Education Department has big plans in 2006

Education Department officials are expecting a busy fiscal 2006, even though there still is a month left in 2005.

Marguerite Raaen, the department's deputy CIO and chief technology officer, said last week that at least four requests for proposals for IT systems are in the works. A new system to give agency analysts more information about how school systems spend federal money will come online as well, and several back-office initiatives will come to fruition over the next 12 months.

Raaen, who spoke at a breakfast sponsored in Falls Church, Va., by the market research firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va., said Education quietly has made a lot of progress in improving its IT systems over the past year, and in 2006 these advancements will continue.

'Our enterprise architecture, for instance, earned the fourth-highest score from the Office of Management and Budget,' she said. 'That is a big improvement. And our information assurance also is better than it ever has been.'

Raaen, who came to Education in June from the National Cancer Institute, said agency employees will see an improved network performance after Education awarded a $176 million contract to Computer Sciences Corp. earlier this summer. Education also will have more storage for e-mail and phone messages and plans to move its data center to Oxon Hill, Md.

In addition to these planned back-office improvements, Raaen said Education is planning a procurement for network security in 2006 and another for a data warehouse.

'The data warehouse will be a mechanism to correlate unrelated data sets to provide new views at a reduced cost and less amount of time,' Raaen said.

Education rolled out the E-Monitoring application in 2004 in part to do that, and will add an E-Drawdown application next year as well. E-Monitoring lets Education personnel view grants data and track fiscal and programmatic progress of each award at their desktop. E-Drawdown will give agency officials insight into how much funding grantees have used on their projects.

Raaen said improving the agency's lifecycle management and moving Education to Level 3 of Carnegie Mellon's Capability Maturity Model Integration from Level 0 are among her other priorities.

The department also will release RFPs for two other large procurements by the end of September, Input estimated. One is for its virtual data center and could be worth about $60 million. The other is for a migrant student information exchange that will develop a process to link existing state databases containing student records.

Input said that even with all these planned and ongoing activities, Education's IT infrastructure budget is about 20 percent of its total budget'which is about 10 percent to 15 percent less than most agencies.

While Raaen is the permanent deputy CIO and CTO, Michell Clark has been named the acting CIO and assistant secretary for management. Clark replaced Bill Leidinger, who retired in July. Clark has been the deputy assistant secretary for management for the last two years and worked with IBM Corp. and PriceWaterhouseCoopers before joining the government.

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