Senate aims to tighten reins on government IT spending

Bill calls for more planning and evaluation of IT projects

The Senate has passed a bill that would put tighter controls around the money the government invests in its major information technology projects.

The Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act (S. 920) would set up tougher monitoring of the roughly $80 billion that agencies spend each year on IT.

The Government Accountability Office reported in October 2009 that it had identified 11 mismanaged IT investments made by agencies that will likely cost $3 billion more than planned.

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The bill would establish an improved process for agencies to manage the progress of their IT projects. It would require more planning and oversight before agencies invest their money into the projects. And once they've begun, agencies would have to measure the progress to verify whether it’s matching the expected costs and schedule and meeting performance targets, the bill states.

If a project goes bad, the bill would require agencies to notify the Office of Management and Budget as well as Congress, and they may have to end projects that fail to meet their targets.

“It’s clear that federal agencies are dropping the ball when it comes to deploying the right technology in a timely and cost-effective manner,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who sponsored the bill, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The legislation developed from a series of hearings of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, which Carper chairs. The hearings found agencies were poorly managing costly and risky IT investments. One high-profile investment gone awry was the Census’s malfunctioning hand-held devices that collect the data. The bad machines forced the officials to revert to paper-based system.

The Senate's bill now goes to the House for its consideration.


About the Author

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


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