Obama proposes slight boost for IT spending in 2012

Administration taking on several programs to keep IT projects in line with goals

President Barack Obama today proposed a budget with a 1.9 percent increase in spending on federal IT in fiscal 2012, totaling $79.5 billion as some other proposed spending was largely frozen or cut.

The administration's proposed increase compared with fiscal 2010 levels comes as it has worked to cut spending and eliminate failed IT projects. Officials have tackled problematic IT projects and reduced $3 billion in spending on them. The administration is also taking on several initiatives to keep IT projects successful.

Officials plan to align budget cycles and buying time to purchase IT because agencies now struggle with an appropriations process that can take years while technology moves much faster.

The administration wants to reconstruct agencies’ investment review boards to help streamline operations and hold officials accountable. The IT Investment Review Boards will be remade as vehicles for effective governance, officials said.


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Starting in fiscal 2012, the administration will shift to a “cloud-first” policy. Agencies will be required to adopt cloud-based solutions whenever a suitable cloud option exists. Officials want to move away from custom-built IT systems, according to the proposed budget.

The administration also told agencies to develop an evidence-based culture when reviewing programs and said officials must begin to make decisions about programs and policies using information collected in a timely and consistent way. Officials must use data-driven reviews of their programs, and the reviews will help agencies stay on course to reach their highest-priority goals.

“Government works better when organizational leaders identify a limited number of clear, measurable and ambitious goals and regularly review progress toward them,” the budget states.

To help solve problems, officials need to establish stronger networks by contacting experts in related fields, such as through the online ExpertNet wiki, the budget states.

More broadly, the budget would freeze domestic spending for the next five years, and Obama proposed to again freeze salaries for federal employees “because everyone has to do their part,” he president said in his weekly address.

The budget contains more than 200 terminations, reductions and cost savings that would total more than $33 billion for fiscal 2012. Half of all agencies would see their top line reduced from 2010 enacted levels.

Obama has proposed cuts of more than $2 billion in administrative overhead, such as travel, printing, supplies and advisory contract services.

Of course, Obama’s budget is just a proposal because Congress authorizes the spending. However, the budget proposal sets the administration’s agenda and priorities for the years ahead and lay outs points where Congress and the administration will have to negotiate.

“We need to do this on a bipartisan basis," Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in an online video recorded last weekend. "There is no one side that has all the answers."

While Obama looks to cut back on government spending, House Republicans last week offered their own proposed cuts they plan to add to a continuing resolution, which will keep the federal agencies running through September.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 Tod Tompkins

The budget proposal laid out by the White House takes a hard look at unproven IT investments, particularly those that deal with legacy system modernization. What’s clear is that the Administration will no longer tolerate modernization projects that continue to run over time and budget.

Moving forward we can expect to see agencies applying new evidence-based strategies to reduce the costs, risks and durations of these types of projects. In this new environment, application modernization technology will certainly play a much larger role, as it allows agencies to migrate their viable legacy applications onto new platforms for cost savings and modern capabilities – all without having to significantly alter these applications.

This migration strategy, made possible by application modernization, is a low-cost, low-risk, evidence-based ROI method that is already helping agencies execute modernization projects in months, not years. In fact, many agencies have successfully implemented self-funded migration projects thanks to the immediate ROI that is realized.

Tod Tompkins, Vice President, Micro Focus Federal Government

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