IT spending up 2.1 percent in president's budget

While the budget provides an overall modest increase in IT spending, the changes range widely across individual agencies, from significant cuts to a 22.1 percent bump.

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Editor's note: This article was modified after publication to correct an erroneous figure.

The Obama administration budget for fiscal year 2014 includes a modest increase in overall IT spending. Total outlays are just under $82 billion, with $42.3 billion in civilian-agency IT spending, and $39.5 going to defense IT.

Overall this represents a 2.1 percent uptick in federal IT investments over the 2012 appropriation of $80.2 billion. The government budgeted $80.5 billion under the continuing resolution for FY 2013, but that amount was reduced by the across-the-board cuts under sequestration.

The figures in the administration budget are just proposals, of course. Republicans in the House of Representatives say they do not intend to vote to increase tax revenues, as Obama proposes. But the IT portion of the document doesn't appear to contain any hot-button issues. The slight increase in overall IT spending reflects the administration's agenda to ramp up cybersecurity, use technology to power the use of metrics in rating government performance, and streamline spending on IT across agencies.

The Department of Defense is requesting an almost statistically insignificant increase of $10 million in an IT budget of almost $40 billion. This reflects savings achieved in data center optimization, said U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel on a call with reporters. "It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll see across the whole of federal government," he said.

Cybersecurity tops the administration's IT agenda, with $13 billion related to projects designed to protect government and civilian networks. A new $79 million program is designed to help the Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense departments identify, track, and trace cyberattacks from incident to their origin. The Department of Homeland Security is slated to receive $300 million to establish continuous monitoring of federal networks. The Department of Commerce is slated to receive $85 million to advance the "trusted identities in cyberspace" program. DHS would also receive $5 million toward helping owners and operators of critical infrastructure protect their networks from attack.

Big winners under the plan include the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would see a 22.1 percent increase in IT spending, from $3.16 billion in FY 2012 to $3.89 billion in FY2014, with new funds being tapped to improve claim processing times. DHS is budgeting just over $6 billion for IT, a 9.1 percent increase from FY 2012, with much of the new funding targeted for border enforcement and cybersecurity programs. The Department of Education is slated to spend $621 million on IT, up 10.3% from FY 2012.

Some agencies, however, would take cuts under the proposal. The General Services Administration and Housing and Urban Development would see the steepest declines, at 9.3 percent and 12.3 percent respectively. VanRoekel credited GSA with reducing its IT budget request because of cost savings under PortfolioStat.

The Obama administration is also looking to incubate an analytics shop out of the CIO’s office that will look to identify opportunities for savings and improvements across government departments. With a proposed $14 million in funding, the Data-Driven Innovation effort will look for ways agencies can improve their processes, program results and efficiency. Of that, $6 million of the request would be eligible to be transferred to agencies to implement projects. "We’ll work with agencies to scale out what this evidence-based analysis and agenda can drive for the whole of government," VanRoekel said.

New IT programs set to come online include the FBI's "Next Generation Identification," which integrates photographic recognition techniques, data on distinguishing characteristics like tattoos and scars, and suspect records.

The State Department is slated to reorganize its information infrastructure, giving the agency CIO more authority over the agency's far-flung assets. State is due for a $43 million increase in its IT budget for FY 2014, to total $1.41 billion.

"With information technology at the core of nearly everything the federal government does, we must use IT as a strategic asset and drive cost savings to pay for new and emerging technologies that can fundamentally improve the way government does business and delivers services to the American people," said U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel in an e-mailed statement.

VanRoekel also announced that the PorfolioStat initiative, which tries to streamline IT investment across government agencies, has led to almost $300 million in savings through the first half of the current fiscal year.

Republicans in Congress have suggested that it might be possible to cut as much as a quarter out of the federal IT budget. But VanRoekel didn’t appear concerned about the possibility of drastic cuts, or about changes to the federal IT procurement process under a bipartisan bill backed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which recently passed out of committee. "There’s hardly anything government is doing that’s new that doesn’t involve IT as a core component," VanRoekel said. "We’re at this incredible inflection point. If we invest smartly, we can drive a wave of innovation and value for our country."

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