems, while 18 agencies develop and publish Systems of Records Notices in at least 90 percent of required circumstances. More than one-half of the major agencies have designated their CIO as the senior agency official for privacy, while the remainder designated other officials.

Among those agencies, 20 documented their review of compliance with information privacy laws, while 17 provided plans or completed corrective actions for privacy weaknesses.

In a snapshot of e-government progress by agency, the Interior Department will implement the Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System for incident information related to managing federal resources, protecting the environment, managing visitor use while preventing and investigating criminal activity. Currently, it is not possible to query and analyze incidents across National Park Service parks and other Interior bureaus. The system will interface with criminal information-sharing federal, state and local networks.

The Treasury Department's TreasuryDirect has grown to the point of establishing near 166,000 new accounts and processing 3 million online transactions. Operated by the Bureau of the Public Debt, TreasuryDirect is an Internet application that lets investors purchase Treasury securities directly in a single account.

'The bureau uses TreasuryDirect.gov as a primary channel for communicating with customers and stakeholders,' OMB said in the report. The Web site contains a wealth of information and allows the bureau to educate investors about Treasury's products and services.

At year's end, President Bush directed agencies to review and implement improvements in Freedom of Information Act operations, including establishing FOIA requester service centers to handle inquiries from the public about the status of their filing.

OMB also issued new policy identifying procedures to promote more active dissemination of government information by making use of commercial search technologies and standards that allow agencies to organize and categorize their information and publish it directly to the Internet. Agencies should review how formal information models relate to the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model. Easily accessible information also reduces the complexity of FOIA requests.

OMB approved nearly $1.5 million from the E-Government Fund on these four initiatives during 2005:
  • $500,000 for the Information Systems Security Line of Business''funds used with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Energy Department to pilot intrusion detection technology called Bro to monitor agency Internet connections;

  • $612,800 for the Information Systems Security Line of Business'funds used for program support office to develop request for information and business case and analyze RFI responses;

  • $152,900 for the Efficient and Effective Information Sharing Line of Business'funds used for program support to develop RFI and analyze responses;

  • $200,000 for GovBenefits'funds used to support Hurricane Katrina efforts through development of governmentwide electronic benefit registration system.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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