Senate's e-gov bill endorses Bush's strategy

The passage of the E-Gov Act was "a breath of fresh air for a lot of people," said Ira Kirsch of Unisys Corp.

(Washington Technology photo by Henrik G. de Gyor)

House version still in limbo

The administration's e-government strategy got a strong endorsement from the Senate last month, when the chamber approved a comprehensive e-government bill.

The passage of S. 803, the E-government Act of 2001, was "a breath of fresh air for a lot of people. That has got to be viewed ... as a vote of confidence on what the government is trying to do," said Ira Kirsch, president of the U.S. Federal Government Group of Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, Pa.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., would create an Office of Electronic Government in the Office of Management and Budget and establish a four-year, $345 million e-government fund to support interagency e-government projects. It would also put into law several of OMB's 24 e-gov initiatives, including online rulemaking and geospatial information systems.

"Great minds think alike," said Mark Forman, the administration's point man for e-government, regarding the Senate's action. "I think it does validate the strategy that we put out."

Forman worked with the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee when the bill was in development, and has talked with House members about their e-gov bill, but conversations are not currently active, he said.

The House bill, H.R. 2458, sponsored by Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, was introduced last July and referred to the Government Reform subcommittee on government efficiency, financial management and intergovernmental relations.

The Senate bill would make the administrator of the proposed Office of Electronic Government a Senate-confirmed position, a provision that is opposed by the administration.

"We feel there just are too many Senate-confirmed appointees, and that process just doesn't move at the speed of e-business," Forman said, adding, "in general, we are very happy with the cooperation that we got out of the Senate."

In the past, many in industry and government advocated making Forman's job a Senate-confirmed position, which they said would give him additional budget authority and clout among government agencies. But many now say they want to see how much progress Forman makes before renewing calls for an appointed e-government administrator or federal chief information officer.

Still, some hold fast to the notion that the government needs a federal CIO, and many expect the debate to continue as Congress and the administration attempt to set the course for IT spending.

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