Government missing business case

Performance Information for Major IT Investments

Almost $10 billion of the federal government's information technology investments are still without the complete business cases required by the Office of Management and Budget, and the Bush administration is calling on industry to provide its expertise to struggling agencies.

In the fiscal 2003 budget, OMB is fully enforcing the requirement from Circular A-130 for agencies to develop a business case for every IT investment, complete with performance goals and measures, security, integration with the agency's enterprise architecture, and process controls, said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for IT and e-government.

Those business cases are summarized in the supporting budget document, "Performance Information for Major IT Investments," Forman said at a Feb. 5 briefing for industry.

For this budget, OMB accepted the top 40 percent of agencies' business cases and the accompanying IT funding requests and "basically wrote off" the bottom 10 percent, Forman said. The other 50 percent were either accepted with changes made by the agencies, or are still being developed.

The 400 business cases that are still in development represent almost $10 billion out of the $52 billion requested for IT in the 2003 budget, meaning that some of the biggest IT projects in government had unsatisfactory business cases, he said.

Much of this is because agencies are still unfamiliar with the process of developing a strong business case, but industry is knowledgeable and that expertise must be made available to agencies, Forman said.

OMB also is asking that vendors not abandon the federal market as the Bush administration's e-government agenda kicks in. The agenda is based on the idea of eliminating or consolidating redundant systems and programs -- and that means contractors may suddenly have no contract to work on, Forman said.

On Feb. 6, OMB kicked off a further assessment of overlapping programs. Led by Debra Stouffer, deputy chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the assessment builds on reviews done by the interagency task force to develop the 24 high-impact e-government initiatives.

But the fact that the IT budget request is increasing by $7 billion for fiscal 2003 shows that "there's more than enough work to go around," Forman said.

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