States want larger e-gov voice

Fed officials cite obstacles to greater collaboration

States want to be included early in OMB's e-gov planning process "so the federal government doesn't impose requirements or standards on us without [our] input," said Linda Burek, Maryland's chief information officer.

(Washington Technology photo by Henrik G. deGyor)

State officials are clamoring for a larger role in shaping the White House e-government strategy and programs, saying federal e-gov initiatives directly influence many state and local government operations.

But these officials also said many federal agencies managing the administration's 24 e-gov initiatives have not directly asked them to participate in the planning, said Greg Jackson, Ohio chief information officer and the state CIOs' liaison to the Federal CIO Council.

The states want a voice in helping shape two-thirds of the initiatives, which are directed by the Office of Management and Budget, he said. Some of the initiatives focus on improved services to businesses and citizens, while others focus on the ability of different levels of government to work together.

Federal and state officials are collaborating on pilot projects to improve access to information about recreational opportunities, geospatial data and business and tax compliance. In addition to geospatial information, other areas likely to receive top priority for security reasons are disaster assistance, crisis response and wireless interoperability, according to federal and state officials.

"We need to have one-on-one conversations about these [initiatives]," Jackson said. The states want to discuss how to provide channels for delivering services and information to citizens, and how federal e-services can be integrated into existing state e-services, he said.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of information and technology and e-government, said architectural shortcomings are preventing rapid integration of federal and state and local systems.

Forman, who oversees the 24 e-gov initiative, said one main reason the states aren't playing a larger role yet is they are still grappling with broad architectural issues that keep them from the finer points of developing core applications.

To help address this problem, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers July 18 released an updated version of an enterprise architecture tool kit that it strongly encourages states to use. Installing the tool kit can help states facilitate information sharing horizontally among departments and vertically with agencies in different levels of government, the group said.

Some states are further along with e-gov than others, which also complicates the collaboration between federal and state government on vertical e-gov integration, Forman said.

Still, he said substantial interaction among the three levels of government ? federal, state and local ? will be required for the projects to succeed.

Federal and state officials agree there is room for improvement in architecture of both their systems to support e-government. And states are open to architectural guidance from the federal government, state officials said.

A federal agency, dubbed a managing partner, is assigned to each of the OMB's 24 e-gov projects. In addition, OMB has divided them into groups, known as portfolios, and assigned an official to manage each portfolio.

Despite Jackson's frustration with the managing partners, coordination is gradually increasing between states and the federal government on the initiatives, said Matthew Trail, executive director of NASCIO of Lexington, Ky.

To this end, state CIOs may soon begin participating in a steering committee that has formed to oversee the intergovernmental initiatives, Trail said.

NASCIO would join about a half dozen other organizations representing various state and local government constituencies that are already participating on the steering committee, Trail said. They include the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities, all based in Washington, and the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council of Lexington, Ky.

States want to be included early in the process "so the federal government doesn't impose requirements or standards on us without [our] input," said Linda Burek, Maryland's CIO and alternate liaison to the Federal CIO Council.

Before a dialogue can occur between the managing partners and state government officials, the states need to identify which individuals will work with the managing partners, Forman said.

Federal officials will need to work with state CIOs, homeland security directors and law enforcement officials, he said.

"We're all moving this thing forward together," Forman said. "But it's going to take time. It's not an overnight thing."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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