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Tech Industry

Senate approves e-government plan

The amended E-Government Act of 2002 will establish an office of electronic government, headed by a Senate-confirmed administrator.

The Senate has unanimously approved a bill authorizing $345 million over the next four years for an e-government fund.

The E-Government Act of 2002 originally called for the creation of a federal chief information officer. The amended bill, approved Thursday night, would establish an office of electronic government, headed by a Senate-confirmed administrator, within the Office of Management and Budget.

The bill would also establish a federal portal, require federal courts to post opinions online, and encourage the use of digital signatures, in part by giving the General Services Administration $8 million to develop a certification authority for digital signature compatibility.

"Today we come a step closer to achieving the important goal of providing Americans the same 24-7 access to government information and services that is now available to them from the private sector," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said in a press release. Lieberman sponsored the bill with Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

"It is time the government take full advantage of the Internet and other information technologies to maximize efficiency and provide the public with seamless, secure online information and services," Lieberman said.

The administrator of the e-government office will be responsible for overseeing capital planning and investment of IT, development of enterprise architectures, information security and privacy matters.

The bill, which will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration, also makes permanent the Government Information Security Reform Act, sponsored by Lieberman and Thompson last year. GISRA, which required government agencies to make annual security assessments and tests of non-classified information systems, expires in November.

"It's a big bill, so there's a lot of different pieces, but it really takes steps forward in covering the landscape in integrating e-government services in the federal government," said Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The new e-government office would take responsibility for a host of electronic government issues, including the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which requires require federal agencies to link IT investments to agency accomplishments and to establish processes to manage and control IT investments and the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.