A15: INTEGRATE THE GOVERNMENT SERVICES INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTUREImagine this: An individual walks into a government agency. The government worker at the computer terminal answers the individual's request for college loan applications and small business opportunities. While there, the individual also applies for a state fishing license and a non-resident hunting license in another part of the country for an upcoming trip. This individual just completed in minutes what now takes hours of traveling to different offices and filling out redundant forms. This is all made possible because an interoperable, secure, information infrastructure exists that allows government workers to access all the information required to service customer requests. The data flows smoothly across the many links of the nation's information infrastructure, just as easily as vehicles can traverse the many links and portions of the nation's transportation infrastructure.
Over the years, many federal agencies have implemented information systems and supporting infrastructures to deliver their services to the public. These systems and infrastructures have become increasingly complex. Today, a disabled veteran may receive services and benefits from two totally different information and service delivery systems. In the past, this may have been necessary, but today's networking technologies have advanced to the point where these services do not need separate delivery points. Through systems integration, the cost, efficiency, and quality of service can improve.
In 1993, Vice President Gore's National Performance Review (NPR) launched the development of a government services information infrastructure to support electronic government applications. Through the NPR efforts, much progress has been made to implement governmentwide electronic mail, consolidate and modernize government data processing centers, integrate federal government private networks, and establish wireless telecommunications services and procurement vehicles. These efforts are being undertaken to make the government's large and inherently distributed infrastructure work better and cost less.
The Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Working Group developed a concept for the portion of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) used to link people to government and its services. GITS defined this concept as the Government Services Information Infrastructure (GSII). This infrastructure allows agencies working on common functional services to connect workers and let them work together electronically. The GSII also protects privacy, and supports emergency preparedness. GITS developed a paper entitled Gluing Together the Government Services Information Infrastructure,1 which discusses how this can be made real and the benefits it can achieve. These so-called glue functions and services are the basis for piecing together the various agencies' information technology activities into a seamless information infrastructure.
One of the major benefits of developing the GSII is the ability to recognize and eliminate duplication. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Bulletin No. 96-02, Consolidation of Agency Data Centers, on October 4, 1995, which provided the guidelines for reducing the number of agency data centers and reducing the total cost of data center operations. In a similar project, an interagency group developed an inventory of the private telecommunications networks in use within the federal government. Consolidating transmission service circuits within agencies will provide a potential savings of over $20 million per year by the federal government.2 The General Services Administration (GSA) is defining a program to assist agencies in further circuit aggregation activities.
In an effort to share resources when supporting similar requirements for multiple agencies, GITS also endorsed a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) proposal to conduct a nationwide cellular acquisition. The General Services Administration awarded the Federal Wireless Telecommunications Service (FWTS) contract on November 8, 1996. The contract is the first of its kind to provide nationwide wireless service and equipment to all federal agencies and authorized users. Prices provided in this contract are 20 to 60 percent below commercial rates.3
These efforts have put in place the pieces to make dramatic improvements in the way the government acquires and delivers services. It is time to pull the pieces together into the GSII.
NEED FOR CHANGECoordination of the government's existing information infrastructure must be improved. Enhanced coordination will integrate the infrastructure pieces to provide one-stop electronic access to government services.
An integrated infrastructure will reduce the overall cost of government services delivery by allowing more resource sharing support across government information services providers. For instance, a federal agency which decides to deploy new information services would not acquire facilities that duplicate existing ones; instead the agency would use the existing infrastructure.
Achieving such integration, however, is not easy. It will require much closer coordination among all federal, state, and local agencies. But the results will be well worth the effort since this integrated infrastructure provides the basis for realizing the electronic government applications discussed in this report.
ACTIONS1. Establish a Government Services Information Infrastructure Coordination Office.
Making the information infrastructure's many components work together requires firm agreements among agencies operating standards. The Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Board, in concert with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council, should establish an interagency task force for the government services information infrastructure by July 1997. The task force should serve as the Coordination Office for the information infrastructure and define the functional requirements for the integrated infrastructure by November 1997.
2. Create agreements among agencies to establish an interoperable information infrastructure.
The task force should identify individual agency responsibilities for achieving an integrated infrastructure. Memoranda describing these responsibilities should be signed by the responsible agencies by December 1997.
3. Implement a comprehensive, distributed directory structure.
By December 1997, the task force should complete requirements for a governmentwide electronic directory.
The recently completed Blue Pages project, championed by Vice President Al Gore and implemented by the GSA E-mail Program Management Office, has already improved the public's access to the federal government and served as a significant start toward accomplishing this requirement. The task force should continue this work, and leverage development efforts of other organizations, to implement and integrate a comprehensive and distributed directory structure for the GSII. This directory structure should be completed and operational by July 1998.
4. Define peering points for the different federal, state, and local infrastructures to interconnect and interoperate.
An integrated infrastructure requires a set of well defined peering points, as they are termed within the Internet community, where the many components of the infrastructure and its partner networks and services can interconnect. As part of this effort, the task force will jointly identify security and privacy requirements with the GITS Board Security and Privacy Champions. An initial set of peering points for the GSII should be defined by the task force by December 1997.
5. Improve the coordination of information technology research and development activities with the work of the GITS Board.
The GITS Board should work jointly with the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) Applications Group to bring representatives of various information technology research and development (R&D) communities together. This joint effort will investigate ways to coordinate R&D efforts with GITS Board programs to build an integrated infrastructure for the government. Including promising new developments, such as Next Generation Internet technologies, should be part of these discussions. By March 1997, an individual should be named to serve on both the GITS Board and the National Science and Technology Council Applications Group. The representative will work with the GITS Board and Applications Group members to identify and define the specific research and development projects that will help turn the recommendations in this Access America report into reality.
1GITS Working Group, Gluing Together the Government Services Information Infrastructure, February 16, 1996.
2Integrated Services Panel, Inventory of Private Telecommunications Networks Within the Federal Government," September 1995.
3GSA News Release, GSA Awards Federal Wireless Telecommunications Services Contract to GTE, GSA#9360, November 12, 1996.