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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

OMB must sell e-gov to new 'in' party

Uncertainty hangs over how House Democrats will deal with ongoing IT issues

If the White House couldn’t sell e-government to its own party on the Hill, what chance will officials have now that the Democrats control Congress?

Actually, according to industry observers and former government officials, it could be a pretty good chance. But the window of opportunity could be small, and open for only a short time.

“It all depends on how much [the Democrats] want to play ball with the White House,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation of Washington. “I could see them being more supportive of e-government. ... Democrats have a stronger stake in making government work, they’re the party of government, and they want it to work.”

For its part, OMB is optimistic. “Both sides of the aisle share our goal of improving program performance and agency management,” said OMB spokeswoman Andrea Wuebker. “We will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to achieve this goal through the implementation of the President’s Management Agenda.”

At this point, though, it is unclear whether the Democratic takeover of Congress will be a blessing or a curse for OMB’s e-government agenda.

Also due to change is the oversight of OMB’s Financial Management Line of Business initiative, currently under Rep. Todd Platts (R-Ohio), chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability. The ranking member of the subcommittee is Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

- Rob Thormeyer, GCN.com

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But Atkinson and others say OMB has to demonstrate—now more than ever—that e-government programs will truly result in the efficiencies and cost savings they project.

If not, agencies, with the end of the Bush administration looming, could dig in and wait for the next White House to pursue its management agenda, experts say.

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