Business cases put programs 'at risk'

In a budget that focuses on planning and results, only two out of 25 agencies and departments submitted completely satisfactory business cases for their information technology investments.

Starting with the fiscal 2004 budget, released Feb. 3, the Office of Management and Budget is taking a hard line on the business cases agencies submit for their IT programs.

The business cases must meet tough requirements for cost, schedule and performance goals, as well as security. If a business case for a program does not meet all of those requirements, it fails and funding is cut. If it meets some of the requirements, it is put on an "at-risk" list and funding will be withheld.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director of IT and e-government, announced last month that in the fiscal 2004 budget more than 700 major projects — representing almost $21 billion of the total $59 billion IT request — are at risk. The budget documents released Monday delve into the specifics of that announcement, highlighting agencies that are doing a good job and agencies that still have work to do.

After submitting revisions, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration both received passing scores on all of their business cases, according to budget documents.

Others, such as the Interior and Labor departments, are on their way toward perfect scores. Only 15 of Labor's 55 business cases were labeled "at risk," but they were all categorized as such because security reviews had not been completed. Those business cases are scheduled for review by the end of March, according to budget documents.

For most other agencies, OMB placed "many" or "the majority" of their business cases on the at-risk list, even though they are all cited as making progress.

For example, OMB placed 15 of the State Department's 24 business cases on the "at risk" list but calls that "a big improvement over last year."

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