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Belt-tightening prevents long-term plans for federal managers

The current fiscal era can be downright scary to all government employees, and budget uncertainty is paralyzing the federal government’s effort to move forward and look for efficiencies, according to a former Agriculture Department official.

“The environment is so unstable that federal managers are afraid to make long-term commitments because of ceilings and spending caps, short-term appropriations and fear of sequestration -- they don’t know which way to turn,” said John Ortego, president of Ortego & Associates and former director of USDA’s National Finance Center.

The inability to predict their own appropriations for the next two years has led to many CIOs and CFOs to go into survival mode, Ortego said. 

Ortego and officials from Commerce Department and the Office of Management and Budget participated in a May 10 keynote presentation organized by 1105 Media, the parent company of Federal Computer Week.

The focus of the panel was CFO and CIO perspective on current IT trends that had emerged in the belt-tightening era, and included a discussion on legacy systems and how to determine when to retire them.

Scott Quehl, CFO and assistant secretary of administration at Commerce, acknowledged how his agency in the last two decades had had some major stumbling blocks in the area of systems acquisition.

The agency now has a new acquisition policy that addresses major  IT systems acquisitions, Quehl said, and its FY14 budget guidance calls on Commerce bureaus to identify top 50 projects that meet certain thresholds.

The bureaus also have to review whether a siloed approach to risk management makes sense and determine what projects need to be canceled or need more doubling-down in terms of funding, he said.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on May 10, 2012 at 12:19 PM


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