After years of work, a key government committee has developed a Web portal that provides online
access to federal grant information.
The Federal Commons Web portal will provide "one-stop shopping"
for the entire federal grant application process, said officials with the Inter-Agency Electronic
Grants Committee, which launched the site in December.
The site will eventually allow applicants to submit and track their grant applications online.
At present, users can search a General Services Administration catalog of federal grant programs
on the site.
"This is a first step," said Eleni Martin, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration.
"[The committee] envisions that users will be able to submit all [grant] applications online
in the future."
The Inter-Agency Electronic Grants Committee is made up of members from 23 grant making agencies
who are working to streamline the grant application process. Applicants for federal grants have
long bemoaned the different grant systems and applications used across the government. Agencies
award roughly $300 billion in federal grants to 30,000 organizations each year.
The committee has tapped into the interagency funds of the Chief Financial Officer's Council
to finance the Federal Commons site for the next fiscal year. Currently, the site relies on
agencies to "pass the hat" for funding. The committee also plans to request funding from the
Bush administration's proposed "e-government fund" for the Federal Commons site. The Bush
budget earmarks $100 million over three years to support federal e-government initiatives.
While Federal Commons currently allows applicants to browse a database of federal grant programs,
the site plans to unveil a searchable database of new grant announcements for live testing this
The Federal Commons initiative was aided by the 1999 Federal Financial Assistance Management
Improvement Act, which set a November 2002 deadline for agencies to begin accepting grant
applications electronically. After the law was passed, the committee pitched the Federal Commons
project to the Office of Management and Budget as a way of achieving government-wide compliance
with the act. OMB threw its support behind the project, in part because it promised to develop a
common electronic grant application form.
The Federal Commons site was designed by Paul Markovitz, a computer expert at the National
Institutes of Health. The committee eventually hopes to create a separate federal office to
administer the site. Another governmentwide Web portal, Firstgov.gov, opened an office in
GSA in January.
--from Government Executive Magazine