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New Bill Says Enough of 'E-Gov' Already

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Is e-government dead? Perhaps, but likely in name only.

A new bill that would eliminate more than 200 “duplicative” agency reports on a number of different topics would also phase out a handful of reports assessing federal IT initiatives.

Among them: an annual report covering the benefits of the E-Government Act, the 2002 law once the marquee initiative in connecting the business of government to the digital age.  

The E-Gov Act, which established the position of the federal chief information officer and created some of the first federal cybersecurity guidelines, aimed to push the government toward using “Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to government information and services.”

One method of tracking that is the annual report to Congress on implementation of the E-Gov Act. Last year’s report included updates on the federal cybersecurity workforce, cloud computing security and agencies’ open data efforts.

The administration hasn’t released an E-Gov implementation report for this year yet. And it might not have to -- if Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., get their way. Their bill, which would eliminate 223 required annual agency reports, recommends putting the kibosh on the E-Gov report.

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Putting together the E-Gov report requires coordination from dozens of agencies, Warner’s office noted. And much of the data is actually stale by time the report is published. More up-to-date information can be found on the IT Dashboard, the public website that tracks the performance of agency IT investments.

“No business would require employees to dedicate time and resources producing irrelevant reports that sit on a shelf collecting dust, and the federal government shouldn’t, either,” Warner said in a statement.

Among the other reports set for the chopping block under the Warner-Ayotte bill are quarterly updates from agencies on cost savings achieved through their IT reform efforts. The reports are redundant, in part, because new mandates under the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act require agency CIOs to publicly post cost savings on the IT Dashboard, Warner’s office says.

A survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office last year found agency CIOs reported spending as much as $300 million on reporting exercises they said amounted to little more than busywork.

The E-Government moniker has come to seem particularly dated. A separate bill introduced last month, would rebrand the White House Office of E-Government and IT as simply the Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer and also simplify the federal CIO’s job title.

Still, it should be noted, it’s only the name that’s in danger of extinction -- not the concept. The administration over the past few years has turned a greater focus toward technology -- initiating an aggressive action plan for information security in the wake of the massive Office of Personnel Management hack and recruiting top-flight tech talent into government as part of the push toward digital services.

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