The demand the Recovery Act is putting on agency infrastructures may be the ultimate stress test.
“The Recovery Act will illustrate some long standing problems with federal management,” says Paul Posner, a professor and the director of the Master’s in Public Administration program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
“The information systems needed to carry out the transparency goal and help agencies work collaboratively will come under a lot of strain.”
Posner’s assessment is one many in the federal, state and local governments are just acknowledging.
Dave McClure, managing vice president for Gartner Government Research, says government employees are facing a, “blizzard of information” and are in an “information coma” because of Recovery Act requirements.
“I met with the Energy Department’s national laboratory’s chief information officers and they are under a ton of pressure because of all the money for renewable energy,” says McClure April 15 at a panel discussion on transparency and the Recovery Act in Washington sponsored by CGI and George Mason University.
“Many, especially at the state level, are struggling with how to come to grips with all the requirements.”
And McClure says the Office of Management and Budget’s April 3 guidance doesn’t slow things down. He says the 175-page document offers insight into future guidance from the administration.
“There is a lot of emphasis on reporting and results,” he says.
“Agencies are struggling with performance management. If we are not careful, the work around the Recovery Act will become a reporting and compliance exercise instead of focusing on results.”
McClure says there are several best practices agencies should consider:
Set up a program management office to coordinate all activities with a central view. This should help with accountability, transparency, standards and reporting.
Develop information standards and a data architecture to ensure all information is reported the same way.
Take advantage of easy to use applications that can pull data together, including mash-ups and open source software.
The Environmental Protection Agency already is taking several of these steps.