OMB tells all agencies to go back to Grants.gov

Monday - 4/26/2010, 2:37pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Nearly a year after 10 agencies stopped using the "Find" function of Grants.gov, the Office of Management and Budget is ordering all of them back to the governmentwide portal.

OMB Director Peter Orszag sent a memo Friday to agency secretaries telling them to make sure their agencies are fully using Grants.gov by April 30.

"The Department of Health and Human Services and partnering agencies' efforts, combined with system upgrades to Grants.gov, have mitigated the risks identified last spring," Orszag writes.

"Grants.gov has successfully increased grant application processing capacity from about 500 per day last year to a current proven capacity of at least 8,400 applications per day, with no noticeable degradation of performance. In addition, Grants.gov is continuing to make additional improvements funded by the federal grant-making agencies to further increase capacity and enable improved system performance measurement."

OMB spokesman Tom Gavin says the administration and agencies have learned a number of lessons from this experience.

"We want the next generation of Grants.gov to be developed in coordination with both the agencies and user community," he says.

"That may mean a system architecture that is more flexible than the current design, concentrating on driving data standardization and employing state of the art technologies that simply weren't available when the existing system was developed. We will strive for a system that is much cheaper, more flexible and expandable, and significantly more user-friendly that also provides much improved insight into federal grants data processing."

In the 2011budget passback OMB gave to agencies, its goal was to have agencies back to Grants.gov by March 31. The memo gives no reason for the one-month delay in moving agencies back to the portal.

OMB moved 10 of the largest grant making agencies off of the portal last March because of concern it could not handle the influx of applications expected because of the Recovery Act.

HHS, which is the managing partner, spent the last year upgrading the system, spending about $6 million. Through a contract with General Dynamics, HHS improved the portal's current structure and operating platform and updated some of the hardware that runs the system.

At the same time, HHS and the General Services Administration were testing a proof of concept using the FedBizOpps.gov platform for grants find and apply functions.

Orszag's memo says GSA has completed the development stage on this project and the departments of Energy and Interior are testing the proof of concept. He says OMB should have the results of these tests this summer.

"The results and lessons learned from the proof of concept will be used to inform HHS and the federal grant-making agencies as they continue to modernize and strive for improvements in the grants process," Orszag writes.

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