Recommendations and Actions
Strengthen Leadership in Information Technology
Making the Vision a Reality
Reinventing government is an enormous, complex undertaking that begins with leadership, not technology. Yet information technology (IT)-
-because it can help break down bureau and agency boundaries--can be a powerful tool for reinvention. Its use requires both a clear vision of how government can benefit from technology to change the way it does business, and a commitment to making the vision a reality. Only good leadership, which combines vision and commitment, can ensure sound investments in IT to support the redesign of federal business practices.
The Clinton administration has made expanded use of IT a national goal; its efforts in achieving this goal are two-pronged.
-Creating a National Vision- To accelerate the development of the National Information Infrastructure, the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy have created a committee--the Information Infrastructure Task Force--to coordinate the administration's efforts to formulate forward-looking telecommunications and information policies. This task force, chaired by the Secretary of Commerce and consisting of deputy-level representatives of relevant federal departments, will articulate and implement the President's vision of a nationwide system in which all Americans can exchange and receive information when and where they need it at a reasonable cost.
-Improving Federal IT Practices- The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 gives the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) governmentwide responsibility for providing leadership in information management. The act also charges a senior official within each agency--reporting directly to the agency head--to provide agency- level leadership in this area. With proper vision and direction, these officials could fulfill their potential as agents of change, using information technology to help reinvent their agencies' approach to their mission.
Need for Change
The federal government's attempt to integrate information technology into the systems supporting its operations have produced some successes- -and some costly failures. Despite spending an estimated $25 billion in fiscal year 1993 on information technology, the federal government has lacked the strong and effective leadership required to ensure that government makes the most of these resources. We have operated without any overall, enterprisewide strategic plan or vision of the role of information systems in government, and with little or no regard for connections among various federal agencies, or with state and local governments. Many agency heads and federal executives continue to overlook IT's strategic role in reengineering business practices. Agency information resource managers typically lack the tools or the opportunity to be effective partners with top executives in developing strategies to use technology effectively. Too often, agency information resource management (IRM) plans and agency strategic plans are not integrated. Without clear direction and support from the top, modernization programs tend to degenerate into loose collections of independent systems solving unique problems and automating--rather than improving upon--the existing ways of doing business. For example, three bureaus in the Department of Agriculture were to share a computer system to improve the management of food acquisition and price support programs. However, 5 years after work on the system had begun, no mechanism had been established to resolve disagreements that arose in testing, installation, and maintenance.
The oversight community--OMB, the General Services Administration (GSA), congressional committees, the Inspectors General, and the General Accounting Office (GAO)--often aggravates this situation by overemphasizing specific details such as the acquisition costs of individual IT projects rather than assessing the overall impact on productivity. Instead, effective oversight should foster the analysis of work processes and formulation of strategic plans that integrate information technology with agency missions. Oversight agencies are in an excellent position, given their independent status, to identify and promote opportunities for cross-agency sharing of capabilities.
In particular, OIRA is charged under the Paperwork Reduction Act to provide leadership and oversight for the information resources management activities of federal agencies. Historically, OIRA has placed more emphasis on regulatory and paperwork review responsibilities than on leadership and information policy. The Administrator of OIRA is committed to improving OIRA's performance in the information area. The seeds of change have been sown. Nurturing them will require resources and expertise from the central agencies, and a new partnership between OIRA, GSA, and the agencies.
In a few cases where oversight agencies have attempted coordination, the results have been positive. For example, in 1988, OMB analyzed the use of information technology by the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the State Department to check the names of persons entering the United States against a master list. Finding duplication of effort and little sharing of information, OMB worked with the agencies to create the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), jointly funded and operated by the three agencies. IBIS allowed Customs and INS to redesign their work processes. INS agents now conduct all name checks, freeing Customs agents to inspect baggage--thereby improving enforcement and speeding the processing of legitimate transfers.
An even more powerful example of successful coordination has been the work of the High Performance Computing, Communications, and Information Technology Subcommittee which coordinates the multi-agency High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative. By coordinating and sharing resources and expertise among 12 federal agencies, this interagency working group, under the leadership of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has created a $784 million program that is expanding the nation's computing capabilities. This, and other programs, should be models for the type of coordination across government to realize IT's full potential in reinventing government.
1. Plan for effective use of information technology throughout government.(2) By January 1994, the Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) should expand its workto include a Government Information Technology Services (GITS) Working Group. At a minimum, the working group will be composed of representatives from OMB and agencies directly affected by the recommendations made in this report, e.g., the Departments of the Treasury, Justice, Defense, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the General Services Administration. The GITS Working Group will assist the IITF in performing the following:
---Developing a strategic vision for using information resources within thefederal government. This vision will define an overall program and plan for IRM in the federal government and should include specific models of operation, goals for improving government use of IT in mission performance--both across and within agencies--and measures for improving service to the public.
---Developing strategies to improve leadership and authority within federalagencies, and to include information resources management in agencies' mission strategic planning.
---Setting priorities for federal information resources management and assessing the adequacy of resources to support and facilitate important goals.
In addition, the GITS Working Group should perform the following:
---Develop an implementation plan for the recommendations made in this report.
---Work with state and local governments and private sector advisers to promotecooperation and information sharing.
---Establish a continuous improvement plan and process to design, develop, and implement technology-enabled, governmentwide business initiatives--the electronic government as described in this report.
---Identify additional opportunities and oversee follow-up on those opportunities for sharing information resources across agencies to improve program performance.
---Use existing interagency groups such as the Federal IRM Policy Council (FIRMPoC) for assistance where applicable.
---Serve as the focal point for implementing the recommended actions of this accompanying report.
2. Coordinate and oversee implementations of information technology plans.(2)
Beginning November 1993, OMB should:
---In coordination with the GITS Working Group and GSA, convene (or useexisting) interagency teams, chaired by an appropriate program agency, to share information, solve common problems, and represent the government to the public on specific cross-cutting information technology matters.
---Revise OMB Circular A-130 to encourage the integration of agency IRM plans with agency strategic plans and budgets via the creation of strategic IT plans and performance measures.
---Ensure adequate OMB staff expertise to exercise effective leadership offederal information and IT activities. This function should combine technical expertise in information computing and communications, government operations, and service sector innovation. This function must be integrated with--not isolated from--OMB's other management and budget oversight functions. This integration will ensure that OMB speaks with one voice on information and IT issues, and that agencies can rely on consistent guidance.
1. U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Information Resources Management Plan of the Federal Government (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office [GPO], 1992), p. 3.
2. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture, hearing on"Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service Computer Systems: Building Another Hubble?," September 18, 1990.
3. Katzen, Sally, Administrator of OMB/OIRA, confirmation testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, May 14, 1993.
4 President William J. Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., A Vision of Change for America (Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1993), p. 54.
Implement Electronic Government
Citizens and government workers contend with an increasingly complicated array of federal agencies, organizations, processes, and forms. The existing service delivery system is largely based on hierarchical design structures developed in the 1930s. The result is slow, inefficient service that may not satisfy actual customer needs. The information needed for sound decisionmaking and high-quality customer service is not coordinated across government agencies, thus increasing cost and time to provide services. In short, today's government structures, processes, and business practices, which were designed for a different era, cannot keep up with the existing types and volumes of customer demands.
Information technology will be the key to providing more cost- effective and user-friendly government services. Industry examples illustrate how exploiting technology can provide superior customer service, significantly decrease costs, increase quality, and improve overall effectiveness and competitiveness. Successful applications of information technology also can be found in federal, state, and local government. Moreover, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that by the year 2000, approximately 75 percent of public transactions will be processed electronically.
The requirement to address ever-more-constrained operating budgets makes integration of information technology into all phases of the federal workforce vital to meeting service demands of the American public.
Information technology must not be applied haphazardly or sporadically. It also must not be used simply to automate existing practices. Instead, information technology must be seen as the essential infrastructure for the government of the 21st century--a modernized electronic government.
Electronic government will allow citizens broader and more timely access to information and services through efficient, customer- responsive processes--thereby creating a fundamental revision in the relationship between the federal government and everyone served by it. Electronic government will enable the creation of "virtual agencies" that will give citizens access to integrated program information and services organized around service "themes" (e.g., unemployment assistance), rather than bureaucratic--and often idiosyncratic-- structures. In a virtual agency, several interconnected federal organizations will be able to provide information and services in a seamless manner.
In electronic government, high-speed telecommunications links (information highways) will carry the data necessary to support governmental operations. These information highways will connect federal, state, and local governments, and help form a National Information Infrastructure (NII) made up of public and private transmission circuits and information services. Existing components of the NII include the nation's telecommunications carriers; Internet, which serves both government and private sector as a pathway for electronic mail and data; public libraries; and the electronic settlement services that support the automated teller machines and credit cards that facilitate the flow of funds nationwide.
A conceptual subset of the NII is the government's information infrastructure, the portion of the NII used exclusively by the government. It is composed of all the electronic services and paths that support government operations, such as the computer systems that facilitate the payment of monthly Social Security benefits, the FTS2000 telecommunications systemthe federal government uses for voice and data communications, internal networks run by individual government agencies, and the wealth of data and information that the government makes available.
The following seven initiatives, which NPR proposes implementing on a fully operational or pilot basis, would facilitate and expand government's use of the NII. These initiatives are highlighted because work is already in progress on their development and they offer significant payback opportunities:
---integrated electronic benefit transfer,
---integrated electronic access to government information and services,
---National Law Enforcement/Public Safety Network,
---intergovernmental tax filing, reporting, and payments processing,
---International Trade Data System,
---National Environmental Data Index, and
---governmentwide electronic mail.
Endnote 1. U.S. General Accounting Office, Comptroller General's 1989 Annual Report: Facing Facts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1990), p. 28.
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