2014 Budget

IT Dashboard hints at classified IT spending in Obama budget

locked vault

The amount of money budgeted for classified IT is locked away in the vault of secrecy, but there some some clues. (Stock image)

Budget numbers posted April 12 on the federal IT Dashboard suggest that the government is spending at least $5.4 billion on classified information technology, but these numbers don't tell the whole story.

President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget request includes about $39.6 billion for Defense Department IT spending. Overall, the administration is seeking $82 billion for IT. The summary numbers in the IT Dashboard put the defense IT allocation at $34.1 billion. A helpful footnote to a budget document explains the discrepancy, noting that, "Spending levels on information technology investments shown here for DOD include estimates for IT investments for which details are classified. Totals shown here for DOD are higher than totals reflected on the IT Dashboard, which cannot reflect classified details"

If the $5.4 billion discrepancy forms a baseline for classified IT spending, the real total is likely much higher. The overall annual government IT spend could be as high as $100 million, said Joel Willemssen, managing director of the IT section at the Government Accountability Office, in testimony before a House committee earlier this week.

"When OMB talks about the amount of money the federal government spends on IT, it's an understated figure for a variety of reasons," Willemssen said. Among those reasons, he said, are "R&D projects or space projects that include a huge percentage of IT, which are not reported," as well as spending on intelligence and other exclusions.

The fact that the government is advertising the discrepancy between classified and non-classified spending in a budget document points to "pockets of increased intelligence transparency," over the last decade says John Slye, who analyzes government spending at Deltek.

The $5.4 billion might understate classified IT spending in other ways, Slye said. The IT components of weapons systems, such as authentication and encryption systems, could be classified as something other than IT.

What's not clear at all is the extent to which agencies that come under the classified portion of the budget – the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency – get funds out of the classified portion of the defense budget. Those with the access and clearance to know are breaking the law if they share such information. Those who make inferences based on years of experience in analyzing federal budgets are just offering their best guess. But even if it's incomplete, $5.4 billion is a significant start in funding classified technology.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group