White House preparing agency IT project hit list

Administration wants tighter reins on $20 billion in IT infrastructure spending for fiscal 2012

The White House plans to publish a list of high-risk information technology projects as part of the Obama administration's effort to rein in $20 billion of annual IT infrastructure spending, according to Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

The high-risk IT project list will include projects that are over budget and behind schedule, as well as those that have veered off course from their initial requirements, Kundra said at the NASA IT Summit conference in National Harbor, Md.

The White House’s goal is to turn around those troubled projects in the fiscal 2012 budget process, he said. Agency requests for the fiscal 2012 budget year are currently being assembled, and President Barack Obama is scheduled to present the request to Congress in February 2011.

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Kundra cited a proliferation of federal data centers, struggling financial system projects and shortcomings in system architectures as examples of current IT infrastructure problems. At the Interior Department, for instance, it is impossible to send an e-mail message systemwide to all employees because the IT systems are segregated, he added.

Kundra said he is speaking with chief information officers at each department to weed out failing programs and cancel them. At the Veterans Affairs Department, the financial management system development program was cancelled in 2004 and again in 2010 for failure to deliver results, despite a $250 million development cost. At the Defense Department, officials spent $1 billion during 12 years on the Integrated Human Resource System, which has not performed, he added.

“How do we move from a history of colossal failure with IT systems to making IT stellar? That is exactly what we need to do,” Kundra said.

Kundra praised NASA’s Nebula platform for cloud computing as “an innovative path” that will help drive spending away from “commodity IT” and toward new solutions.

“We are taking IT to the next level,” Kundra said. “We’ll take the best practices of NASA and scale them governmentwide.”

As another example of a new solution, Kundra said the Internal Revenue Service and Education Department recently began sharing data from student financial aid applications. By coordinating data, the applications have been simplified and made “customer friendly,” he said.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, Aug 20, 2010 Seyed Kafimoussavi Rockville, MD

I agree that they are looking at the problem from the wrong end. Government has acted like a helpless victim in the past when it comes to IT development projects. They higher consulting companies that come in and evaluate their demands and tells them what is good for them. Then multi million contracts are drafted and in most cases they pay the same contractor companies to provide their version of proscribed solutions. Now don't tell me that they are going to higher more contractors to evaluate and identify IT projects that are off their targets. Lets evaluate the objective of IT projects itself and determine if it is duplicated in other government agency or division. Government needs to take a more pro-active role in providing solutions that meets their own demands. For example, Government could utilize the current advances in technology and develope software packages in the area of Time & attendance recording, HR services, Payroll system , FMIS, Content managment systems and... etc and develope them in a highly scalable fashion and flexiable enough that could satisfy all or most of demands of its agencies or ministries and mandate usage of these packages. That would eliminates the cost of IT project performing the same tasks for different agencies with different platforms.

Thu, Aug 19, 2010

They are looking at the problem from the wrong end. IT being out of control is a reflection of too many agencies and departments with duplicative (or at least overlapping) missions, and missions that should be combined being broken out six ways from Sunday. A trivial example- FedGov has at least half a dozen agencies conducting surplus property sales, each with their own IT shops, AIS budgets, web sites, etc. And on purchasing side, of course, it is an order of magnitude worse. Add in personnel systems, financial accounting systems, physical plant management systems, and so on, and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for mission rationalization out there. Once the Mission Requirements are thinned out, it would be a lot easier to simplify and downsize the required IT support.

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 Barry Virginia

It's interesting that while government automation is mostly about content: laws, regulations, transcripts, research papers... and so on, government automation focus is mostly about IT itself: hardware, networks, software applications... and so on. This is a fundamental mismatch between the challenges and the way in which solutions are viewed. Indeed, the HW/SW centered approaches are remnants of the thinking in the 70s and 80s when technology was limited, costly and difficult while content was cheap and easy because what you could do with it was limited by technology. Things have changed! Content is now the difficult part because potential users want it to do lots of things. Technology, on the other hand, is the easier part. Until our automation mavens in government (and the private sector as well) learn that getting the content and its life cycle right is the critical precursor to successful IT investment, things won't improve. That won't be easy because It people don't learn much about content and the IT industry doesn't want to lose center stage. There are, however, examples of real success hidden throughout government; every one built on a content centered foundation.

Thu, Aug 19, 2010

It seems to me that some "private clouds" run by the government for the government (i.e., NASA's Nebula?) will be part of the overall picture for Cloud solutions, and there's no getting around this fact. Of course, commercially available Cloud services provided by the vendor marketplace will also be used by government, especially for agencies with more public facing roles which have less sringent security and privacy concerns. With respect to Nebula, which I admittedly know little about, I'd hope there's some substance to the statement that it can be scaled for use across government, and that this isn't being stated prematurely or based on loose facts.

Thu, Aug 19, 2010 Jim B Virginia

The statement "Kundra praised NASA’s Nebula platform for cloud computing as 'an innovative path' that will help drive spending away from 'commodity IT' " makes no sense. The positioning of the quotation marks makes it look like it isn't a direct quote but paraphrasing what he said, and either the writer misconstrued Kundra's remarks, or Kundra was engaging in doublespeak that day. Have copy editors completely evaporated in the age of instant news, in your face, all day, every day? That statement is oxymoronic and shows that whoever created it has no understanding of cloud computing or commodity IT.

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