| John Huang
NPR Program Officer
The stewardship of
NPR and the leadership of Barram and Lader still did not guarantee the
success of the task force in gaining the support of other agencies. Moreover,
the two leaders found securing the allegiance of staff within their own
agencies problematic. NPR initially requested that the task force comprise
senior managers. One task force participant recalls that senior-level
commitment was an "on-again, off-again kind of thing," resulting in two
or three meetings that no one seemed to find particularly productive.
The real work of the task force was done through weekly meetings run by
John Huang from NPR and attended for the most part by mid-level managers
who held responsibility for Internet applications within their respective
agencies, just as in the days of ERIN. Regular attendees included representatives
from SBA, EPA, OSHA, and the General Services Administration (GSA). In
addition, Greg Woods and John Huang represented the Social Security Administration
and IRS respectively, the agencies from which they had come before joining
Jim Van Wert, SBA Administrator Lader's designee, was among the most active
members of the committee and was an anomaly. His position as chief policy
advisor for his agency meant he was the most senior person attending and
a "non-techie," as well. He considered himself a "programmatic person,"
more like a program manager than the technical specialists who sat on
the team. Van Wert felt he could offer the others a more expansive view
of the Web's potential for redefining government, and he frequently found
himself in a position of reminding others on the task force why the project
was so important.
According to Van Wert, the Business Advisor and similar efforts put the
government into the position of "knowledge broker" and "knowledge creator"
rather than mere conveyor of information or data-pusher. Van Wert believed
that very few of his counterparts--program managers within the SBA and
at other agencies--understood the potential of the Web. Thus, they weren't
able to see the importance of this type of interagency effort and were
content to let those who were more adept at the technology take the lead.
At the time the Business Advisor was getting underway, Van Wert says,
"Most [line program managers] did not have a sense of what their own web
sites were doing in providing 'any time, any place' access to information
and in creating expectations among customers." Unlike program managers,
however, it was not necessarily the job responsibility of technical specialists
to understand an agency's various functions and how these related to other
functions of the government.