Livin' lean

Thomas R. Temin

It's that time of the year again. Washington's own bestseller, the president's budget proposal, has hit the street, to be eagerly devoured by everyone with a stake in what Uncle Sam spends.

As the outlines of the president's proposed fiscal 2005 budget for IT spending come into sharper focus, there will be elation in some quarters and disappointment in others.

Most of the funding increases will be for specific programs within the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

Once again there will be something like $100 million authorized for e-government projects, and it's likely Congress will once again appropriate only a tiny portion of it.

The budget will loom as a large topic of debate for the fall elections. Like an unwelcome relative, deficits have returned for a long stay.

Members of Congress will be looking for specific items they can tell constituents they axed.

It's not as if e-government projects are bridges, community centers or drug benefits. They have no natural constituency. Politicians can dismiss them to voters, if need be, as bureaucratic gambits.

So what does all this mean to program and IT project managers? Simply that the next year will look a lot like the last three.
  • Whether there is budgetary largesse or not, business cases as explained in your Exhibit 300s will continue to receive extensive scrutiny from overseers at the Office of Management and Budget. Expect too many projects to chase too few dollars. Those in the catbird seat will necessarily be picky.

  • Expect OMB to press for fee-for-service plans to pay for certain projects, as it has for several of the e-gov initiatives, such as e-grants and e-learning.

  • Figure out a strategy for passing the hat, or find ways to share project efforts and costs across agencies. This is culturally difficult for most agencies, but get used to it.

In short, your first job as a project leader will be using all of the tools available to secure resources.

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