All for one

Bush e-gov initiatives aim to eliminate boundaries among levels of government<@VM>E-gov bill finds second wind in Senate

Rock Regan, Connecticut's chief information officer, said federal IT officials are giving their state counterparts a voice in national e-gov efforts.

Mark Forman, associate director for information technology and e-government, is getting state and local governments involved in OMB's e-gov initiatives.

The Bush administration's 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives are paving the way for greater collaboration and information sharing among federal, state and local governments, officials said.

For many states, it will be nirvana to have seamless e-government applications and champions of e-government at all levels, said Georgia Marsh, associate director of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Marsh spoke during a panel discussion about the One-Stop Business Compliance initiative at last month's FOSE 2002 government IT trade show in Washington, which is produced by PostNewsweek Tech Media, publisher of Washington Technology.

The business compliance initiative, managed by the Small Business Administration, is a partnership of eight federal agencies, six states and the city of Bellevue, Wash. The partners are working to develop a portal where business owners can get information on laws and regulations, and use wizards and tutorials to determine if those laws and regulations apply to them and how they can comply. In many cases, businesses will be able to file paperwork online.

Indeed, state officials are seeing a culture change in their relationships with the federal government, said Rock Regan, Connecticut's chief information officer and president of the National Association of State CIOs. He spoke at a FOSE program about managing across government agencies.

Regan, who recently met with the administration's top technology officials, Mark Forman and Norman Lorentz, to talk about enterprise architecture and how the states will plug into it, praised the administration's willingness to include the states in federal initiatives.

"In the past, it was 'Here are standards, live with them, and you're not getting any money.' Now, with Mark Forman, we have a seat at the table," Regan said. Forman is associate director for information technology and e-government in the Office of Management and Budget. Lorentz is the federal chief technology officer.

Several federal e-government project managers told FOSE audiences that state involvement is essential to the success of their initiatives.

"Many states depend on recreation for a significant part of their economic development, and so they have created very advanced Web sites for providing recreational services and information. The Recreation One-Stop initiative can learn from these states," said Scott Cameron, deputy assistant secretary for performance and management at the Interior Department.

The department is the managing partner for the initiative, one of the 24 selected by OMB. Other federal agencies that manage land or provide recreational activities are also partnering with the Interior Department to create the portal.

The Recreation One-Stop portal will offer a single, Web-based point of access to recreational opportunities nationwide, regardless of whether they are managed at the federal, state or local level. The portal will build upon Recreation.Gov, which includes only federal recreation information. It will include geographical information and transaction capabilities, such as the ability to purchase fishing licenses online.

The goal is to make a "quantum leap in capabilities," Cameron said. In early April, the federal agencies partnering on the initiative will decide on the scope and perhaps ownership of the portal, and in June they want to issue a formal request for proposal or request for information, Cameron said.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, collaboration with state officials is essential, because 95 percent of the data in the agency's systems comes from state environmental protection agencies, said Kim Nelson, assistant administrator and chief information officer at EPA.

"If we are going to collect high-quality data, we can only do that with people like Rock," Nelson said. "We're creating a national environmental exchange network with our partners that will allow for the exchange of information. He and I need to communicate to make sure what we're doing [at EPA] is consistent with what's happening at the state level."

State governments also play a major role in the E-Vital project, another of the 24 federal e-government initiatives. The states collect and maintain vital records on citizens, such as birth and death certificates, and they share the records with federal agencies. In almost all states, the entire process is paper-based. The E-Vital project aims to change that and, in so doing, dramatically speed up the process.

It can take up to nine months for a death certificate to reach the federal government. Participants in the E-Vital initiative are working to get the time down to five days, said Delton Atkinson, executive director of the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, which represents state agencies that collect vital records.

Participants are creating an online system for filing and distributing birth and death certificates and verifying their authenticity. A pilot of a death certificate system was tested in New Jersey last year, and pilots are planned for the District of Columbia and New Hampshire this year. Pilot birth certificate systems are launching in Colorado in August and in Missouri later this year, said Brian Cronin, director of the payment policy division of the Office of Program Benefits at the Social Security Administration.

Some members of Congress said recently they think state and local governments deserve an enhanced place at the table with federal IT officials. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., said he thinks state, local and tribal representatives should have a voice on the federal CIO Council. Cleland spoke at a March 21 meeting of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which approved an amended E-Government Act, S. 803.

"Local officials operate services on a smaller scale than the federal government. Ideas that work there may work just as well if they are expanded to the federal government. We need to know what these ideas are. Therefore, adding these representatives could be a valuable resource," Cleland said.

"I do believe state and local representatives can and should play a large role on the federal e-government systems development," Cleland said.

"I think that's an excellent idea," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

Instead of offering an amendment to the bill that would have added state and local representation to the CIO Council, Cleland said he would work with committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and ranking minority member Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., to address his concern.

Lieberman supported the recommendation, saying he would work with Cleland "to find a way to assure participation in the CIO Council by state and local governments."

Editors Steve LeSueur and Nick Wakeman contributed to this story. Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery can be reached at Senate Governmental Affairs Committee last month gave new life to an e-government bill that was first introduced last May but has languished, along with similar House legislation, since the administration hired Mark Forman as its e-gov point man in June 2001.

The committee approved an amendment to S. 803, the E-Government Act of 2001, which replaces the original bill. That bill called for creation of a federal CIO. The new bill backs away from that proposal and instead calls for a Senate-confirmed administrator in a new Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget.

Bush administration officials have said the deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget will be the federal CIO, and they oppose attempts to create a Senate-appointed CIO position. The deputy director position has remained unfilled since Bush took office.

When Forman was appointed associate director for information technology and e-government in OMB, many who had called for a federal CIO decided to step back and see whether he could be effective in the new position. Forman most notably has driven the development of 24 cross-agency e-government projects that will be accomplished in 18 to 24 months.

The primary difference between the original CIO proposal and the e-government administrator is that the administrator would focus on implementing e-government initiatives, while a CIO would be more responsible for management of information and IT, said a majority staff member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

"Sen. [Joseph] Lieberman still supports the concept of a federal CIO and hopes to take it up at a later time," the staffer said. Lieberman, D-Conn., sponsored the amendment, and Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., ranking minority member of the committee, co-sponsored it.

"We've worked very closely with Sen. Thompson and with the Office of Management and Budget, and we've got a good agreement now," Lieberman said March 21 at the committee's meeting.

The bill addresses administration concerns by requiring that the e-government administrator collaborate with various groups without mandating many new, official forums; requiring agencies to develop performance measures for their e-gov projects; and consolidating reporting requirements into an annual e-gov report to Congress, the staff member said.

"The provisions of the bill are very consistent with what we're doing. I think we're pretty pleased with the results of our discussions," Forman told Washington Technology. "Should the House come asking for a similar [negotiating] relationship, we'd be more than willing."

However, administration officials still oppose the idea of creating new a Senate-confirmed position.

"It's something we remain concerned about," Forman said. "When a new administration comes in, how long is it going to take [to appoint an e-gov administrator]?"

The bill provides $8 million for a system to certify digital signatures; $15 million for FirstGov, the government's Web site for government information and services; $6 million for a database on federal research and development, and $7 million for a federal information technology training center.

The bill instructs the federal courts to provide court opinions and other records online and codifies the federal CIO Council, giving the group additional stature beyond the executive order that created it. The bill also allocates $345 million for an e-government fund from fiscal 2003 to 2006 and for funds as necessary in fiscal 2007. The administration had asked for a $20 million e-government fund in 2002, but got only $5 million.

The administration has requested $45 million for 2003. Authorizing the fund, the Senate committee staffer said, would reassure congressional appropriators who might be concerned about the level of congressional support and oversight of e-government.

The Lieberman bill conflicts with House legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., that would "harmonize" the information resource management responsibilities in the Clinger-Cohen Act, the Government Information Security Reform Act and the Government Performance Results Act in the office of the federal CIO, said David Marin, legislative director for Davis.

"Congressman Davis has been committed to the view that a federal CIO was needed to provide long-term accountability. The addition of another mid-level OMB official goes in the opposite direction," Marin said.

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