Funding cuts could signal concerns for cloud computing

Senate Committee funds technology to engage citizens, cautious about spending on the cloud

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently voted to reduce fiscal 2011 spending on key Obama administration information technology initiatives, including e-government and cloud computing.

However, senate appropriators boosted fiscal 2011 spending for federal agencies to share innovative Web services, according to a report in NextGov.

In its spending bill (S. 3677) passed on July 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee provided $40 million to develop a shared set of online applications that would fulfill obligations laid out in a December 2009 presidential directive on transparency, according to the report by Aliya Sternstein. The line item, called the Integrated, Efficient and Effective Uses of Information Technology, would fund activities such as using technology to engage citizens in policymaking and for agencies to collaborate throughout all levels of government, Sternstein reported.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), cut by $10 million the White House’s request for $50 million to fund the program. Committee members say $40 million is a sufficient amount to initiate the program during fiscal year 2011, according to a committee report accompanying the bill.

 


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“The committee is pleased with the proposed initiative and welcomes the comprehensive, innovative approach to modernizing and streamlining common information technology services within the federal government,” the report states. “The committee reminds the Executive Office of the President, however, that the committee expects to be regularly apprised of how government-wide efforts under the IEEUIT affect agency-specific projects and missions on a case-by-case basis."

Senators designated only $20 million of the president's $35 million request to consolidate IT infrastructure through remote computing, Sternstein reported. The White House asked for the funding to start replacing federal data centers with a cloud computing model, in which agencies access software and hardware online through a third party rather than using in-house servers.

The senators’ proposed appropriations are a sign that Congress is concerned with the amount of thought the administration has put in to the transition, according to the committee report.

Senate appropriators say they support the Office of Management and Budget plans for fiscal 2011 spending, such as moving agencies to cloud computing through shared pilots and developing shared services. But the e-gov request lacked detail and clearly defined information regarding specific requests, the report stated.

Senate appropriators also voted to cut the General Services Administration's fiscal 2011 request for the Office of Governmentwide Policy by $7.5 million, to $77.6 million, FierceGovernment IT’s David Perera reported.

However, appropriators voted to fully fund the National Archives and Records Administration request of $348.7 million for fiscal 2011, which is $8.9 million more than the current fiscal year amount. Three million dollars of the NARA budget should be used to fund the Office of Government Information Services, Perera reported.

OGIS began operations in September 2009 and provides services to mediate disputes between Freedom of Information Act requesters and federal agencies, as well as reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance, Perera reported.

The House Appropriations Committee has not acted on the fiscal 2011 IT budget for the general government yet.

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