E-Gov Fund continues to stand alone, gets boost to $16M

Tuesday - 1/21/2014, 3:56am EST

The Electronic Government Fund lives on into its second decade.

Both the House Appropriations Committee and the White House proposed to merge the pot of money to be used for innovative technology ideas with the Federal Citizen Services Fund.

But for a second year in a row, the Senate won out in this debate and kept the two funds separate in the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill.

So the two separate funds will receive a combined $50.8 million, with the E- Government Fund receiving $16 million and the Federal Citizen Services Fund receiving $34.8 million.

The General Services Administration runs both funds for the Office of Management and Budget.

GSA will receive more than $4 million more for the two funds combined than in 2013, but more than $4 million less than President Barack Obama requested.

"[W]ith many other programs across the government facing cuts, the appropriation for the E-Gov Fund in the new bill represents a win for open government and online innovation," wrote Gavin Baker, an open government policy analyst for the Center for Effective Government, in a blog post on Jan. 14. "In additional good news, the E-Gov Fund will also retain its budgetary independence. The House Appropriations Committee last year proposed to merge the E-Gov Fund with another fund and cut their combined funding. Openness advocates raised concerns about combining the E-Gov Fund with another program, which could distract from its purpose. With a responsible funding level and maintained independence, the E-Gov Fund should be able to continue supporting the development of new and improved tools to increase government transparency."

Annual report still required

OMB still must request permission from the Senate and House Appropriations committees to transfer the funds to each project, and will continue to submit an annual report on the benefits of the E-Gov Fund.

The administration proposed last January to reduce 376 reports to Congress, including eliminating the E-Government Fund report.

But Congress decided not to grant them permission to end the long-time report that likely few, if anyone, read.

In fact, OMB released the 143-page 2013 E-Government Benefits report to Congress Jan. 8 detailing the status of each initiative and each Lines of Business program, as well as how much each agency plans to contribute to the projects.

OMB did not include how much agencies paid for the services it received from the programs. Unlike most previous years, the administration decided to focus only on the in-kind contributions under the pass-the-hat approach.

"This report provides information regarding E-Government initiatives funded through agency contributions, and does not include all federal government shared services," OMB wrote in the report. "Agency contributions include commitments of funding and/or in-kind contributions, which represent the dollar-equivalent of a contribution of services, equipment, facilities, software, license fees, or full- time equivalent (FTE) personnel support. Because the act requires the report to include E-Government initiatives sponsored by OMB, initiatives funded through a 'fee-for-service' model in which reimbursements represent transfers of funds by agencies to a service provider in exchange for a service rendered are not included in this report."

OMB estimates agencies will spend or provide in-kind contributions worth almost $55.2 million in 2014.

But one program will receive no funding. The White House and Commerce Department decided to shut down the International Trade Process Streamlining initiative at the end of calendar year 2013.

OMB also listed the operating status of 12 initiatives. Of those, only the human resources and financial management lines of business programs are considered in the planning stages. The Budget Formulation, the Disaster Assist Improvement Plan, the Federal Health Architecture and the Geospatial Line of Business programs are considered mixed lifecycle programs, meaning some parts are in operations and maintenance and other parts remain under development.

Overall, OMB expects agencies to spend the most, more than $18.9 million, on the Disaster Assist program, most of which — $17.9 million — comes from the Homeland Security Department.

DoD, the Department and Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration plan to spend more than $8.3 million on the Federal Health Architecture this year.

Along with keeping the E-Government and Federal Citizen Services funds separate, Congress also approved several other policy and funding plans for 2014.

The Consolidated Appropriations bill continues to ban agencies from spending any new money on any study or competition under OMB Circular A-76. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has led this effort over the past five or more years.