Charles Havekost - Department of Health

Monday - 8/2/2004, 2:01am EDT

FEDERALNEWSRADIO.COM: Let me ask you a career-related question. As you watch the government IT workforce, you see a lot of folks leaving civil service to go to the private sector. After a long career with the government, you left and came back. What was it about technology and the government that drew you back?

HAVEKOST: One of the things that drew me back was the mission and the scope of what gets done in federal service. I had been an HHS employee for over 20 years when I went out to try my hand in the private sector. I had always been proud of the mission of HHS and specifically the National Institutes of Health where I had been working. Even in IT, I felt like I was a cog in a machine that cranked out benefits for the health of humankind. Thatís a tremendous mission. It made me feel good about what I was doing. I wasnít creating a vaccine, but I was providing support to the people who were creating vaccines. I went out to the private sector and - maybe it was just the telecom industry where I was working - the mission didnít resonate nearly as well and didnít provide as much of an upside for humankind as the work that gets done at Health and Human Services. So now that Iíve come back I once again feel like a piece of an organization that is creating benefits for humankind, for our country and our citizens. Thatís a powerful, wide-reaching, tremendous mission and a great, great effort to be a part of.

FEDERALNEWSRADIO.COM: Before I ask you about some of the things that you want to work on in the future, letís talk about some of the things that are already in place. Can you tell me a little about ďgrants.govĒ?

HAVEKOST: Grants.gov is one of the e-gov initiatives that comes out of the presidentís management agenda. The goal of grants.gov is to take some of the business processes that had been pursued by individual agencies or pieces of agencies in the grant making arena and try to provide a more unified business process. Let me give you an example. Suppose a medium-sized nonprofit is applying for grants with four or five different agencies. There might be three or four grant opportunities across several agencies that this nonprofit might be going for. One of the problems in the past was that it was difficult, especially for smaller organizations, to know where the grant opportunities were located. They were spread across the Web sites of federal agencies, they were buried in the Federal Register, It was difficult to know where all the opportunities were. Thatís one of the things that grants.gov set out to fix, and has fixed, by providing a unified grant opportunity announcement site. Now an organization trying to find a grant opportunity in a particular subject area can go and search at grants.gov and find all the opportunities are out there no matter what agency is announcing it. So they donít need to know the agency before they go and do the search. They just need to know the subject area for the grants they are providing. The other thing that grants.gov is doing is to unify the grant application process and make it electronic. Up until now, the application process has been very much a paper-based process and has had unique requirements, depending on what agency was being applied to. With grants.gov a unified electronic application mechanism has been put into place that makes it easier for applicants to be able to submit applications. The best example is where a small organization that goes to the effort to put together a grant application for one agency can leverage that experience using grants.gov to be able to apply to another agency. In the past they would have had to learn a completely different set of processes and contact points in order to apply to other agencies. They can leverage the experience and become more experienced, better grant applicants. The benefits to the applicant is that they can learn and use that experience across agencies so they donít have to have quite as big of an infrastructure of experience to apply to different agencies. The advantage to the agencies is that they get more experienced grant applicants and they get a better pool of grant applications.

FEDERALNEWSRADIO.COM: Talk about the quintessential cross-agency effort. This was complex because it involved not only your federal agency partners, but also state and local. What were you able to learn from this? How did you make that work so well? How will that translated into future projects that involve other federal agencies?