Some government Web sites are earning high marks from Internet users and appear to be building a following among the public, according to the latest findings of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
The index's e-government report, scheduled for release today, covers 53 federal Web sites that have volunteered to be scored based on their content, appearance, search engines and other functions.
The State Department's student site (www.future.state.gov) and the Federal Aviation Administration's site (www.faa.gov) improved most over a nine-month period measured by the index. Other sites that improved their rankings included the Office of Personnel Management's recruitment site (www.usajobs.opm.gov), the State Department's job site (www.careers.state.gov) and the National Library of Medicine site (www.nlm.nih.gov).
Overall, the index shows "mixed results in terms of how successful agencies are," said Larry Freed, chief executive of ForeSee Results Inc., which helps produce the e-gov satisfaction report.
But "channel loyalty" emerged as a common finding in the latest quarterly index, an indication that some federal Web sites are becoming a preferred way for many Americans to get information, Freed said.
Anne Kelly, chief executive at the Federal Consulting Group, a Treasury Department office that helps agencies participate in the index, said the latest findings show federal Web sites "are getting in touch really good with their customers" as they make improvements based on user feedback.
On average, the federal Web sites scored 70.3 on the 100-point index. The more effective sites, such as those operated by OPM and the U.S. Mint, posted scores in the high 70s that put them near or on par with the private sector.
Outsourcing Ban for Homeland Security?
The House has voted to stop an outsourcing review involving about 1,100 immigration information officers at the Department of Homeland Security.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) sponsored the amendment, approved by the House on a 242 to 163 vote Friday. Her amendment would prohibit the department from running a job competition to determine whether the immigration jobs could be performed more efficiently by contractors and cut costs for taxpayers.
She said the work of the immigration officers, who help determine eligibility for immigration rights and benefits, was "inherently governmental" and essential for national security. "They often use highly classified information to prevent immigration fraud and ensure terrorists do not exploit our immigration laws," Roybal-Allard said in a floor statement.
The amendment would prohibit the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services from using taxpayer dollars to finance the outsourcing review. It was included in a $32 billion fiscal 2005 spending bill, which the House approved 400 to 5, for the Department of Homeland Security.
A Senate version of the bill was approved last week by the Appropriations Committee. It does not include a provision to ban the job competition.
In a statement, John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the immigration officers, praised Roybal-Allard for sponsoring the amendment. Gage emphasized that the amendment passed with bipartisan support and promised to build support for bipartisan opposition in the Senate to the immigration jobs review.
Other provisions in the bill would alter the department's management structure, requiring the chief financial officer, chief information officer and chief procurement officer to report directly to Secretary Tom Ridge rather than to the undersecretary for management, Janet Hale.
The bill also would transfer the authority to conduct background checks on employees and job applicants from the Office of Personnel Management to the department.
Steven L. Katz, author of "Lion Taming: Working Successfully With Leaders, Bosses and Other Tough Customers," will offer tips and take questions on how to get ahead in your career at noon Wednesday on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.