OMB to cut fat in IT enterprise

By the start of fiscal 2004, OMB expects to have a list of information systems and staff that can be eliminated

Fiscal 2004 budget

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By the start of fiscal 2004, the Office of Management and Budget expects to have a list of information systems and staff that can be eliminated by forcing agencies to pool their resources, reducing the government's overall technology budget.

OMB officials view this consolidation initiative as the second phase of a plan that started with its 24 e-government initiatives, in which agencies were asked to work together on common projects, rather than each agency striking out on its own.

From now until October, teams of agency personnel will scrutinize more than $7 billion in budget requests for fiscal 2003 and 2004, looking for cases in which agencies are seeking money for similar systems or for projects that meet similar requirements.

Where there's enough similarity, OMB plans to move agencies onto common systems, eliminating redundant ones and combining support staff, as it has done with e-government projects.

The savings can then be put toward emerging e-government needs to address agency concerns about future funding, said Mark Forman, associate director for IT and e-government at OMB. "We don't accept the notion that there's not enough money," he said.

The savings potential is great, Bush administration officials said. The teams are looking at systems in six categories or lines of business, each of which cuts across multiple agencies. A review of fiscal 2004 budget requests turned up dozens of similar IT projects in each category. That will not be the case when fiscal 2004 begins, Forman said.

The teams are expected to produce a list of systems targeted for consolidation by the fiscal 2003 mid-year review in July and develop business cases for those consolidations by September, said Norm Lorentz, OMB's chief technology officer.

Many of the business cases may not be final, but they will outline interim steps toward a final plan, he said.

For each line of business, a single agency will serve as the team leader, but each team will include program officials, chief information officers and others from all the agencies involved.

Having such an integrated team is critical to such an initiative, experts say.

The different groups often do not share the same terminology or expectations, but OMB must find ways to get them working toward the same goals, or the initiative will fail, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute.

Even within a single agency or department, a team requires participation from all stakeholders, said Laura Callahan, deputy CIO at the Labor Department. She cited one department that spent three years and millions of dollars developing an enterprise architecture to modernize its IT systems, but the program failed because the only people involved were the IT people.

An integrated approach paid off when the Department of Housing and Urban Development created its enterprise architecture, said Dick Burk, chief architect for HUD. People across the department now turn to the enterprise architecture staff for help with consolidating functions, instead of waiting for cuts to be forced on them from outside, Burk said.

Ultimately, however, the success of the initiative depends on the support of the President's Management Council and even the president, Lorentz said.

Of course, a lot of the push will come through OMB, including further use of the authority given to OMB in the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, which allows the administration to direct investment of appropriated IT dollars, he said.

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