It's not easy being green

The chief information officer of the only federal department to get an all-satisfactory rating so far on the President’s Management Agenda agrees with Kermit the Frog on one thing.

“It’s not easy being green,” said Patrick Pizzella, Labor’s assistant secretary for administration and management and CIO. He spoke at a lunch today in Washington, D.C., sponsored by market research firm Input.

Pizzella spoke about the changes Labor had to make in its operations and information technology to be the first to reach President Bush’s management goals.

The Office of Management and Budget praised Labor in July for becoming the first to earn an all-green score card for management.

Currently, 75 percent of agencies’ scores are green or yellow, meaning successful or satisfactory. That marks a turnaround since OMB started tracking management scores in 2002. Back then, 85 percent of scores were red, or unsatisfactory.

Scores reflect how well agencies handle five challenges: workforce management, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government, and budget-and-performance integration.

The department achieved its green rating without dramatically increasing its IT spending, Pizzella said. “We manage our IT resources very tightly,” he said.

A process called an IT crosscut has enabled Labor to reallocate money from unsuccessful IT projects, he said, adding that OMB considers the approach to be a federal best practice.

The department has consolidated nine performance-management cycles into one based on the government’s fiscal year, Pizzella said. Criteria for judging performance are now standardized departmentwide, with four criteria used by all agencies and four that are specific to Labor, he said.

The department has also consolidated its three e-mail systems into one, Pizzella said, and has dramatically increased the bonuses it pays to employees.

IT affects everyone and everything in the department and has helped bring all the offices together, Pizzella said. Business considerations, not technological ones, now drive decisions at Labor, he said.

IT will help the department operate more efficiently and provide better services, Pizzella said. For example, the GovBenefits Web site consolidates access to nearly 500 federal benefits programs and 1,000 state programs, he said. The site offers information in English and Spanish.

Getting to green on the President’s Management Agenda has had other beneficial side effects, Pizzella said, including eight clean financial audits in a row.

Brian Haney, director of member services at Input, said he predicts that Labor will see its total IT spending increase to $450 million in fiscal 2010, up from $409 million in fiscal 2006. The amount spent on contractors will increase to $372 million in fiscal 2010, up from $335 million in fiscal 2006, he said.

Input also forecasts that in the next five years, Labor will have 2.3 percent annual increases in outsourcing spending, 1.5 percent annual increases in spending on computer systems and 1.3 percent annual increases on software, Haney said.

Pizzella disagreed with Haney’s prediction that Labor will get more federal appropriations than it recently has. The department’s IT budget has remained relatively stable, within 5 percent of $400 million, in the past five years, he said.

Labor’s next big project is consolidating its IT infrastructure, Pizzella said.

Haney said the department has two major IT contracting opportunities coming soon. The first is to provide the Employment and Training Administration with tech support to replace contracts that expire in June 2006, he said.

Labor is expected to issue a request for proposals for the new contract, estimated at $20 million, in early 2006, Haney said.

The second opportunity is to help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration improve its network management, inventory its IT systems and handle other projects, Haney said. Labor has completed a request for information and a market survey and is expected to issue an RFP by the end of 2005, he said.

Four years into his job, Pizzella is the longest-serving CIO in the Bush administration. He also serves as the agency’s chief human capital officer.

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