Fed's Efforts to Boost IT Project Success Could Become Victim of Budget Cuts

Ann All

It's kind of ironic. The federal government's effort to cut costs through better management of its IT projects might become a victim of cost cutting.


While Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) earlier this week introduced a bipartisan bill mandating increased oversight over troubled IT projects, Congress will vote today on a continuing resolution that would eliminate much of the budget for such efforts.


As I wrote last month, federal CIO Vivek Kundra wants government agencies to provide regular updates on how well they are implementing the Office of Management and Budget's 25-point federal IT reform plan.


As InformationWeek reports, the Obama administration requested $34 million for an electronic government fund and $50 million for the Integrated, Efficient, and Effective Uses of Information Technology fund. But the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution introduced in the House of Representatives over the weekend would allot just $8 million for electronic government and nothing for the other fund.


The e-government fund supports websites like USASpending.gov, the IT Dashboard and data.gov, where the government posts details on government spending and thousands of other data sets about everything from geography to health care to wild horses. The Integrated, Efficient, and Effective Uses of Information Technology fund would be used to increase the scale of TechStat project review sessions, the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative and the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, all of which are part of the IT reform plan.


The OMB uses the IT Dashboard to select projects for TechStat reviews. While earlier Government Accountability Office reports were somewhat critical of the IT Dashboard, David Power, the GAO's director of Information Technology Management Issues, said in a Federal News Radio interview that the dashboard is "clearly a huge movement in the right direction."


Even with data "not as accurate as we'd like," the dashboard offers the most transparency to date into the federal government's 800 IT projects and gives "a good feel" of the health and status of projects, Power said in the interview.


Kundra is a proponent of the 60-minute TechStat reviews, which the OBM has been conducting since January 2010. I cited an earlier source that mentioned four projects had been canceled and some funding withdrawn from 10 others after 58 reviews. Power's numbers were different, but only slightly. He said four projects were canceled and another 11 restructured after 50 reviews. Whatever the numbers, according to Kundra the reviews have resulted in $3 billion in IT savings.


Both Power and the InformationWeek article mention that OMB is training individual agencies to conduct their own TechStat reviews. According to InformationWeek, 129 agency representatives have been trained, 23 agencies have conducted their first TechStat session, and more than 1,000 people have downloaded a TechStat toolkit.


Power told Federal News Radio there are at least 250 federal IT projects that should probably receive a TechStat review, thanks to their "yellow" or "red" status on the IT Dashboard.


Some aspects of the broader IT reform plan could get funding from other sources. According to InformationWeek, the FedRAMP cloud security authorization project will move to the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service.

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