Buzz of the Week

A budget proposal -- to go, please

It’s February, so it must be budget season again. True to form, the Bush administration will release its fiscal 2009 proposal today. But a few things will be different. First, the Government Printing Office won’t be printing the budget books as it did in the past. If you want a printed version, you have to order it. Second, it is the last year of the Bush administration, so the president’s budget proposal carries less weight than those he submitted during the previous seven years.
If enacted, the federal information technology budget request for fiscal 2009 will rise by more than $4 billion. But in actual appropriation funds, the IT budget will increase by only about $2 billion.

In the White House’s request to Congress, agency IT spending would rise to $70.9 billion, up 6.3 percent from a fiscal 2008 request of $66.4 billion. Congress appropriated $68 billion for 2008, which equates to a 3.8 percent increase when actual and requested dollars are compared.

As with every budget proposal, the 2009 request represents the administration’s recommendations and priorities.

We also know that changes in government take time, so the fiscal 2009 proposal is one of the administration’s last chances to influence agency policies and spending.

To support some of its major policies, the Office of Management and Budget provided Congress for the first time with documented cost savings in 2007 of more than $508 million from 25 e-government and nine lines of business initiatives.

OMB asked agencies to report savings from the LOB and e-government projects in a 2006 memo. Starting in early 2007, agencies submitted their estimated costs for services that would be affected by those 34 initiatives. An administration official said agencies submitted actual costs at the end of 2007, and OMB calculated savings from that.

“We are leveraging costing principles of [Circular] A-76 that everyone seems to understand,” the official said.

With eight months before the start of the new fiscal year, we can only hope lawmakers will get their work done in the months ahead.

The Buzz Contenders

# 2: Ignore earmarks
Federal agencies have instructions from President Bush to ignore any congressional earmarks in future authorization bills or committee reports unless those funding requests have been debated, written into legislation and voted on. In the absence of line-item veto authority, the president has opted to play hardball and govern by executive order.

#3: Mission improbable
President Bush quietly signed a classified directive this month that authorizes the National Security Agency to monitor traffic on federal agencies’ computer networks. It’s part of a coordinated effort to identify and respond to whoever has been attacking networks at the Defense, State and Homeland Security departments during the past 1 1⁄2 years. The Washington Post, which published a story Jan. 26 about the classified directive, said the national intelligence community resisted putting DHS in charge of the initiative because no one thought DHS had the expertise or authority to carry out the now not-so-secret mission.

#4: Another CIO move
Scott Charbo, the Homeland Security Department’s chief information officer, was named the deputy undersecretary at DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate, where he will have a large role in the federal government’s expanded cybersecurity activities.

Onward and upward.

#5: Where’s the discretion?
President Bush’s $3 trillion budget request, scheduled for release today, is expected to be short on funding for discretionary programs that Congress controls. However, look for big spendi ng proposals for improved border security using new detection technologies. The president’s fiscal 2009 budget proposal calls for $12.14 billion for border security and immigration enforcement. That’s a 19 percent increase compared with fiscal 2008 funding for those programs. Will congressional appropriators hand over the money? Stay tuned.

#6: Be a role model
The Defense Department distributed pay raises Jan. 24 to 110,000 civilian employees who have moved out of the familiar civil-service pay system into the new National Security Personnel System.

Their pay raises were determined in large part by performance ratings that supervisors gave employees. Here’s the distribution of those ratings: 5.1 percent received a Level 5 rating, 36.1 percent a Level 4 rating, 57 percent a Level 3 rating, 1.6 percent a Level 2 rating and 0.2 percent a Level 1 rating. If you earned a 5, it means you are regarded as a role model in your organization.

The average pay raise for role models was 10 percent. Golly, shouldn’t we all be role models? 

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