Gaining Hill support for departmental IT projects

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.'The Labor Department developed an approach to consolidate agencywide IT procurement purchases without drawing the ire of Congress. And it could be a model for how other agencies could gain support for cross-agency initiatives from Capitol Hill.

Over the last five years, Labor submitted budget requests to its appropriations committee for cross-cutting IT projects and received at least partial approval from legislators to move forward, said Steven Law, deputy secretary for Labor and chairman of the E-Government Committee of the President's Management Council.

'We cleared this idea with [the Office of Management and Budget] and sold it to the appropriators,' Law said today at the Interagency Resources Management Conference. 'The appropriations staff understood the concept and it was clear they embraced it.'

Labor requested $50 million in 2002, $56 million in 2003, $48 million in 2004, $29 million in 2005 and $29 million in 2006. Law said Congress did not allocate their full request each year, but Labor did get a portion of it.

'Once we consolidated the big-ticket items up front, we achieved savings over time,' Law said. 'Our approach was highly transparent and the appropriators like to see the bright lines between their decisions and what we did. Part of the reason I brought this up was to give other agencies the idea that they could do this too.'

Part of this approach that Labor took would help alleviate lawmaker concerns over e-government, which have increased over the last two years.

'We spent a lot of time on educating Congress on what we are trying to achieve,' he said. 'It is very challenging for Congress to grasp and embrace what we are doing with e-government. They ask what is the value proposition?'

Law said one way to ensure the value proposition is strong is to make sure the IT people work with the program people to develop the system. He pointed to Labor's Safety and Health Management System as an example. SHiMS lets companies report worker's compensation claims online on time 80 percent of the time. Law said 11 other federal agencies are interested and three have signed agreements for Labor to customize, set up and host the system for them.


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