2006: Flat funding, with strings attached

House Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis led the push to get funding bills completed by the July recess.

Lawmakers rein in large IT projects, e-gov and competitive sourcing

Lawmakers are applying additional restrictions and greater oversight on large IT and e-government projects in the fiscal 2006 agency spending bills making their way through Congress.

Legislators also continue to limit funding for the administration's push to compete federal jobs with the private sector at some agencies, including the Interior Department, the Agriculture Department's Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The House has completed nine of its 11 spending bills. The Senate has moved more slowly, with the Senate Appropriations Committee having approved seven spending bills. Lawmakers are out of town this week for the July 4th recess. The House and Senate will ultimately have to reconcile their separate visions of bills.

Losing control

Facing tight budgets'projected appropriations for next year are close to the same as this year'the Senate Appropriations Committee is concerned about agencies' ability to manage requirements for large IT projects.

'Agencies lose control of this process,' said a senior Republican staff member.

The staff member cited IRS modernization programs, despite its progress over the last year in releasing the first version of its new taxpayer database, the Customer Account Data Engine. 'We've seen it with huge cost overruns almost across the board,' the staff member said.

As a result, lawmakers have, in several bills, directed agencies to seek their approval or report to them about progress on large IT projects, such as modernization at IRS and the FBI's latest case management system project.

Funding for competitive sourcing studies continues to be vexing.

'There is a philosophical battle here about what is uniquely governmental as opposed to what can be contracted out. That's a gray area,' the staff member said.

It has to do with jobs in members' states, but it also has to do with efficiencies in government. 'You don't want to pay, especially with tight budgets, more than you're paying now for government workers,' the staff member said.

Contracting out work can sometimes create additional layers of bureaucracy that negate the cost benefit. That information is difficult to track.

'Oftentimes it seems they haven't done adequate studies to make sure you're getting your cost benefit out of it. Then it just becomes philosophy as opposed to practicality. Practicality needs to win out at the end of the day,' the staff member said.

Here is how major IT projects are faring in recent spending bills for 2006:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies

FY 05 Enacted:$16.8 billion

FY 06 Request:$16.7 billion

House HR 2744 recommends:$16.8 billion

Senate Appropriations recommends: $17.4 billion

The House bill restricts use of funds for competitive sourcing relating to rural development or farm loan programs without congressional approval.

The bill earmarks $124.6 million for shared systems and services for the department's continued Common Computing Environment, which will modernize the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Farm Service and Rural Development at the county office level.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive $33.3 million toward its animal identification systems to help prevent mad cow and other disease breakouts.

Science/State/Justice/Commerce

FY 05 Enacted$56.2 billion

FY 06 Request$60.5 billion

House HR 2862 recommends$57.5 billion

Senate Appropriations (excluding State) recommends$52.4 billion

Justice:

FY 05 Enacted $20.6 billion

FY 06 Request$20.3 billion

FY 06 House bill recommends$21.4 billion

Commerce:

FY 05 Enacted$6.65 billion

FY 06 Request$9.6 billion

FY 06 House bill recommends$5.8 billion

Science:

FY 05 Enacted$21.7 billion

FY 06 Request$22.1 billion

FY 06 House bill recommends$22.1 billion

State:

FY 05 Enacted$10.7 billion

FY 06 Request$9.8 billion

FY 06 House bill recommends $9.5 billion

Related Agencies:

FY 05 Enacted$3.3 billion

FY 06 Request$2.2 billion

FY 06 House bill recommends$2.2 billion

The House bill provides $135 million for Justice Information Sharing Technology, $46.5 million below the president's request.

The systems include the Joint Automated Booking System, the Justice Consolidated Office Network, the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program, Public Key Infrastructure and Secure Communications, Case Management Common Solutions for litigating components, the Automated Biometric Identification System/Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the management and administrative costs of Justice's CIO office.

Justice must submit a report on its plans for implementing the Federal Investigation Case Management System, a common IT case management architecture. The bill provides $17 million toward strengthening IT program management in the Office of the CIO.

The bill does not provide new funding in 2006 for the FBI's new case management system after the failure of its Virtual Case Files program. Lawmakers expect the FBI to submit by Aug. 1 a request to redirect funds to the new system and then provide regular updates on the status of the replacement system.

Also, the bill requires that State, Justice, Commerce and the related agencies seek lawmakers' approval for starting, stopping, reorganizing and contracting out e-government projects, such as the Small Business Administration's Business Gateway project, the one-stop shop for business owners. 'The committee is not convinced that there is justification for this and other e-government investments,' the bill said.

Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies

FY 05 Enacted$79.3 billion

FY 06 Request$84.1 billion

House HR 2528 recommends$85.2 billion

After the failure of the Core Financial and Logistics System last year and a critical report on the agency's next large IT project, HealtheVet, lawmakers cut $383 million from the administration's request for a $385.7 million increase in VA IT spending, leaving VA $11 million from other sources in the IT budget for a feasibility and planning study.

The bill also could cut $40 million for the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture legacy hospital system, which HealtheVet is expected to modernize. Lawmakers also shaved $30 million from the CoreFLS project and from VA's computing infrastructure.

Interior Department, Environment and Related Agencies

FY 05 Enacted$27 billion

FY 06 Request$25.7 billion

House HR 2361 recommends$26.2 billion

Senate Appropriations recommends $26.3 billion

Lawmakers continue to limit competitive sourcing. Interior can spend up to $3.45 million to initiate or continue competitive sourcing studies in 2006. The legislation also restricts the Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department, to $2.5 million for competitive sourcing studies. Any report on competitive sourcing studies must detail all the costs, including outside consultants, contractors and training.

Both House and Senate versions restrict funding for the departments' e-gov projects, such as SAFECOM and Disaster Management, and competitive sourcing, actions the White House objected to in two Statements of Administration Policy.

'The administration has adopted a reasoned approach for ensuring the fair and effective application of competiion,' the statement said. The statement also said competitive sourcing would improve agency program management. Disaster responders would lose a critical tool in responding to incidents, such as wildland fires, without the government-wide project.

Lawmakers also said in the bill's report that significant funding has been dedicated to IT improvements, enterprise services and implementing portions of the President's Management Agenda without a well- thought-out approach to addressing requirements. 'Funds should not be taken from all agencies to provide centralized funding for the various lead agencies,' the report said. Funding for governmentwide initiatives should be requested and managed by each lead agency.

Lawmakers also reduced by $2.1 million the request for management efficiencies, IT certification and accreditation and e-government initiatives. The bill also prohibits the use of funds for SAFECOM and Disaster.gov activities, two of the Quicksilver projects, instead using those funds to cover shortfalls of other programs.

The bill recommends $47.1 million for enterprise information activities at the U.S. Geological Survey. But it refused to transfer funds to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster management e-gov initiative.

Energy and Water Development

FY 05 Enacted$29.9 billion

FY 06 Requested$29.7 billion

House HR 2419 recommends$29.8 billion

Senate Appropriations recommends $31.2 billion

For the Army Corps of Engineers

FY 05 Funding$5.0 billion

FY 06 Request$4.3 billion

FY 06 House bill$4.8 billion

For Interior's Bureau of Reclamation

FY 05 Funding$1.0 billion

FY 06 Request$951 million

FY 06 House bill$1.0 billion

For Energy:

FY 05 Funding$24.4 billion

FY 06 Request$24.2 billion

FY 06 House bill$24.3 billion

Lawmakers have applied a new performance-based system to the Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program to focus limited resources on completion of high- value projects and stopping work on lower- value projects. The bill also reduces competitive sourcing and e-gov initiatives by $2.5 million from the budget request, since the appropriators said adequate funds exist and there is insufficient justification for more.

Lawmakers increased funding for the Energy Information Administration within the Energy Department by $500,000 above the $86.4 million for cybersecurity measures to safeguard its computer systems and data integrity.

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments, and Related Agencies

FY 05 Enacted$143.5 billion

FY 06 Request$141.9 billion

FY 06 House Bill Recommends$143 billion

Labor:

FY 05 Enacted$12.1 billion

FY 06 Request$11.6 billion

FY 06 House Bill Recommends$11.7 billion

HHS:

FY 05 Enacted$63.8 billion

FY 06 Request$62.5 billion

FY 06 House Bill Recommends$63.2 billion

Education:

FY 05 Enacted$56.6 billion

FY 06 Request$56.2 billion

FY 06 House Bill Recommends $56.7 billion

Related Agencies:

FY 05 Enacted$11.05 billion

FY 06 Request$11.6 billion

FY 06 House Bill Recommends$11.5 billion

The bill funds $75 million for HHS' nationwide health IT initiatives, $50 million of which is for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to bring together organizations to develop standards for IT certification procedures, to develop electronic information architecture and to test privacy standards to be able to share patient's health information.

Funding for counterterrorism and bioterrorism programs increased by $188 million to $2.4 billion for preparedness of federal, state and local public health officials to respond to both terrorist and public health emergencies.

The bill provides $24.2 million to be available for two years for CMS' efforts to improve Medicare management, specifically IT to modernize Medicare fee-for-service claims processing, modernization of the data environment and reduction of the CMS security perimeter.

The bill eliminated any support for HHS' IT security and innovation fund for HHS enterprisewide investments, such as for common IT infrastructure services and security and infrastructure to enable common administrative systems.

Lawmakers said they have targeted almost $67 million for this over the past four years, in addition to the substantial contributions made by HHS agencies.

The bill provides $29.8 million for Labor's departmentwide IT crosscut, the same as the previous year and the budget request. Lawmakers commend the department for streamlining its IT infrastructure into a single, uniform system and encourages the department effort.

Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development departments, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia and Independent Agencies

FY 05 Comparable: $63.2 billion ($18.4 billion mandatory)

FY 06 Request:$60.7 billion

FY 06 House Appropriations recommends $66.9 billion ($19.0 billion mandatory)

Transportation:

FY 05 Enacted$13.7 billion

FY 06 Request$11.8 billion

FY 06 House Appropriations recommends $13.8 billion

Treasury:

FY 05 Enacted$11.2 billion

FY 06 Request$11.7 billion

FY 06 House Appropriations recommends $11.6 billion

Housing and Urban Development

FY 05 Enacted$36.1 billion

FY 06 Request$33.3 billion

FY 06 House Appropriations recommends $37.6 billion

The bill provides the General Services Administration $3 million for e-gov projects, slightly more than last year. It does not include a provision proposed last year that would allow the Office of Management and Budget to use $40 million of surplus funds in the general supply fund to finance OMB's list of e-gov initiatives across government.

'The committee refuses to relinquish oversight of the development and procurement of information technology projects of the various agencies under its jurisdiction,' the bill's report said.

If the general supply fund runs a $40 million or greater surplus, GSA should instead re-evaluate the price of its services to agencies. If OMB seeks funding for an initiative under its direction, OMB should request those funds under its own appropriation.

The bill provides slightly less funding for IRS business modernization funding at $199 million and also blocks the IRS from closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers until lawmaker concerns about the proposal's impact on customer service are resolved.

Lawmakers said the administration's plan to close 68 Taxpayer Assistance Centers seems to be 'an ill-conceived initiative driven by budget decisions rather than an exercise in good management and sound customer service.'

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