Bush bumps IT budget by 8%

Bush bumps IT budget by 8%

Federal IT budgets are rising—but only for agencies with their management under control.

President Bush’s $52 billion proposal for fiscal 2003, released earlier this month, would boost IT expenditures by 8 percent—compared with 2 percent for other spending. But he made it clear that future increases would be closely tied to performance.

“I think the budget sends a strong message that says if you are underperforming, you need to get your act together,” NASA CIO Lee Holcomb said. “This is a forceful message that we haven’t seen in the past.”

The administration evaluated each agency’s IT management and e-gov processes. Many did not fare well.

Within the reviews, agencies gave the Office of Management and Budget improvement plans for this year. Accomplishing the plans’ milestones will be imperative if agencies expect funding in fiscal 2004 and beyond.

If OMB associate director for IT and e-gov Mark Forman “is going to carry through with the carrot-and-stick approach of requiring business plans for all IT investments, then those getting larger increases for receiving better grades will be typical of what we will see in the future,” said Payton Smith, manager of public-sector market analysis for Input of Chantilly, Va.

Case for funding

In some ways, though, OMB inaugurated performance-based budgeting for 2003. Forman said some IT projects were underfunded in the final proposal because agencies had made inadequate business cases.

“We have been focused on performance for a long time, but unless it is connected to budgeting, it doesn’t garner enough attention,” said Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government. “This budget ties future resource allocation to performance. This is a big and important step for the entire budget to be presented this way.”

The evaluations, along with the recent OMB ranking of how agencies are meeting major presidential priorities, provide agencies with the first real implementation of the Clinger-Cohen Act, said John Spotila, president and chief operating officer of GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., and a former staff member in OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during the Clinton administration.

“The emphasis on good IT planning and putting processes in place to state the business case is what Clinger-Cohen was all about,” he said. “This budget is the first time OMB applied it so broadly.”

Bush proposes 8% bump in IT spending (IN THOUSANDS)

Many experts agreed that the increase in spending shows recognition of IT’s importance to government operations.

Rishi Sood, principal analyst for GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said the 8 percent boost is more in line with how industry invests in IT. Usually, the government proposes a 3 percent to 5 percent annual increase.

“The budget underscores the value technology brings,” he said. “This is a step above past budgets because it shows formal recognition that IT is one of the most critical assets the government has.”

Homeland increases

Input’s Smith said the increase was not unexpected, especially given the renewed focus on homeland defense and security.
The Office of Homeland Security received $722 million for technology, and infrastructure security spending jumped to $4.2 billion from $2.7 billion.

“We see the amount of money going for security increasing partly because of the increase in homeland security and also in response to the Government Information Security Report due out soon,” Forman said. “However, the level of spending is not related to how good security is. The fundamental driver to improve security is better management.”

Defense Department funding accounted for more than half of the total proposed $52 billion IT budget. One of DOD’s top IT priorities is $172 million for the continued development of the Joint Tactical Radio System, which would give the services a common, multipurpose system for voice and data communication.

The budget also would provide $61 million for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, which would provide secure networking to connect commands.

Some experts, however, questioned whether civilian agencies received their fair share and if Congress would make up the difference when it approves the 2003 budget.

“The budget reflects the president’s priorities by definition, but the question is what are Congress’ priorities?” GTSI’s Spotila said. “There is a good possibility more money is needed on the civilian side.”

But not every civilian agency found itself on the short end of the stick. The departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor and the Office of Personnel Management are slated for significant increases.

Agriculture’s service center modernization initiative could see a jump to $132.2 million from $59.4 million this year. The project will implement a common computing environment for USDA’s three major field agencies.

Another Agriculture program that would get more money is the financial management system upgrade, which saw a boost of $5.6 million. The project will provide a single integrated financial system with distributed databases.

Commerce also could see increases in major programs. The Master Address File/Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing database, which will receive new Global Positioning System technology, could get $51.4 million, up from $15 million. The Census Bureau line item for data processing is set to increase to $29 million, from $25 million.

Labor’s legacy

One of Labor’s major projects is to replace legacy systems. The president’s proposal earmarked a $24 million increase, to $74 million. The agency also seeks $50.2 million for the department’s enterprise architecture, an increase from $33.2 million.

OPM’s proposed 30.4 percent increase can be traced to a $21 million bump for its Human Resource Data Network and an additional $6 million for its retirement system modernization project.

“The concept of performance-based budgeting is excellent,” the Council for Excellence in Government’s McGinnis said. “The key is that it is more future-oriented. This is a very good statement of what the challenges are. The next step is to define how to measure performance.”

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