OMB tightens business case requirements

Information security, portfolio management and performance-based acquisitions will be the sources of much discussion in agencies next week as the Office of Management and Budget starts passing back fiscal 2005 budget requests for revision, an OMB procurement analyst said today.

With this budget cycle, OMB officials require that at least 60 percent of agencies' information technology requests have business cases, which outline long-term plans for an investment as well as the initial budget request. The business cases for fiscal 2005 that agencies submitted in September are better than those OMB received the previous year, but there will still be plenty of instructions for improvements, said David Muzio, procurement policy analyst within OMB's Office of E-Government and Information Technology.

He was speaking at Federal Sources Inc.'s Federal Outlook: Strategy to Tactics conference in McLean, Va.

Security has been a make-or-break point for agency business cases for the last three years, but the push to put systems through certification and accreditation (C&A) will kick into high gear in this budget. Agencies are expected to take money out of operations or new projects and put it into C&A if needed, to make sure every system goes through that process, Muzio said.

An agency's business case must also include a description of the process the agency uses to pick the projects that will be included in the submission to OMB, but analysts will be looking specifically for a portfolio management process, Muzio said. Agencies must weigh each investment decision within the context of their overall missions, he said.

Management improvements — based on the upcoming CIO Council project management experience-level requirements — will also be a foundation for the overall improvement of business cases, Muzio said.

Businesses will be rejected if they don't use performance-based acquisition strategies for proposed systems, Muzio said. Next year, approval for business cases will also require Earned Value Management System for tracking project costs, schedule and performance goals, he said. The Defense Department and some civilian agencies are already using the management system. Agencies must be able to track exactly where each investment is against the cost, schedule and goals outlined in the business case, he said.

"We expect those business cases to be better each year," Muzio said.

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