IT budget request focuses on savings

Army Corps of Engineers scales back spending by consolidating 56 installations

The Army Corps of Engineers expects to save $500 million over five years by consolidating information technology services, a strategy that enabled the corps to lower its fiscal 2009 IT budget request by $221 million compared with this year’s enacted funding.

President Bush’s proposed budget for the corps reflects a 36 percent decrease, the largest percentage among all agencies. Congress gave the corps $613 million in its 2008 omnibus spending bill, but the corps requested only $392 million for next year, budget documents show.

Much of the decrease can be attributed to the corps’ plans to shut down incompatible data warehouses and consolidate help-desk operations so that 56 installations can operate as a single enterprise. The streamlining “really forced us to sharpen our pencils,” said Wil Berrios, the agency’s chief information officer.

The corps’ approach is one example of a larger theme throughout the IT budget.

Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator of e-government and IT, said the president’s $71 billion IT budget proposal asks for continued support for e-government and lines of business initiatives that have helped agencies eliminate duplicative systems and save money.

Overall, the president asked for a 3.8 percent increase in IT spending compared with what agencies received in 2008.

The corps was able to reduce its IT budget request because of a 2003 public/ private jobs competition based on OMB Circular A-76, which Lockheed Martin won, Berrios said.

IT security is a major piece of the proposed spending increases for agencies. Information security requests have increased 73 percent since 2004. In the 2009 request, they account for 10.3 percent of the overall $71 billion funding.

That increase builds on existing spending to assist agencies with installing security controls to manage their information system risks. OMB is pushing agencies to protect their information systems and address privacy concerns.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a major proponent of IT security initiatives, said he supports the administration’s efforts to increase IT security investments.

“Secure information is the lifeblood of effective government policy and management,” Davis said at an IT security hearing Feb. 14.

Davis, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he supports spending increases for protecting data privacy and preventing data breaches. “The federal government’s information security program must be proactive, not reactive,” he said. “We cannot continue to address these issues after the fact.

When it comes to information security, all it takes is one weak link to break the chain.”

Davis added that a commitment to e-government is particularly important as Congress prepares to reauthorize the E-Government Act this year.

Along with security, the IT budget focuses on homeland security and the war on terrorism. However, Evans said, “it’s not about IT for IT’s sake. It’s about program results.”
 
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About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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