OMB: Agencies improve IT management

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget said today they had placed 549 information technology projects on the High-Risk List for the fiscal quarter that ended Sept. 30. The projects represent more than $26 billion in fiscal 2009 IT budget requests, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and information technology.

Overall, agencies have shown progress in their efforts to better plan, manage and monitor their IT investments, Evans said during a briefing with reporters.

The High-Risk List highlights complex, costly IT projects that require oversight but are not necessarily in danger of failing, OMB officials have said. The fourth-quarter list includes the 216 IT projects that remain on OMB’s Management Watch List for investments that contain planning weaknesses in their business cases. For those projects, OMB follows up with the agencies to correct the problems before implementation.

The latest High-Risk List represents a 9 percent decline from the 601 projects announced in February with President Bush’s budget submission, Evans said. There were 477 projects on the third-quarter list released in July.

Overall, agencies are improving because they are completing their IT project implementation plans, Evans said. Many projects are on the High-Risk List because they are related to governmentwide initiatives. To get projects removed from the list, agencies are encouraged to achieve milestones on a quarterly basis and complete their implementation plans, which includes shutting down older systems, Evans said.

“The incentive is to shut down the legacy system, realize the savings, and you’re off the list,” she said.

The 216 IT projects on the fourth-quarter Management Watch List represent $20 billion in fiscal 2009 IT budget requests, OMB officials said. The number of projects declined from 352 in the previous quarter, with the Defense, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture departments having the most projects on the list.

The number of projects declined because agencies improved their processes for certifying and accrediting IT systems and for conducting Privacy Impact Assessments, Evans said.

In addition, OMB added an application to its Web site that lets users view data about IT projects on the Management Watch List and High-Risk List by agency and project category. They can click on relevant data for more detailed information. The data in the Visualization to Understand Expenditures in IT (VUE-IT) software is already publicly available, but OMB has made it more accessible and useful. The software was intended to help OMB program analysts track agency IT investments, but the agency decided to open it to the public, Evans said, adding that she hopes congressional committees will use it as a tool for oversight.

“VUE-IT enables greater transparency into federal IT investments so taxpayers can view at their fingertips where we are planning to allocate resources, which investments have management or planning challenges, and why,” Evans said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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