Senate wants details on agencies' IT projects

Agencies can expect a letter from a Senate oversight subcommittee seeking lists of information technology projects.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said today he will “ask for every IT project that they have and where they are and where they are in terms of cost overruns.”

The senator also wants agencies to list IT projects by vendor so the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Subcommittee can help the Office of Management and Budget oversee the projects that are at-risk or on the agency’s Management Watch List.

The letter is still being drafted, and Coburn gave no date for sending it.

At a hearing today, the subcommittee, which Coburn leads, looked at problems surrounding the list of more than 300 projects that the Government Accountability Office identified as poorly planned or performing badly. The projects total an estimated $12 billion in IT costs for fiscal 2007 — or, according to Coburn, $15,000 per federal employee per year.

According to a GAO report released today, 263 of the 857 major IT projects in President Bush’s fiscal 2007 budget are included on the watch list. Those projects total about $10 billion. Also, 79 of 226 high-risk projects have a performance shortfall. They collectively total about $2.2 billion.

Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and IT at OMB, told the subcommittee that the agency has now reduced this year’s list to 86 projects.

“The idea that we have contracts that aren’t performing or are over cost tells us that some of our problems are in our contracting to begin with,” she said.

Agencies will begin publishing their business cases for IT projects on their Web sites.

David Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO, also testified before the subcommittee. He recommended that OMB keep agency chief information officers on their toes by having inspectors general check random business cases for inaccuracies.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Evans said, adding that she will propose it to the IGs.

Powner said consequences for poorly planned projects and inaccurate business cases might also help. “Folks would take it a bit more seriously,” he said.

GAO said the federal government planned to spend about $64 billion on IT projects this fiscal year.

“We should be getting $64 billion worth of value for it,” Coburn said.


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