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Social Security Administration Electronic Service Provision: A Strategic Assessment
information dissemination or service delivery. In many ways, this strategic focus reflected a mainframe processing mentality that had dominated federal IT policy and strategy since the 1960s related to the passage of the Brooks Act of 1949.1 Under the Brooks Act, one federal agency, the General Services Administration (GSA), was responsible for acquiring IT on behalf of federal agencies.2 Although the GSA had an elaborate process for delegating this procurement authority to federal agencies, this degree of centralization in IT governance represented a focus on using IT to save money in backroom operations. As a result, the primary criteria for evaluating IT investments were economy and efficiency, so all systems were justified on a “least cost” basis. Interagency IT efforts focused on consolidation efforts such as the Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center for payroll and accounting, which sought to standardize financial systems based on commercial off-the-shelf products and to eliminate duplicative personnel systems.3
Starting around the late 1990s, attention began to shift away from simply backroom operations. The federal Chief Information Officer’s Council began emphasizing IT projects that offered “service to the citizen.” At about the same time, the administration was conducting the National Performance Review (NPR, otherwise known as Reengineering Government) effort, which placed strong emphasis on IT-enabled government. Publication of the NPR report Access America: Reengineering ThroughInformation Technology in February 1997 was one of the first occasions on which the federal government began addressing what is now referred to as electronic government.4
The projects identified in that report represented a departure from historical emphasis on internal efficiency and economy. The very first initiative involved improving service delivery through technology. This shift from economy and efficiency to service delivery culminated with the first presidential-level directive to federal agencies on e-government
Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, Public Law 89-306, 40 U.S.C. 759.
The Warner Amendment of 1982 (Public Law 97-86) subsequently exempted certain types of Department of Defense procurements from the Brooks Act and from Section 11 of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949. See U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Issue Update on Information Privacy and Security in Network Environments, OTA-BP-ITC-147, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, June 1995, p. 106.
S.H. Holden, “The Evolution of Information Technology Management at the Federal Level: Implications for Public Administration,” pp. 53-73 in Public Information Technology:Policy and Management Issues, G. David Garson, Ed., Hershey, Pa.: Idea Group, 2003.