OMB still must name business review team

Many agencies slated for the proposed Homeland Security Department have not stopped work on business systems projects despite a July 30 memorandum telling them to do so.

The Office of Management and Budget memo said the administration would designate a Business Systems IT Review Group to analyze redundant financial, procurement and human resources systems with the agencies, but so far no one has been named to the group.

Stephen Colo, the Secret Service's assistant director of administration and chief financial officer, called the plans for the business review group sketchy. He said assessments and inventories of current systems are under way 'to ensure they have the proper data to go forward, but that's being done at the CIO level' and not at OMB.

Lester Diamond, assistant director for IT management issues at the General Accounting Office, said he is surprised they don't use the same group that is analyzing IT infrastructure projects to evaluate the business projects.

In an earlier memo, OMB had asked the would-be Homeland Security Department agencies to halt infrastructure projects and await evaluations by a new Homeland Security IT Investment Review Group. This group has members and has been reviewing infrastructure projects.

In the second memo, OMB laid out a similar course of action for business systems. But 'if the memo is to be believed, it implies specific people. In almost a month, they haven't set it up,' Diamond said.

IT group is a go

The Treasury Department's acting CIO, Mayi Canales, said she is part of the IT Investment Review Group and that group's systems experts are analyzing all potential HSD systems, including business ones, until the second review group is established.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for IT and e-government, explained the delay by saying, 'There are a number of decisions concerning the management of the new department that depend on the outcome of bills before Congress and the functional requirements determined by the transition teams.'

Meanwhile, agencies don't seem to be putting the brakes on their business systems projects.
'We have no halted systems' at Treasury, Canales said.

A Customs Service official, who asked not to be identified, said the OMB memo has not stopped work on any Customs projects either.

The memo ordered the agencies to 'cease temporarily' any business systems development and modernization effort worth more than $500,000, 'pending an expedited review of all component agency investment plans.'

John Kamensky, an Arlington, Va., e-government consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said that just because OMB issues a memo, it doesn't mean things happen as planned.

'We've found that OMB's greatest power is its arbitrary deadlines around the budget,' he said. 'Until you have a deadline driver, you're not going to get any action.'

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