OMB halts more technology projects at agencies
The Office of Management and Budget has halted nearly $150 million in technology projects dealing with management systems at agencies slated to move into the new Homeland Security Department, OMB Director Mitch Daniels announced in a memorandum Tuesday.
The move comes less than two weeks after OMB froze funds for IT infrastructure projects worth more than $500,000 at agencies scheduled to join the new department.
The new order applies to agencies' computerized management systems, specifically in the areas of financial management, human resources and procurement. The agencies are investing money in redundant systems, Daniels said in his memo, and the administration wants to eliminate those overlaps in the new department. For example, the agencies slated to move into the new department all use different financial management systems, Daniels said. Seven of the agencies plan to invest more than $235 million in at least 21 such systems, according to an OMB analysis. OMB estimates that the government could save between $65 million and $85 million over the next three years by consolidating those projects, Daniels said. Agencies must also now reconsider their decisions to fund existing technology projects. Those decisions were made before President Bush proposed the new department, Daniels noted. The technology projects halted Tuesday will be reviewed by a board made up of OMB officials, the chief information officers from the agencies that will be merged into the new Homeland Security Department and officials from the White House Office of Homeland Security. The Homeland Security Business Systems IT Review Group, led by former Treasury Department CIO Jim Flyzik, is already reviewing agency plans to build such new technology infrastructures as data networks. OMB halted those projects on July 19. Ultimately, President Bush envisions building a secure, collaborative network that all the agencies would connect to, according to his national homeland security strategy. The review board met for the first time last week, according to Ronald Miller, the CIO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one of the agencies that would move into the new Homeland Security Department. Miller, a member of the new review board, said agencies are now conducting an inventory of all their technology assets to determine how to standardize them with the other agencies. For example, if 90 percent of the agencies were using a particular software product for their e-mail systems, it would make sense to presume that the product would become the standard for the new department, Miller said. "We want to go with what we have," he explained.
Asked when that inventory would be complete, Miller said, "I think [all the security agencies] agree it needed to be completed yesterday." He added that FEMA hopes to complete its inventory by the middle of this week.
Miller also expressed interest in the CIO position in the new Homeland Security Department. "I would very much like to be appointed to that position," he said. The administration has not yet speculated on potential candidates for the job.