IT Budget

Congress finds harmony on VA and DHS IT spending

U.S. Capitol at Night

House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain $92 billion apart on their overall 2014 budget plans, but their priorities align on IT spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Government presented in an Aug. 8 webinar.

BGov's look at the appropriations bills passed in the House and reported out of committee in the Senate found that for most IT programs at DHS, very little separates Republican and Democratic appropriators.  Whether its infrastructure protection and cybersecurity for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, inspection and detection technology for Customs and Border Protection, or headquarters-managed IT investment at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the chambers differ by only a few million dollars on line items totaling several hundred million.

There is even more harmony between the House and the Senate over the VA budget, where only $10 million separates the legislative bodies over a proposed IT appropriation of about $3.7 billion.

Looking across the entire government, relatively few IT programs have undergone drastic changes in development, modernization, and enhancement spending from 2012 to 2014. This underscores the point that IT expenditures aren't contributing to the divide between the political parties over spending.  It also jibes with a medium-term forecast released by Deltek that charts a slow decline in IT spending through 2018, falling from $112 billion in fiscal 2013 to $102 billion in fiscal 2018.

"Much of the decline will be due to a concerted effort to eliminate waste and increase efficiency," Deltek principal analyst Alex Rossino said "But there will be continued growth in areas that are focused on maximizing the efficiency of current systems, such as cloud computing and consolidation-related initiatives."

Classified IT spending is also on the rise. BGov is projecting a $1 billion increase over fiscal 2012, a rise of 20 percent.

"Not many things are increasing at that rate in this tough budget environment," said Allan Holmes, Bloomberg's director of technology. He predicts the fallout from the disclosures of highly classified surveillance programs by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will be a spur to increase spending on countermeasures to guard against future leaks.

The forecast for IT spending has no implications for the federal budget writ large, the analysts said. At best, fiscal 2014 will close with a 30-day continuing resolution. At worst, a government shutdown is in the offing. That means vendors should look to get money on contracts in the fourth quarter, and expect delays on future requests for proposals and awards.

Despite spending caps and expectations of a continuing climate of restraint, BGov's analysts haven't yet observed an industry pull back from government contracting, or an uptick in mergers and acquisitions among government contractors, although they are starting to observe some purchases being made in the cybersecurity sector.

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 roles 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 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.

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