Tightening budgets renew OMB's push for IT project oversight

Tuesday - 2/14/2012, 5:47am EST

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

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The Office of Management and Budget is doubling-down on improving the management of technology projects.

Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said OMB will go back to holding monthly TechStat sessions and create government-wide teams to take on the most problematic programs.

"We still have done TechStats at OMB, but just not in a formalized rhythm," VanRoekel said during a press briefing Monday. "What we are doing in this wave in 2012 is getting a more formalized rhythm back. I've committed to doing one a month where we will look at investments across the board."

VanRoekel said agency CIOs also will run TechStats, but the refocus by OMB will give agency technology managers a much needed authority boost.

SWAT-ting poorly performing projects

Along with reinvigorated TechStats, VanRoekel will formally launch IT SWAT teams.

The first ad hoc team came together last fall to help the Office of Personnel Management fix its USAJobs.gov portal.

Steven VanRoekel, chief information officer, OMB

"We assembled a team of the best and brightest IT people across government and they evaluated the USAJobs infrastructure," he said. "They sent me back a bunch of recommendations we now are having OPM implement and take forward. It is a great program and I'm excited to take that concept government-wide."

VanRoekel said the goal is to bring together other teams of experts throughout 2012.

VanRoekel rolled out both of these efforts as part of the fiscal 2013 budget request President Barack Obama sent to Congress Monday.

The government-wide IT budget for 2013 would decrease by about $600 million, most of which comes from reductions at the Defense Department.

DoD's IT request is down $1.1 billion, and the civilian agency's request is up $460 million.

VanRoekel said overall the IT budget is down compared to historical numbers. The compound growth between 2001 and 2009 was about 7 percent, but from 2009 until 2013, the compound growth is expected to be negative .004 percent.

The agencies which would see the largest decreases in 2013 are:

  • DoD: $37.1 billion, down $1.05 billion

  • Commerce: $2.4 billion, down $111 million

  • Energy: $2 billion, down $104 million

  • Justice: $2.6 billion, down $102 million

  • HUD: $392 million, down $97 million

VanRoekel said the decreases at Commerce and Energy were because of programmatic changes or completed projects.

At DoD, it's part of how they are preparing for large spending reductions by investing in agile IT.

"The data center consolidation at DoD is resulting in $300 million in savings for the agency," VanRoekel said. "In addition, both the Army and the Air Force are executing on significant modernizations in 2012 that will result in reductions in FY '13."

The agencies that would see the largest increases in 2013 are:

  • Treasury: $3.5 billion, up $358 million

  • Veterans Affairs: $3.3 billion, up $216 million

  • HHS: $7.1 billion, up $179 million

  • USDA: $2.5 billion, up $80 million

  • Transportation: $3.1 billion, up $81 million

VanRoekel said Treasury's increase comes from investments in its business system modernization to make it easier for citizens to access tax filing and resources.

For HHS and VA, the IT increase are both health care related.

The expected decrease in IT spending is forcing agencies to do a better job with the money they do have.

That is why the renewed emphasis on TechStats and the new IT SWAT teams are so important, VanRoekel said.

In the budget request, OMB stated "to date, CIOs across the government have held 294 agency-led TechStats, and the results of these reviews have enabled agencies to achieve over $900 million in cost savings or cost avoidance."

IT dashboard getting data facelift

Along those lines, the budget states, OMB also will improve the IT dashboard with all new data schema and historical trend data, building on the recommendations of an interagency working group and providing even greater transparency into the federal IT investment portfolio.

The administration stated in the budget the IT dashboard will be more targeted and detailed data on major IT development activities will allow closer oversight, and assist agency leaders and CIOs in intervening early to prevent schedule delays, cost overruns and failures to deliver key functionality needed by federal programs.

VanRoekel said OMB also will request $16.7 million for the E-Government Fund for 2013, down from a $34 million request for 2012. He said this money would be used for longer-term projects to improve how the government uses technology.

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