Management agenda progresses

Federal information security has gotten much better in recent years, but a significant minority of agency officials still can't explain the reasons for their big information technology investments, say officials from the Office of Management and Budget.

According to an OMB report released today, about 70 percent of federal government IT systems are now secure, compared to 26 percent three years ago. Five agencies — the departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Veterans Affairs — as well as the Smithsonian Institution, however, have secured less than half of their IT systems. HUD has accredited none of its systems as secure, according to the report.

The report concludes that 44 percent of government agencies do not have acceptable justification for major IT investments, but 72 percent have mechanisms to "validate performance relative to cost, schedule and performance goals." About half of those agencies meet at least 90 percent of cost and schedule goals.

Approximately $60 million is slated for IT funding in fiscal year 2005, the report states.

The report is intended to highlight successes in all five efforts, including e-government, of the President's Management Agenda. The other initiatives are competitive sourcing of federal jobs, better workforce management, improved financial accounting and using agency performance as a funding measure.

Overall, the report finds significant progress in fulfilling the agenda, noting that since 2001, a swath of negative red scores on the quarterly traffic-light colored OMB score card has been mostly replaced by better yellow and green ones.

The report also states that three agencies have improved the outcomes of annual independent financial audits — the Agriculture and Education departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development received an unqualified audit in 2003, whereas in 2001 the audits carried disclaimers or qualifications.

As for competitive sourcing, the report states that federal jobs outsourced or awarded to federal agencies that developed a most efficient organization plan will yield $1.1 billion in savings during the next three to five years.

In workforce management, most agencies have identified talent gaps in mission-critical occupations. Of the 26 listed governmental entities, 35 percent have plans in place to reduce or eliminate those shortfalls, 42 percent are formulating plans and 26 percent have no strategy in place.

In the area of improved budget and performance integration, the federal government has subjected 60 percent of its program dollars to the Performance Assessment Rating Tool, and 65 percent of programs come with acceptable performance measures. Sixty-seven percent have efficiency measures.

Sustaining success will require keeping employees informed, the report states. Meeting management agenda objectives should be done "'with them' instead of 'to them,'" it states.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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