Despite laggards, more agencies heed OMB cybersecurity message

Clay Johnson, OMB Deputy Directory for Management

President's Management Agenda helps feds use IT in more disciplined way as part of e-gov strategy

When agencies moved more slowly to secure their IT systems than the Office of Management and Budget expected, administration officials responded with disgust and impatience.

'We told them they were pathetic,' said Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management. 'There is no excuse why agencies do not have 90 percent of their systems secure. It is a case of priority, attention and commitment.'

OMB's wrist-slap has had some effect. Agencies have made significant systems security improvements in recent months.

About 70 percent of federal IT systems have been certified and accredited as secure'which administration officials say illustrates the success of the President's Management Agenda.

Johnson said the agenda has helped agencies focus on cybersecurity as part of the overall e-government strategy. And it has emphasized improvement in the four other administration priorities: human capital, competitive sourcing, financial management, and budget and performance integration.

OMB earlier this month issued a report, The Federal Government is Results Oriented, to tout agency progress in meeting PMA goals after three years.

'I met with the President's Management Council and briefed the president about what the agencies have accomplished,' Johnson said. 'I told him what we were accomplishing was going to have the most lasting effect of any more recent management agendas.'

OMB is tracking 26 agencies' efforts to meet the administration's management goals. Each quarter for the last three years, OMB has graded their efforts to meet criteria in each area, using a stoplight system.

Green means an agency has met all the standards for success, yellow means it has met some and red means serious problems. OMB grades each agency on its overall status and on its progress in implementing the agenda items. On the latest scorecard, agencies showed marked improvement. There were 27 green scores and 54 yellow scores out of 130 total grades. The first scorecard, issued in June 2002, awarded two green scores and 19 yellows.

'There are a lot of agencies not yet at green, and those at green need to take it to another level,' Johnson said. 'We expect their abilities to manage and reduce costs to become better over time.'

OMB also is adding tasks to the agenda. Earlier this year, it told agencies they would be graded on how well they eliminated improper payments and improved their management of real property under the budget and performance agenda, Johnson said.

'Our big priority is to make all projected benefits real,' he said. 'We want to show what improvements have been realized or not over the next year.'

Johnson said OMB expects to save $24 billion for each percentage point of overall increased efficiency.

The report said agencies are using IT to improve programs and no longer buy technology for its own sake. Better use of technology means that more IT systems are secure, have their performance validated by metrics, and are meeting at least 90 percent of cost and schedule goals.

OMB said 70 percent of agency IT systems are secure versus 26 percent three years ago; 72 percent of agencies have mechanisms to validate performance on cost, schedule and performance goals; and about 50 percent meet at least 90 percent of their cost and schedule goals.

Only five federal units'the Smithsonian Institution and the departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Veterans Affairs'have not accredited at least 50 percent of their systems as secure. OMB set a goal of having at least 80 percent of all IT systems secured by December 2003.

Despite missing that goal, the current status is an 8 percent improvement since March, when OMB reported to Congress that agencies had accredited only 62 percent of their systems.

OMB administrator for e-government and IT Karen Evans 'has worked with the agencies that lagged to develop an action plan' to meet the 80 percent goal, Johnson said.

Only three agencies'HUD, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Smithsonian'did not have at least 50 percent of their IT business cases accepted by OMB.

In the competitive-sourcing category, agencies spent $87.6 million in fiscal 2003 to complete 662 competitions. OMB estimated competitive sourcing will save the government $1.1 billion over the next three to five years. Nine agencies did not complete any competitive-sourcing studies, while Agriculture completed the most, 400.

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