White House demands results from IT spending
Citing the inefficiencies in the way the federal government manages information-technology assets, the White House proposed requiring agencies to account for their IT expenditures as part of a $59 billion IT budget for fiscal 2004.
In its 2004 budget analysis, officials at the Office of Management and Budget acknowledged that few of the government's IT investments over the last several years have "significantly improved service to the taxpayer." As a result, President Bush recommended that federal agencies be required to submit explanations for spending on their IT projects next year.
"Let me say that a lot of that [IT spending] is under question and we will not permit it to be spent unless the people running those programs can bring us a business case that shows that it makes sense," OMB Director Mitch Daniels said in a press briefing. "Part of making sense is you get a good return on the dollar, you get more productivity, you get better service to taxpayers. Part of making sense is that it doesn't make more confusion and chaos" in IT systems.
Daniels noted that several technology initiatives, such as the expansion of e-government initiatives, have yielded benefits, including the provision of new services and reduced government operating costs.
"Many of the improvements we made do run across departments," Daniels said. "Pre-tax filing is a one-department step forward but well over 60 percent of Americans will be able to file electronically because of that...These are very important steps forward in terms of bringing government closer to the people as the president proposed."
Yet OMB's analysis also revealed that 771 of 1,400 IT projects that are budgeted for 2004 are designated as "at-risk:" a category of projects that have not demonstrated "sufficient potential for success" or adequate IT security. Projects labeled "at risk" will be unable proceed unless the sponsoring agency can present a credible business case. The budget agency hopes to redirect limited funding towards projects that will deliver "better government performance in critical areas such as the war on terrorism and e-government."
The Bush administration also designated specific funding for a variety of IT initiatives. The Office of Personnel Management, for example, would receive $8 million for several new projects that seek to boost its efficiency in delivering governmentwide services. Additionally, a new federal law to boost e-government will provide $345 million over the next four years to fund IT projects among multiple agencies.
OMB is also linking its budget process with a movement to develop a joint-agency approach to purchasing IT equipment and developing government-wide operations, such as financial management and human resources. The 2004 budget also proposed adding staffers to OMB's e-government office to help develop the Federal Enterprise Architecture, a management initiative that aims to consolidate redundant IT systems throughout federal agencies.