GSA moves aggressively on its initiatives

Teamwork comes first as agency embarks on early development

Michael Carleton, chief executive officer of the General Services Administration, says the key to the success of the e-government initiatives is collaboration. The GSA is the managing partner for four of the initiatives and taking a lead role in another.

"This differs from all the other initiatives because it's cross-cutting: It touches all the other initiatives." | Steve Timchak, GSA's project manager for e-authentication

The General Services Administration, the lead agency on several electronic government initiatives announced by the Office of Management and Budget, is concentrating more on team building than on technology, at least in the early stages of development.

Michael Carleton, chief executive officer of the federal government's primary procurement agency, said GSA may be taking the point role in its e-gov initiatives, but it's the collaboration with partner agencies that will keep the projects on a path to success.

"There's an overemphasis on technology," Carleton said. "Change requires collaboration. ... Collaboration is the key to success."
GSA is the agency managing partner on four of OMB's 23 e-gov initiatives announced Oct. 3, and it is taking the lead role on part of another.

As with other agencies managing the initiatives, GSA has built a team of representatives from partner agencies that can contribute perspectives on what the projects should accomplish and how work should be done.

Of the four GSA initiatives, Carleton said the biggest is the integrated acquisition program, a project to get federal agencies to share information regarding acquisitions, so that each agency can make better-informed decisions about procurement, payment, logistical and performance assessment.

Federal agencies already rely upon GSA for many of their purchases and make use of automated services, Carleton said, but federal acquisition is a huge arena. Many agencies, such as the Defense Department and NASA, do their own procurements, generating dollar volumes that dwarf GSA's purchasing activities.

Joining the GSA project on integrated acquisition are representatives from the departments of Commerce, Defense, Interior and Transportation, NASA, Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration.

"There is a shared team space to accommodate interagency team meetings," Carleton said. "Interaction in the physical world [is important]."

GSA also is leading the e-gov initiative on e-authentication and digital signatures, establishing a public key infrastructure that creates different levels of security through identity verification techniques.

"This differs from all the other initiatives because it's cross-cutting: It touches all the other initiatives," said Steve Timchak, GSA's project manager for e-authentication. The goal is to provide the right level of identification and access for all government employees to participate in specific e-gov functions, he said.

GSA is the logical agency to take the lead on e-authentication because it administers ACES, the Access Certificates for Electronic Services contract. ACES is a joint venture between GSA's Federal Technology Service and its Office of Governmentwide Policy that allows multiple-award schedule contracts providing identification and authentication by using digital signature technology. ACES allows individuals and businesses to be authenticated when accessing, retrieving and submitting government information.

The departments of Treasury and Agriculture, along with the Social Security Administration, are helping on the e-authentication project.

"The list is not yet closed" for team members on any of the projects, Carleton said. And whether an agency is involved or not, officials know about the status of the initiatives, because OMB has established monthly meetings for the e-gov team leaders.

Federal Asset Sales is a third initiative led by GSA. The goal is that "the customer knows he's not going away missing anything the government has that he wants to buy," Carleton said. The government disposes of all kinds of tangible property, from desks and filing cabinets to houses, office buildings and automobiles. There is no single place for prospective buyers to find what they're looking for, Carleton said, so GSA is leading the effort to create a single entry point into the system. This will be Web-based, with links to all the agency pages that handle the sale of property, Carleton said.

"We're getting as electronic as we can as fast as we can," he said.
The fourth e-gov initiative is the creation of USA Service, which will take FirstGov, the federal government's information portal, to a new level by making it a gateway to shared services with the agencies, said John Sindelar, deputy associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy at GSA.

USA Service will use best practices in customer relationship management to allow citizens to quickly obtain service online, personalize the combination of services they obtain across programs and agencies, and improve the responsiveness and consistency of services provided by the agencies.

In addition, the agency is taking the lead role on the e-travel component of the enterprise human resources initiative managed by the Office of Personnel Management. E-travel will enable federal employee travel reservations and payments online.

The teamwork involved in developing the framework for each project will also apply when the initiatives reach the execution stage, Carleton said.

Details of the financing plans have yet to be worked out, but project managers, such as Timchak, are developing memoranda of understanding between GSA and the other agencies regarding the scope of the work, staffing, resources and budgetary contributions.

The involvement of private-sector entities has been limited to date, Carleton said, but outside consultants have helped the agency develop the business case for each of its initiatives.

One such company, IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., has been working with GSA to refine its strategy in undertaking these e-gov challenges.
Mathew Kantor, director of IBM's global services federal strategic consulting practice, said the company most recently expanded its efforts to analyze the e-authentication and USA Services initiatives.

The objective was to evaluate them and determine that they fit together technically and provide users a consistent interface.

While technology clearly is the vehicle for e-government, Kantor said he agrees with the approach taken by GSA and other agencies to create a process that ensures collaboration.

"In all cases, when you undertake a transformation of how you do business, it's the process first," Kantor said. "And at the end of the day, it's the combination of people carrying out the redesigned process."

Staff Writer Patience Wait can be reached at pwait@postnewsweektech.com.

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