Obama wants nearly $80B for IT projects

The administration has proposed only a small increase in IT spending in fiscal 2011

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story was updated to include more information.

President Barack Obama today requested $79.4 billion in spending on information technology projects for fiscal 2011, a 1.2 percent increase from what he proposed in fiscal 2010 and a slight decrease from the $80.6 billion the 2010 budget actually allocated.

The Obama administration has proposed increasing the number of major IT projects. Last fiscal year, the administration proposed handling 781 major IT projects with $40.3 billion. In fiscal 2011, it’s proposing 809 major IT projects at $40.4 billion, according to the budget proposal.

Despite modest increases in the budget request, Obama wants IT efforts related to open government and technology modernization to continue in 2011.

For example, work on the General Service Administration’s Citizen Engagement Platform would continue under the 2011 request. Designed to be a resource for all federal agencies, that platform is a collaboration between GSA and the Office of Management and Budget. It is intended to increase the government’s ability to interact and collaborate with the public and provide a cost-effective way for agencies to access tools and guidance related to engagement.

“The Citizen Engagement Platform will build on pilots launched last year by continuing to identify new technology applications to enable intra-agency and interagency collaboration and create a coordinated process for identifying tools and eliminating the redundant work presently carried out by agencies implementing new social media tools,” the budget request states.

Obama’s request acknowledges that in many cases consumer technology is ahead of the federal government's technology. The request calls for the review of governmentwide information policies, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act and the federal cookies policy, which may need updating or clarifying to allow agencies to use new technologies.

As the government tries to become more transparent, the budget request calls for launching a new tracking tool with daily updates that would provide the public with the ability to see aggregate spending by agency and also by geographic area. Obama also wants a new search engine created that would allow the public to customize information by location, by agency, or by timeframe.

“This innovative development will allow people to have a greater understanding of how their government works, and hold officials accountable for responsible spending decisions,” according the request.

White House officials want to continue rolling out less intensive and less expensive cloud-computing technologies, according to the request. Officials seek to reduce the number and cost of federal data centers, work with agencies to reduce the time and effort required to acquire IT, improve the alignment of technology acquisitions with agency needs and hold providers of IT goods and services accountable for their performance.

To help with governmentwide initiatives, the administration wants $35 million in the Electronic Government Fund, a million-dollar increase from last year's proposal.

Among the multi-agency programs, the request also calls for centralizing IT services for civilian agencies.

“Centralizing federal IT services will reduce duplicative and wasteful spending; reduce facility space usage; increase security; improve service delivery; and reduce energy consumption,” the request states. “It is projected that this approach could prevent billions in increased costs across the federal government over the next few years.”

The administration also laid out more of its objectives for the coming years, including some IT spending that departments would take on.

The Office of Management and Budget plans to release a new a new cybersecurity dashboard this spring “unlocking the value of agen­cy FISMA reporting by presenting the information gathered to agencies’ IT professionals and manage­ment in a timely, comprehensive, and secure manner,” the administration said.

In addition, the administration’s “Analytical Perspectives” document that accompanied the budget said an OMB task force which had devel­oped new, outcome-focused metrics for information security performance for agencies and those metrics would be used for reporting compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. “More frequent reporting, near or at real-time, is imperative for developing situational awareness across the federal enterprise,” the document stated.

The administration also reiterated its commitment to the effort to issue secure, interoperable identification cards to employees under the Homeland Security Presidential Security Directive 12 initiative. As of September, 4.1 million, or 71 percent, of the cards needed had been issued to the federal workforce, the document said. Meanwhile, 3.3 million background investigations, or 57 percent, of those needed had been completed.

Among the Defense Department’s high priorities for the coming two years, officials plan to create the Next Generation of Electronic Record System-Virtual Lifetime Electronic Records by 2012. The administration intends to set up the interagency program for electronically sharing health and benefits data of service members and veterans, according to the budget proposal. DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department have been working jointly in fiscal 2010 on the project.

For fiscal 2011, the administration proposed $81.3 billion in discretionary funds for the Health and Human Services Department, an increase from $79.6 billion in fiscal 2010. That would boost departmental funding by $1.7 billion, or 2.1 percent, according to the figures. HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Information Technology would get $78 million, up from $43 million in fiscal 2010. That office also is in charge of coordinating policies for distribution of more than $2 billion under the economic stimulus law to spur hospitals and doctors to adopt electronic health records and to develop health information exchanges.

That $81.3 billion total includes $6 billion for biomedical research by the National Institutes for Health, focusing on the priority areas of genomics, translational research, science to support health care reform, global health and on revitalizing the biomedical research community. The budget also includes funding for 30 new cancer drug trials and for a catalog of cancer mutations for the 20 most common malignancies, the proposal states.

The budget would also provide $2.5 billion in budget authority for the Food and Drug Administration, an increase from $2.3 billion this year. Priority goals include food safety prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. In the budget, the administration supports the expansion of post-market safety surveillance of medical products along with the FDA’s efforts to make safety data more available and comprehensible, according to the budget proposal.

The budget also would spend more than $400 million to develop next-generation medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Of the $7.65 billion that was appropriated in 2009 to fight swine flu, the government spent approximately $7.3 billion on vaccine development and distribution in 2009 and 2010 and the government is expected to spend $330 million in 2011, according to the document.

Under the proposal, HHS would get an additional $286 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for comparative effectiveness research to improve the quality of patient care.

The VA's IT budget is $3.3 billion, representing no increase in fiscal 2011 in comparison to fiscal 2010. The fiscal 2009 budget for IT was $2.7 billion. Although the budget documents do not provide a reason for the flat budget, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker stopped more than 40 IT projects in 2009 for re-examination.

For the Small Business Administration, this budget requests $18.4 million for the continued modernization of its Loan Management and Accounting System, which involves major upgrades affecting SBA loan programs, offsite data storage, and computing facilities. This mandated project began in fiscal 2006 and is expected to be completed by fiscal 2014.

As the administration takes on these programs, officials have several management strategies to evaluate federal programs for their success. As officials have told Congress, they will use performance information improve programs’ outcomes.

“Agency leaders have set a few high-priority goals and use constructive data-based reviews to keep their organizations on track to deliver on the objectives,” the administration states in its budget proposal.


Reader comments

Tue, Feb 2, 2010

I am glad to see that Information Technology is still being considered a priority. I have grave doubts though that the money is being spent efficiently. I would love to see the exact projects being sponsored and independently evaluate if they are worthwhile and are using 21st century technology. Some of the statements are very general and mean little. You need the best talent possible in Washington DC and not just paying the fat cat consultants $150 to $250 per hour. Guarantee you USA Jobs only aggravates the situation more and frustrates good applicants to give up. USA Jobs needs to be really changed along with ideas where detailed classifications of jobs may be available. The taxpayers' money must be spent for worthwhile implementations and we need to be able to see these by getting Emails just like GCN does. One of the better ideas I believe is the Livermore Laboratory offering centralized secured services for many agencies using a super computer. A great idea to give computing power at lower costs.

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 New London, IA

The above comment from Arlington doesn't make any sense. You say the public needs assurance that the people responsible for spending are being held accountable but that they shouldn't expect a system which allows them, the public themselves, to oversee spending via an open online record? Because the public (generally) doesn't want *and truly doesn't need* all the details that go into every spending decision? Do not give the Government an excuse to turn away from their current path towards transparency. We are slowly heading back in the right direction.

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 Bill Errico Micro Focus

It's good to see the White House recognizes the value in continuing IT efforts related to open government and technology modernization in 2011, despite tight budget decisions. Now is the time to utilize ways to modernize that meet the budget request's desire to "reduce the time and effort required to acquire IT".
As balancing budget constraints with the desire to embrace new technologies becomes the new reality, there is greater urgency to analyze existing environments, test to validate progress, and reuse (where appropriate) proven IT resources. Legacy applications that remain viable within an agency, including COBOL applications, don't have to be a hindrance to progress. They can be an accelerator.

Instead of rewriting or replacing legacy applications, which can be risky, expensive, and time-consuming, modernizing applications can help government tackle large IT projects by breaking them down into smaller, digestible rollouts. With the proper upfront analysis and testing, agencies can literally pick and choose which applications they want to modernize to leverage new technologies like cloud computing. Because application modernization preserves legacy code and business rules, the applications remain unchanged, preserving their inherent value, avoiding interoperability risks, and cutting costs in the here-and-now.

-William Errico, Micro Focus

Mon, Feb 1, 2010

How about openly discussing major initiatives first like Health Care. Voting after everyone has had a week to read the proposed legislation. Once they show they can be honest then spend money on open initiatives.

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 BR Arlington, VA

So the Citizen Engagement Platform wants to build on a pilot that continues to identify new technology applications which will eliminate the redundant work presently carried out by agencies implementing new social media tools. What? We're creating a pilot program that will eliminate redundant work? And later in the article I see that the Obama administration wants to create a search engine that allows the public to have a greater understanding of how the government works and hold officials accountable for responsible spending decisions. What? We already have laws for that; and if people would only DO their jobs and take responsibility for their actions, they would be accountable! The public (generally) doesn't want, and truly doesn't need all the details that go into every spending decision. The public needs assurance that the people responsible for spending ARE being held accountable and action IS taken against the offenders, and not just given a slap on the wrist. Quit wasting my taxes!

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