Federal CIO details IT forecast

On the heels of the president’s 2013 budget proposal that revealed relatively flat federal IT spending, the Obama administration remains determined to push innovation in a fiscally responsible way, according to federal CIO Steven VanRoekel.

In a Feb. 13 conference call with reporters, VanRoekel said federal IT spending has remained stagnant since Obama took office. Before 2008, federal IT spending grew at a yearly rate of approximately 7 percent, or roughly 4.5 percent when adjusted for inflation. 

The current decline in federal IT spending is linked to a major drop at agencies such as Commerce, Energy and Defense. At DOD, the decrease is partly due to modernization and efficiency efforts, such as the $300 million in savings that data center consolidation has achieved, VanRoekel said. 

DOD will also begin to see significant reductions over the next decade, and agencies will prepare for these cuts by investing in more agile and innovative IT, he added. 

The Treasury, Human and Health Services and Veterans Affairs departments will see the most IT spending under the president's plan. The 2013 budget proposal for Treasury asks for a nearly 7 percent increase from 2012, to nearly $14 billion. Some of that investment will go toward modernizing business to improve citizens’ access to tax filings and related resources, Van Roekel said.

The HHS budget also reflects the need to provide citizens better access to health care programs as well as upgrades to IT systems. At VA, the budget increases reflect investments in IT to support the Blue Button initiative, a joint venture between VA and DOD to provide veterans easy access to their medical information.

In line with the administration’s sweeping commitment to cut waste, the budget also emphasizes maximizing return on the government's IT investment, VanRoekel said. Another high-priority area is improving cybersecurity for government networks and systems: The Homeland Security Department, for example, will invest more than $200 million to support continuous monitoring.

The administration also plans to expand its TechStat reviews to continue eliminating duplicative projects and identify those behind schedule or over budget. Since its launch in 2010, TechStat has saved more than $4 billion, VanRoekel said.

Another area of focus will be to expand efforts to bring in fresh IT talent into the government. “The fastest way to evolve the culture around government IT is to introduce new people into the mix,” VanRoekel said, adding this can be done via the Entrepreneurs in Residence program, which rotates private-sector talent into government for short-term skills exchange. Recruiting IT SWAT teams will also help government with troubled projects, VanRoekel said.

In the next six months, the administration also plans to start hiring graduates of the presidential Technology Fellows Program, which VanRoekel launched in October 2011. That effort aims to prepare IT and computer science professionals for federal IT careers through a paid two-year fellowship.


 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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