Interior gets IT spending boost

Interior gets IT spending boost

While the Interior Department’s proposed budget for fiscal 2006, $10.6 billion, is effectively flat compared to this year, spending on IT programs is expected to rise 2.6 percent, according to figures provided by the Office of Management and Budget.

Officials at Interior say the increase reflects the department’s goal of improving administrative and financial efficiency.

“In the long run, to preserve as much of our operational budget as possible, we have to be more efficient,” said Nina Hatfield, deputy assistant secretary for business management and wildland fire. “That’s the reason we’re doing so many things in terms of trying to modernize.”

The biggest program under way at Interior, the Financial and Business Management System, is projected to grow to $47.3 million in 2006, up from $40.9 million, and more than double 2004’s allocation of $22.2 million. When it’s completed, the department will have a single business system that can accommodate the different missions of its various bureaus.

FBMS is a perfect example of Interior’s drive for greater efficiencies, Hatfield said.

“We are operating two different financial systems. We gave every bureau a copy of it, then they customized it, [so] we essentially have about 18 different financial systems,” she said. “The timing had become very urgent because of the cost of maintaining [legacy] systems.”

Other IT initiatives that will benefit from the spending increase are the e-government projects in which Interior is playing a role, including E-Payroll.

“Our National Business Center is one of the four government providers for E-Payroll,” Hatfield said. “We can do it efficiently for external partners. The overall result is real cost savings, because we improve the unit cost” as the number of paychecks handled by NBC increases.

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