OMB to agencies: fix it or suffer the consequences

The Office of Management and Budget plans to add some bite to its bark. Administration officials yesterday told lawmakers that agencies must face tougher consequences if they do not meet project performance measures or fail to fix IT security or project management problems with their business cases.

'We need to put more teeth into it,' OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson told members at a hearing of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.

'This is something we need to do,' Johnson said. 'Agencies need to have a clear definition of where they want to be and when they should get there.'

He added that he met last week with Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, to figure out how to increase agency accountability.

The main method by which OMB holds agencies' feet to the fire is by controlling the release of project funding.

OMB requires agencies to submit plans on how to fix security or other problems with their business cases by specific dates before spending the following year's funds, Evans said. The administration put 621 projects with budgets totaling $22 billion on a management watch list for missing at least one of three major requirements: IT security, a qualified full-time project manager or defined performance measures.

'When you stop a project in mid-development, you are fixing to have a wrestling match with the agency,' Johnson said.

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee, said agencies likely would get the message after only one or two instances of OMB stopping projects or pulling funding.

'This is a legitimate issue that OMB has the authority to do, but you can't get your arms around the problem,' Putnam said. 'That is a little disappointing.'

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