All for one
Bush e-gov initiatives aim to eliminate boundaries among levels of government
- By Gail Repsher Emery
- Apr 02, 2002
Connecticut CIO Rock Regan 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.
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 email@example.com.