Panels suggest new approach to IT consolidation
Governmentwide task forces assigned to review opportunities to consolidate three additional categories of federal information technology systems have made recommendations that mark a departure from efforts undertaken so far as part of the Bush administration's lines of business initiative.
The task forces, launched by the Office of Management and Budget earlier this year, are recommending the adoption of uniform governmentwide standards in the three new areas, rather than the creation of more shared service centers, government officials close to the matter told Government Executive.
The service center concept has been the main focus of OMB's other attempts at IT consolidation through its lines of business initiatives. This approach is being used to streamline financial management and human resources systems, for example.
One government official, who requested anonymity, said the task forces are simply recommending actions that conform to the reality of the new types of systems being considered for consolidation. These are budget formulation and evaluation systems, geospatial information systems and IT infrastructure.
Other officials disagreed. "I think it's a realization that Congress would never allow it to happen and the agencies don't want to fight that battle," said another government official, who also requested anonymity.
The recommendations from the three latest lines of business task forces state that a new set of standards would maintain consistency among agencies' backend IT infrastructures. This would allow for better performance data and targeting of savings, officials said.
"The idea [of] creating a shared service center … doesn't work in every case," said the first government official.
OMB has yet to decide whether it will adopt the recommendations, officials said.
Previous lines of business task forces have recommended that agencies shut down their IT systems and move to purchasing services from a handful of shared providers, known as centers of excellence. These providers could be approved government agencies or private sector businesses.
The new recommendations, released on Sept. 11 and subject to review by OMB's deputy director for management in mid-October, will not be made public until the February release of the president's fiscal 2008 budget request. Agencies will receive management and budget guidance around Thanksgiving.
Last year, agencies began competitively selecting providers for their human resources and financial management services. They have been asked to eventually shut down their financial management, human resources and grants management systems in favor of centralized providers.
Governmentwide migration to financial management providers is expected to be complete by 2015, and OMB officials have said that the combined savings of consolidating financial management and human resources systems will amount to $5 billion over 10 years.