OMB's budget theme continues: Do more with less
Agencies face fiscal 2008 with a challenge to get more value from past IT spending
2008 budget would give booster shot to health IT
The Bush administration will push to improve existing information technology programs, but it has proposed few major new IT investments in its fiscal 2008 budget request. Industry officials immediately criticized the budget, saying it will force federal contractors to adjust to a spending climate in which agencies must do more with the IT they have. The budget attributes the decrease in new investments to better capital planning and reduced duplication.
President Bush proposed greater spending increases for defense, energy, health IT and information security, which are administration priorities.
The president’s request would increase total IT spending to $65.5 billion, a 2.7 percent increase compared with his $63.8 billion request for fiscal 2007, according to budget documents from the Office of Management and Budget.
The Defense Department’s request for $31.4 billion for IT spending represents a 2.1 percent increase, or an additional $650 million, compared with its fiscal 2007 IT budget request. Civilian agencies’ overall average IT increase is 3 percent, totaling $34.1 billion.
Slightly more than half of the civilian agencies requested larger IT budgets than they did for fiscal 2007. The departments of Defense, Treasury, and Health and Human Services would receive the largest dollar-figure increases. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would receive one of the largest percentage increases if Congress enacts the budget proposal.
“These are investments that are supporting the priorities going forward,” said Karen Evans, administrator of e-government and IT at OMB, at a budget briefing last week.Presidential priorities
In his State of the Union address, Bush said the government needs to reduce health care costs and medical errors with better IT and encourage price transparency. Evans said the president’s fiscal 2008 budget request would let federal agencies invest $5.3 billion in health IT.
The president, who said he wants the country to develop alternative energy sources, requested a 45.5 percent funding increase for the NRC, from $94 million to $137 million. All of NRC’s 14 project business cases are on OMB’s Management Watch List. Evans said those projects are not having problems, but they are on the list because they are important.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he is pleased with the administration for ending duplicative programs and emphasizing information security.
Davis said he supports the administration’s initiatives to increase data privacy protection and stop security breaches.Industry perspective
Davis was more positive than industry officials about the president’s budget. Several officials said the budget proposal is merely recycled paper because it offers few new initiatives and minimizes IT spending. Bush’s budget proposal would force federal contractors to focus on helping agencies do more with the IT they already have.
“The key now is managing your IT resources,” said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. Contractors have to adjust, he said.
Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc., said the proposed budget is good for businesses that can introduce cost-saving technologies, but it is not so good for companies supporting systems that will be shut down.