recommended reading

No good news for government IT in sequestration delay

Ufuk ZIVANA/Shutterstock.com

A just-past-deadline deal to put off a decision about drastic federal spending cuts until February will provide little solace for government technology chiefs and may be more damaging than if the draconian cuts had gone into effect, observers said Wednesday.

With no final decision on how or even whether to avert the slate of automatic cuts known as sequestration, agency leaders must spend two more months planning and budgeting for the most austere outcome or risk violating budgeting laws by overspending, said Alan Balutis, a former chief information officer at the Commerce Department and now a director at Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group.

The major change resulting from the last minute deal is that if and when a sequestration-averting plan comes through, agencies will have only seven months to rejigger their spending to conform with final budget allowances before the government fiscal year ends in September 2013, Balutis said, rather than nine months if a deal had been reached by January 1, the initial deadline.

Sequestration was part of a larger self-imposed austerity program that also included massive tax hikes. The nation was scheduled to go over the so-called cliff at midnight on New Year’s Day unless the White House and congressional Republicans could reach agreement on less severe or more targeted measures.

That agreement, which passed the Senate on New Year’s Eve and the House on New Year’s Day, raised taxes only on the wealthiest Americans but delayed a decision on sequestration until the end of February.

“In many ways I view it as worse than if we had joined hands with Thelma and Louise and actually gone over the cliff,” Balutis said Wednesday. “At least we’d know what’s in store for us and we could begin to plan and take action.”

With their budgets in limbo for another two months, agency officials are likely to put off new projects and to consider less ambitious and cheaper options for contracts that do go forward, said Julie Anderson, chief operating officer with Civitas Group and a former deputy assistant secretary at the Veterans Affairs Administration.

That could mean slower progress on a number of the government’s major technology priorities including shifting government systems to off-site computer clouds and making more government data available to private-sector entrepreneurs in machine readable formats.

Contractors also will likely be hesitant to take on new risks during the two-month sequestration delay, Anderson said. Civitas is a consultant for federal contractors.

The Office of Management and Budget will likely urge agencies to develop more concrete plans for how they will continue essential operations if sequestration does go into effect during that time, she said. OMB issued general guidance on sequestration planning in December.

Anderson agreed with Balutis that sequestration may be preferable to continuing uncertainty for both agencies and contractors.

“Uncertainty is paralysis,” she said.

Balutis and Anderson were both pessimistic about the chances for a grand spending deal in February when Congress will also debate raising the limit on federal borrowing.

“I have a feeling that there will be another short term fix that may take us to summer,” Anderson said.

“I think most people feel like it will be the Perils of Pauline again, and once again we’ll go down to the wire,” Balutis said. “But you won’t see much change in that period. No one’s going to come and sprinkle rationality dust around Capitol Hill so a new spirit of comity will prevail . . . Republicans still control the House and Democrats control the Senate.”

(Image via Ufuk ZIVANA/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion

Florida’s Concealed Carry Permit Holders Names Exposed

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.