OMB wants IT capital, budget descriptions

Franklin Raines director of the Office of Management and Budget last month issued a memo requesting agencies to submit descriptions of how they are developing capital planning for information technology programs and their progress in appointing chief information officers.

OMB will use the submissions which were due May 1 to plan preliminary meetings to discuss agencies' implementation of the Clinger-Cohen Act which required agencies to undertake capital planning and to form CIO positions and their fiscal 1999 budget requests.

Raines wrote that OMB will contact individual agencies' chief operating officer or CIO to set up these meetings which also will include discussions on strategies for the transition to the Year 2000 and whether the agencies' IT investments comply with the eight criteria for funding information systems known as "Raines' Rules."

Joe Thompson CIO at the General Services Administration said Raines' memo reflected the administration's new emphasis on IT capital planning and investment. "This means accountability is going to be required " he said. "It marks a significant change in the CIO's responsibilities."

According to the memo CIOs must be prepared to discuss the membership and activities of their IT Investment Review Boards their processes for tracking IT investments and ensuring those investments comply with the agency's architecture and their criteria for deciding whether to continue modify or terminate an investment. OMB also will ask for an organization chart.

Many agencies established an IT investment board years ago and senior managers have been taking a new interest in IT decision-making.

"As budget cuts come along managers are turning to information technology solutions to do the same job with more resources " said Jim Shaffer chief of architecture and planning at the Coast Guard. "It is almost being forced upon senior management as a way to absorb these cuts."

Agriculture Department officials met last month to discuss the issues described in Raines' memo in the context of USDA's 1999 budget request.

"IT capital planning is now at the secretary level " said Marilyn Holland chief of information policy and planning. "And the responsibility is to bring forth not better systems but better results."

Thompson said GSA last month became the first agency to publish its own capital-planning and investment model.

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