Agencies forge ahead with financial overhauls

Four departments are plunging ahead with plans to overhaul financial systems, even though project leaders have no assurance of funding and the Office of Management and Budget has designated such systems targets for consolidation next year.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior and Justice departments, and NASA plan to spend a combined total of more than $100 million this year and more than $500 million between now and 2007, when the overhauls are supposed to be completed.

'When the '03 budget surfaces, we'll see exactly where we stand,' said Mark Greenstein, director of Justice's United Financial Management System Project Office. He spoke last month to more than 300 vendors at a meeting of the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. Congress passed the 2003 budget last week.

Greenstein said Justice, which has hired Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., for management support, would roll out a new financial system first at the FBI by October 2004. Under the schedule, all Justice agencies would deploy the system by October 2007.

A request for quotes for commercial software was set to go out this month, Greenstein said, and an award will be made by the end of May via a task order against a General Services Administration IT Schedule contract. He estimated Justice's 2003 costs for the overhaul at $20 million and predicted the project would cost $200 million through 2007.

Priority for NASA

Of the speakers from the four agencies, only NASA's Michael Mann, director of integrated financial management programs, said he is flush with money. 'Every budget cycle I get money thrown at me,' Mann said. He called the overhaul of NASA's financial systems 'the highest-priority project in the agency.'

In part because the project has never missed a deadline, and in part because his program has enough money, Mann said, 'I go to sleep every night thinking, 'Acceleration.' '

NASA has already spent $180 million developing its core system and expects to spend roughly $80 million this year extending the system from two centers where it is deployed to the agency's remaining eight centers by June, Mann said.

Debra Sonderman, director of Interior's Office of Acquisition and Property Management, said the department would be hiring a systems integrator this spring to help it choose commercial software. She said her office was hoping for $14 million in modernization funds next year and expected the overhaul to cost $110 million over five years.

Terry Ouverson, acting director for systems planning and integration, said EPA would use a combination of commercial software and updates of legacy custom applications to bring its financial systems up to date. The agency has hired Titan Corp. of San Diego to help it with the project. EPA expects to spend $9 million in the current fiscal year and between $65 million and $70 million by 2007, he said.

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