OMB chief tries to sell appropriators on IT upgrades

Shaun Donovan

OMB Director Shaun Donovan urged Congress to fund administration plans for modernizing federal IT and improving cybersecurity.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan tried to make his case to Congress that the administration's proposed IT budget will  save the government money in the future, and some lawmakers sounded positive notes.

"If we are spending $90 billion on acquisition on Information Technology, and he's got a way to cut that in half, then that’s a good sign," Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) told FCW after a Feb. 23 hearing on OMB's budget request.

"I think all across the federal government, we are way behind in terms of our IT," added Crenshaw, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. "I think some of the money they are going to spend on IT is well spent, to find savings, to eliminate some of the fraud that takes place that deals with cybersecurity…that’s an area we ought to give even more focus, to modernize our technology."

Still, in his prepared opening statement, Crenshaw suggested that OMB might not be in line to receive the 17 percent increase to governmentwide IT oversight activities it is seeking.

"I appreciate the strides the Administration has made to improve the use of IT resources across the government, increase efficiency, reduce waste and identify savings. However, at a time where our nation is incurring significant debt for generations to come, OMB should be exercising greater fiscal restraint," the chairman said.

Donovan highlighted the concepts of shared services and category management as successes during his testimony. In response to lawmaker concerns that the administration is "pouring" money into IT that becomes quickly outdated, Donovan argued that while technology does change quickly,  "a lot of this is in how we procure information technology, whether that’s individual devices we use or how we procure software services."

While testifying about this administration's final budget request, the OMB director said the proposed budget focuses on some of the greatest challenges, including cybersecurity. Crenshaw had noted in his opening remarks that the current cyberattack threats to U.S. networks and operating systems are increasing and that OMB has a role to play in crafting cyber policy.

President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2017 budget calls appropriates around $19 billion for cyber investments, which is a 35 percent increase from enacted levels from the previous year. Another $3.1 billion is requested for a revolving fund covering IT modernization, and $62 million for bolstering the federal IT workforce through scholarships and other educational initiatives.  The budget also calls for a new federal chief information security officer position, as well as an inter-agency privacy council.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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