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House Panel Approves Deep E-Gov Funding Cuts

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is calling for only $1 million in 2004 funding for the Electronic Government Act (E-Gov), which invests in inter-agency projects with government-wide applications. The Bush Administration had requested $45 million for the program.

Amid much fanfare last November, Congress passed the legislation, touting a new era of government services, and President Bush signed the bill in December. Bush had hoped to ramp up funding for the program to $150 million a year by 2006.

As a part of the President's Management Agenda, the E-Gov initiatives proposes to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars, and streamline citizen-to-government transactions. A House Appropriations Committee spokesperson said the Bush Administration had not justified the $45 million funding request.

The Senate has not reported an E-Gov funding bill as yet and Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R. Mont.), who authored the original bill, are expected to fight for more money for the program. The issue will be ultimately be resolved in a compromise budget committee of House and Senate members.

The E-Gov Act also establishes an Office of Electronic Government, headed by a Bush-appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget. The administrator will implement e-government initiatives and oversee agencies' compliance with relevant statutes.

In addition, the new legislation:

  • 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.