President Bush signed into law the "E-Government Act of 2002" Monday, establishing a framework for information security standards and programs, and codifying the federal governments commitment to delivering its services online.
The act was crafted to improve information services management and promote collaboration of IT projects among the myriad federal agencies. It creates an Office of E-Government within the White House Office of Management and Budget, designed to encourage an atmosphere of accountability with regard to online government services. Additionally, it establishes a board that will select technologies to promote collaboration and a program to assess and finance emerging anti-terrorism technologies.
A provision on information security management, which closely resembles a provision in the recently enacted Homeland Security Act, requires agencies regularly to test for security lapses and fix them.
E-government proponents expect the measure will encounter some challenges in implementation. Because federal agencies serve different constituencies and are responsible to different Congressional committees, they tend to develop their work in line with particular interests.
"Agencies do not naturally work together," said Patricia McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government in Washington. "This requires them to pool their funding and pool their creativity." The council, which formed in 1983 to break down barriers that impede collaboration among agencies, lobbied for the legislation.
The measure should also make it easier for the private sector to work collaboratively with the federal government, said David McLure, vice president for e-government at the council. It requires that regulatory agencies post changes in regulations on the Internet, which will create a more visible and dynamic comment process, he said. "Its not a paper-driven process, and things dont get lost," McLure said.
For vendors contracting with the government, the legislation is slated to facilitate public/private partnerships. It authorizes agencies to award "share-in-savings" contracts, which allow contractors to profit from savings resulting from technologies that improve or accelerate government work.
The council had suggested several measures it would like to see added, including the creation of an Office of E-Government in Congress and a commitment to ensuring that all Americans have access to the Internet within five years.