Budget emphasizes consolidation

Federal Enterprise Architecture

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With the release of the fiscal 2004 request today, the Bush administration took a concrete step toward a budget that is oriented toward eliminating overlap among systems and ensuring that agencies have a clear-cut way of measuring a program's performance.

President Bush sent Congress an overall $2.23 trillion spending plan that demonstrates the administration's vision of massive integration and consolidation, with even more efforts sought in the future.

The information technology requests in the budget—totaling almost $60 billion—represent investments not just for individual agencies but emphasize support for multiple agencies' needs.

These cross-cutting investments include the 24 e-government initiatives and beyond. The Bush administration is examining more investments for consolidation in areas flagged by the Federal Enterprise Architecture as having overlapping business needs. These areas include financial management, human resources and criminal investigations.

A major part of this examination will be through the business cases that agencies submit for their IT investments. Under new requirements from the Office of Management and Budget, agencies submitted business cases for projects representing more than $34 billion in the fiscal 2004 IT budget. That is up from $20 billion in the fiscal 2003 request.

The fiscal 2004 budget also outlines the vision for the future of the Federal Enterprise Architecture, a business-based framework for cross-agency, governmentwide improvement.

Using the framework, OMB identified that up to 20 percent of agency IT requests could be consolidated. However, of the 1,300 major IT projects represented in the fiscal 2004 budget, very few presented joint business cases.

OMB Director Mitch Daniels Jr. said his office was taking a close look at a lot of IT spending because of poor planning and business cases.

To improve that performance in the future, OMB is developing a process using the Federal Enterprise Architecture to group interagency initiatives into three categories:

* Projects where it is clear that one agency has the lead and that the projects can be implemented through the normal investment process.

* Projects where several agencies are involved and may require joint funding.

* Projects that are common to all agencies and will require a new method of financing.

In regard to the concept of such performance-based budgeting, Daniels said that this year, "we are really just establishing a baseline."

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