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  Daily Briefing  

April 4, 2000

Commerce deputy pushes e-government reform

By Katy Saldarini

Top federal executives must take charge of the effort to put government services online if any substantive progress is to be made, according to a recent memo distributed to the President's Management Council.

The memo, prepared by Commerce Deputy Secretary Robert L. Mallett, sets forth an ambitious plan for creating an online government. Mallett wants the PMC, a body of top management officials at major agencies, to endorse the plan.

In the memo, Mallett said he has made the expansion of electronic delivery of government programs and services his personal mission. "I have become increasingly convinced that the PMC must lead an aggressive program to accelerate the conversion to an electronic government," he wrote.

Despite several initiatives to put government services online, there is still no unified command to lead the way, Mallett wrote. The PMC is the perfect organization to take the reins of the e-government project because "we, as the primary operational managers of [the] agencies, must take a leadership role by setting forth a program that challenges our people to work together to do more."

In December 1999, the Clinton administration unveiled a plan to create a mega-Web site and other online initiatives aimed at improving electronic delivery of government services.

According to Mallett, more needs to be done. "There are many efforts ongoing to encourage this change, but they are not well-connected, and do not create a cohesive, coordinated effort to induce substantive change," he wrote.

Mallett also pointed out that, to date, most government Web sites have served only to increase the cost of providing services because they don't take advantage of the cost savings that the Web can provide if it is used as a delivery channel.

To truly take advantage of Web-based technologies, government agencies must pull together to coordinate service delivery, Mallett said. He proposed that the PMC create a plan for such a governmentwide effort by July 1, 2000.

In addition to an overarching strategy, Mallett suggested several specific goals, starting with pilot projects that create one-stop shopping for three major government service areas: exports, grants and purchasing.

The government's one-source Web site should be more than a page of links, Mallett said. Each agency should be linked to the central government Web site so that transactions are integrated. For example, a grant request on the central Web site should automatically be entered into the grants system of the appropriate agency, Mallett said.

The memo includes many of the same initiatives outlined in the December Clinton administration plan, such as creating a Web site for all government forms. But Mallett places the burden on the PMC to make things happen.

By June 2000, all PMC members should have a communications plan for promoting the e-government program, he said.

"If the PMC is to add value to this conversion, then my view is that we get on with it, knowing full well that it will take more time than necessary, more money than Congress may want to appropriate, and more patience from the public than we have any right to expect," he wrote.

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