New IT spending aimed partly at cybersecurity

The president's proposal to increase funding for federal information technology programs by almost 3 percent over last year's budget request is aimed partly at fortifying cybersecurity, White House Office of Management and Budget officials said Wednesday.

"We were very focused on cybersecurity as we went forward" with the agenda for expanding e-government, Karen Evans, the OMB administrator of e-government and information technology, said at a press briefing. "It's clearly demonstrated by our actions in this past year that our plans and our actions aren't [working] necessarily to the extent that we'd like them to be."

Since May 2006, there have been several data breaches in the federal government, most notably at the Veterans Affairs Department, where a laptop computer containing the personal information of about 26.5 million veterans and active-duty military members was stolen from the home of an agency employee.

The $65 billion IT budget proposal for fiscal 2008 would support the Bush administration's ongoing efforts to work with agencies, inspectors general, the Government Accountability Office and Congress in protecting IT systems within agencies, according to OMB officials.

Evans noted that 88 percent of agencies' IT systems currently are certified and accredited.

"The federal government continues to improve information security performance," the budget said. "However, declines in a few agencies have resulted in a net decrease in overall performance in some areas. Additionally, aspects of IT security such as securing data on removable media remain under-addressed government-wide."

OMB plans to track agencies' progress in taking corrective action with the color-coded scorecards that have become a trademark of the President's Management Agenda. Red means failure, yellow indicates improvement and green signifies adequate implementation.

OMB Associate Director for Management Robert Shea said the agency just celebrated the fifth anniversary of a program performance assessment tool that has been instrumental in IT funding decisions.

It is the "most comprehensive assessment of program performance ever compiled," Shea said. The grading measurements, however, are not indicative of which programs should or should not get funding, he stressed. "Performance information doesn't dictate the answer but should be used for the basis of funding decisions."

The results lend the administration insight into "where programs want to be," Evans said, adding that the details help the e-government program articulate its business cases to Congress. "Information technology for the sake of information technology is useless," she said.

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