Budget

4 goals for fiscal 2014

capitol dome and bills

Is it poor form to say good riddance to fiscal 2013?

Not all the news since last October has been bad, but anyone affected by agency budgets — that is, everyone in federal IT — just endured 12 straight months of meat-cleaver spending cuts, multiple shutdown threats and the severe restrictions on strategic planning that come with continuing resolutions.

That's no way to run a government, but as FCW has explained in some detail, those hoping for a return to regular appropriations had best not hold their breath.

Still, hope springs eternal. So here's our short list of modest proposals for fiscal 2014:

1. Better budget clarity

Agency leaders can cope with tight budgets and even use those pressures to jump-start needed reforms and reinventions. They cannot, however, plan for the future when CRs curtail the spin-up of new programs and when funding could be slashed or interrupted entirely next Tuesday. Real budgets are needed for effective management, and agencies deserve a true appropriation — even if it comes in omnibus form.

2. Collaborative cutting

Budgets are likely to keep shrinking, and with the possible exception of cybersecurity, most IT programs should expect flat funding at best. Furloughs and across-the-board cuts are an idiotic approach to austerity. IT leaders must be proactive with agency executives, congressional overseers and the Office of Management and Budget to find smarter ways to make the numbers work.

3. Get behind the innovators

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel speaks frequently about finding savings in IT and reinvesting them in innovation; it's one of the most appealing aspects of the administration's Digital Government Strategy. Yet too often, such creativity gets stalled, not supported. If ideas like applying energy savings performance contracts to data centers (see Page 21) have flaws, put the effort into fixing them — not to keeping them in limbo.

4. Start early on fiscal 2015

It is easy to blame Congress for the lack of action on fiscal 2014 funding in the past several months, but the executive branch missed key deadlines, too. The time to start working toward next Oct. 1 is now.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of both FCW and GCN, two of the oldest and most influential publications in public-sector IT. Both publications (originally known as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, respectively) are owned by GovExec. Mr. Schneider also serves GovExec's General Manager for Government Technology Brands.

Mr. Schneider previously served as New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company, where he oversaw the online operations of The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, The Hotline and The Almanac of American Politics, among other publications. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Mr. Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Mr. Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

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