EDITOR'S DESK: Sign of progress
The federal government's $64 billion portfolio of IT investments, proposed in the 2007 fiscal budget, reflects perhaps more than any budget before it the administration's efforts to make information technology a new-age utility.
In many respects, the latest budget is a testament to the progress that has already been made to reduce duplicative IT investments and move toward governmentwide computing.
Two contrasting calculations, found in the budget's analysis report, put that effort into perspective: One is the 10 percent decline in dollar value in 2007 versus 2006 of 'major IT investments'; the other is the steeper drop in the number of investments, which decreased 21 percent. Part of the reduction stems from consolidating business cases. But both figures reflect not only the drive to consolidate common infrastructure, networks and office automation across government; they also reflect the increasing ability to do so.
Together with the push to standardize and share IT across Lines of Business, 2007's portfolio reaffirms an investment strategy bent on moving IT increasingly into the background of day-to-day government operations.
It certainly won't be easy. The size, scope and time frames of hundreds of projects remain hugely ambitious. The upshot, however, is that more IT dollars are going where they belong, to help agencies deliver on their missions. Taken together with plans to boost civilian agency IT spending 5 percent, to $32.1 billion, in 2007, the budget at least suggests the administration's IT investment strategy is headed in the right direction.
That said, many challenges remain. Agencies reported that upwards of 30 percent of their major IT investments lack a qualified project manager. And in many cases, those with project managers must share them with other IT investments. Many agencies, moreover, remain saddled with arduous goals even with the resources they are being given.
Consequently, the vision to make IT as reliable as a dial tone for federal workers, however desirable, remains a long way off.
Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.