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E-Gov Funding Fails in Budget Compromise

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, expressed disappointment Thursday that the $397.4 billion omnibus spending bill before Congress includes just $5 million for the Electronic Government Act (E-Gov).

The proposed appropriation cuts by almost 90 percent the original $45 million slated for the program approved amid much fanfare last November.

The E-Gov Act seeks to make government online services and information more helpful to constituents. It establishes an Office of Electronic Government, headed by a presidentially-appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget.

The administrator will implement e-government initiatives and oversee agencies' compliance with relevant statutes. The bill also creates an E-Government Fund that will invest in inter-agency projects with government-wide application.

"If we are to achieve the goal of a 21st-century government that is well run, results oriented and citizen centered, we need more funds," Davis said. "It supports electronic initiatives that involve multiple agencies and levels of government. Without more money, the government won't benefit from collaborative technology projects that can make complex operations more efficient and effective, and can enhance our homeland security."

Davis added, "The small amount we asked for would go a long way toward pulling the government into the electronic age and overcoming the stovepipes that currently plague agency IT programs. Five million is better than nothing, to be sure; but it just doesn't get the job done. We'll be back in FY04 fighting for funding that is at the very core of good government."

Two weeks ago, Senators Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R. Mont.), the authors of the bill, sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee seeking to restore the $40 million funding for the program.

"One of the most frequently cited impediments to e-government progress is the lack of funding mechanisms for interagency projects in information technology," the senators wrote. "Collaboration on advanced IT systems can make complex government operations much more effective, particularly when these activities involve multiple agencies or levels of government."

The senators added the original $45 million request represents a small fraction of the total spent on e-government initiatives each year. In addition to the $45 million requested in funding requested for 2003, the Bush Administration hopes to increase spending on e-gov initiatives to $150 million in by 2006.

The E-Gov Act also:

  • Authorizes funding for improvement of the federal Internet portal, Firstgov.gov, so that on-line government information and services are organized "according to citizen needs, not agency jurisdiction.";
  • Requires regulatory agencies to conduct administrative rule-makings on the Internet, and federal courts to post court information and judicial opinions on their Web sites;
  • Allows agencies, scientists, policy makers and the public to have access over the Internet to non-sensitive information about where federal funds for scientific research are spent;
  • Improves recruitment and training for federal information technology professionals; and
  • Establishes "significant new privacy protections" for personally identifiable information maintained by the government.