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Feds Promise Two-Day Response to E-Mail Inquiries

The federal government is promising to provide citizens with responses to all their Web, e-mail and telephone inquiries within two business days or less. USA Services, according to the General Services Administration (GSA), is being offered as the government's first comprehensive "customer service department" for citizens.

USA Services, available through the FirstGov site was created to be the "centerpiece" of citizen-centered government. A multi-channel front door to federal information and services for citizens, its charter is to improve the delivery of information and services while "affecting significant government efficiencies."

According to the GSA, these benefits will be achieved by creating a single point of contact for citizens where information for all federal agencies can be refined, consolidated and disseminated.

USA Services is built on the foundation of three federal information channels, each of which has been providing access to information and services within its particular medium: FirstGov.gov (for Web services); the National Contact Center at 1-800-FED-INFO (for telephone and e-mail services); and the Federal Citizen Information Center in Pueblo, Colo. (for publications).

The initiative also offers a broad range of services to help federal agencies deliver information and conduct business with citizens through these channels. During a Wednesday briefing on USA Services for government agencies, officials from Departments of the Interior and State, as well as from the Food and Drug Administration and the Social Security Administration, which have partnered with USA Services, were also on hand to provide their perspectives on how the initiative was helping them better serve citizens.

By establishing partnerships, USA Services aims to help federal agencies comply with the Executive Memorandum of December 1999, which requires agencies to be able to receive and respond to citizens via e-mail.

"USA Services delivers on President Bush's E-Government promise by dramatically improving citizen access to timely, reliable, consistent, and secure information, and helps GSA fulfill its mission of helping federal agencies better serve the public," said GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry.

Clay Johnson, the deputy director of management for the Office of Management and Budget, added, "By making it easy for citizens to contact the federal government and quickly get a answer, USA Services is making government more responsive to its customers. With today's launch, tens of millions of Americans will be able to get service by placing a single call to 1-800-FED-INFO or writing an e-mail at FirstGov.gov. They won't have to thumb through a phone book figuring out what agency they should call, nor click through hundreds of Web sites produced by an online search."