Budget agreement slashes e-gov fund

The budget agreement reached over the weekend would slash the funding for the General Services Administration's e-government fund, jeopardizing many programs aimed at increasing the transparency of the federal government.

According to details of the agreement released Monday evening, funding for e-government will be cut to $8 million from the $34 million appropriated in fiscal 2010. The figure is only half the amount of funding proposed by House Republicans last week ($17 million).

It remains unclear which programs will receive the funding, but in jeopardy are key Obama administration projects such as Data.gov, USASpending.gov and several cloud computing initiatives. Good government groups lamented the move by Congress, which appears final.

"The electronic government fund is a bucket of money spent on federal transparency programs at Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s discretion, subject to statutory mandate," said Daniel Schuman, policy counsel at the transparency watchdog Sunlight Foundation.

"He will have to make the tough decisions about where to cut; we now know how much is on the chopping block."

The Obama administration has drawn headlines in the tech world for its efforts to promote more consumer-friendly technologies within the government, with websites backed by the e-government fund playing a central role in that effort.

Transparency watchdogs including Sunlight have urged Congress to maintain the sites, arguing that despite their limitations they provide an important infrastructure for sharing government data.