Tech Roundup

Transparency moves, TRICARE budget shift and CIOs for IT reform.

Transparency Moves

President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal transfers control of, the spending transparency website, from the General Services Administration to the Treasury Department.

The administration plans to give Treasury $5.5 million to manage the site, previously bankrolled by the congressionally mandated e-government fund, which is devoted to using the Internet to improve citizen services and access to public information.

“Treasury will conduct an analysis of the operation and information in USAspending and determine what changes in the medium or long term may be warranted,” a department spokeswoman says. “The collection of governmentwide financial management information is closely aligned with Treasury responsibilities.”

Whether the transfer from GSA to Treasury is good or bad news for transparency advocates is unclear, says Daniel Schuman, policy counsel for the Sunlight Foundation.

Congress envisioned the e-gov fund as a proving ground for technology-driven transparency initiatives, so it’s appropriate that the five-year-old USAspending should move to a permanent home, he says.

On the one hand, Treasury may be seen as a less political home for USAspending than the White House-based Office of Management and Budget; on the other hand, OMB has a better bully pulpit to force agencies to report spending and to make other transparency reforms, he says.

The USAspending transfer may leave more of the e-gov fund for other transparency initiatives such as the federal IT Dashboard, which tracks tech spending.

The president requested $20 million for the e-gov fund this year, but Congress typically appropriates less money than the White House requests.

- Joseph Marks

Budget Shift

The Defense Department has quietly shifted management and oversight of health information technology, including procurements, from the Military Health System and the TRICARE Management Activity, to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense

for acquisition, technology and logistics.

One official said the move reflects frustration among senior Pentagon leaders with MHS’ efforts to procure new health IT systems, both independently and in partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department to develop an integrated electronic heath record. The departments have spent at least $1 billion during the past five years pursuing an integrated system.

The shift is a major blow to MHS and TRICARE. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense panel on April 16 that he had taken personal responsibility for the iEHR and said in late March he had deferred a request for proposals for a new Defense electronic health record because “I didn’t think we knew what the hell we were doing.”

- Bob Brewin

CIOs Support IT Reform

Many government chief information officers think a proposed congressional overhaul that would give them broader authority over how their agencies buy information technology is a “step in the right direction,” according to TechAmerica’s CIO Insights survey.

In congressional testimony, CIOs typically avoid saying whether such budget authority would be helpful. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has said authority over IT spending is less important than CIOs having “a seat at the table” during agency mission discussions.

The survey found 76 percent of IT spending still goes to the operation and maintenance of existing systems, despite attempts to shift more funding to new initiatives.

- Joseph Marks

About That Job Description

In August 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates shut down the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Networks and Information Integration as one small piece of a budget cutting exercise, with a new and improved chief information officer shop taking over many of the tasks once performed by the office.

In late April, Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter sent out a memo that finally got around to transferring the responsibilities and functions of the disestablished Networks and Information Integration Office to the Defense CIO.

That memo clarified that the CIO—currently Teri Takai—will provide policy guidance on cybersecurity and gives her what looks like considerable sway over the IT budgets of the four services.

- Bob Brewin

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