In July 2001, the White House Office of Management and Budget launched an e-government task force. Its purpose was to create an action plan for implementing President Bush’s Expanding E-Government initiative, the primary goals of which were to make it easier for citizens to interact with the federal government and to improve government efficiency and responsiveness to citizens.
The task force identified a number of performance problems, particularly due to overlapping and redundant agency processes. One example: A community trying to garner an economic development grant could potentially file more than 1,000 forms at more than 250 federal bureaus.
In an attempt to improve customer service, the task force narrowed down an initial list of more than 350 e-government opportunities to 23 projects (two were added later); its prioritization efforts were dubbed the Quicksilver Process. The final group of projects, approved by the president’s Management Council in October 2001, was chosen based on providing the most value to citizens, improving agency efficiency and deploying within 18 to 24 months.
The projects fall into five categories: government to citizen, government to business, government to government, internal efficiency and effectiveness, and cross-cutting (see “Some OMB Quicksilver Initiatives,” below). A $5 million fund was established for the 2002 fiscal year to support implementation.
Last year, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), then the chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and author of the E-Government Act, asked the General Accounting Office to review the completeness of the information used for choosing and overseeing the projects. Its report, released last Dec. 19, drew some unwanted publicity to the initiatives. The GAO found that only nine of the business cases used to support the initiatives took customer needs into account, even though customer value was one of the OMB’s primary goals. Only eight of the business cases addressed collaboration among agencies.
The GAO also looked at whether the OMB had adequate data to monitor the progress of the projects. “While some was clearly there, other pieces were missing,” says Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the GAO. The report cited a lack of accurate performance, schedule and cost information. A six-month follow-up with project managers late last year found that funding plans had changed more than 30 percent for half of the initiatives.