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Budget uncertainty puts federal IT dashboard in limbo

Obama released the most recent budget in February. Congress hasn’t completed a budget at all in recent years.

Obama released the most recent budget in February. Congress hasn’t completed a budget at all in recent years. // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Here’s one example of how budget uncertainty affects federal planning.

The Federal IT Dashboard, which Office of Management and Budget officials launched in December 2009 to keep better tabs on government technology investments, won’t be updated until the president’s fiscal 2014 budget is out.

The president’s budget proposal is used as a blueprint on Capitol Hill but is typically changed significantly before the final budget is released. Congress hasn’t completed a budget at all in recent years and fiscal 2014 federal spending likely will be significantly affected by ongoing negotiations over the looming fiscal cliff.

The IT Dashboard typically is archived while the president’s budget is under consideration because it includes projections that depend on future spending estimates, an OMB official said. A note on the dashboard says it has been archived since Aug. 31.

The president’s budget proposal usually comes out in February. Once that happens, OMB will resume regularly updating the dashboard, the official said.

In addition to past and projected spending on major government information technology projects, the IT dashboard includes a one-to-five grade for each major investment based on how likely the agency’s chief information officer thinks it is to go over budget or past deadline.

A November report from the Government Accountability Office suggested agencies including the Defense Department should use more rigorous analysis in those risk evaluations. GAO has also faulted the dashboard for containing inaccurate or out of date information but has noted improvements over time.

The government spends about $80 billion annually on IT. The Obama administration has launched several initiatives to reduce waste and poor management in IT spending, including by demanding shorter contract terms with clearer objectives and promoting shared services within agencies.  

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