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Some Agencies Spend More Than 90% of IT Budgets on Legacy Systems, Report Finds

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It’s no secret the federal government spends too much money on legacy IT, with most estimates suggesting some 80 percent of the $80 billion IT budget is spent on operating and maintaining outdated systems, with only 20 percent remaining for investing in new systems and development.

The crisis caught Congress’ attention over the past year, and the Modernizing Government Technology Act —which passed the House last month—stands a chance of passing the Senate during the lame-duck session next month.

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Whether it passes, federal agencies will have to grapple with replacing their woefully outdated IT systems, but some are in worse places than others, according to research released this month by IDC. The research is worth a read, but a few data points highlight the vast challenge before some agencies.

The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, spends 96 percent of its $459.8 million IT budget on O&M. For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it's 93 percent of its $156.5 million; the Agriculture Department, 90 percent of its $3.2 billion; and the Veterans Affairs Department, 88 percent of its $4.4 billion IT budget. In fact, two of VA’s systems, the Enterprise IT Support program and the Medical IT support program tally $2.3 billion in spending alone.

Another outlier: the Health and Human Services Department. While it spends about 73 percent of its IT budget on O&M, HHS and its components comprise a massive IT spend tallying $8.8 billion.

Those kinds of legacy spending totals will require more than just IT legislation to fix.

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