Senate Bill Would Ramp Up Federal Oversight of IT Projects

A bipartisan bill introduced by leaders of the Senate Homeland Security committee Tuesday aims to rein in federal information technology projects that go over budget by requiring automatic reviews.

If an IT project goes more than 20 percent above its base spending guideline, the agency's CIO must conduct a review and report to Congress on what caused the overruns, "how they will be fixed, and who is accountable for making sure it happens," according to the Information Technology Investment Management Act of 2011.

The legislation requires that any IT project that goes 40 percent or more over budget be reviewed by federal CIO Vivek Kundra. The Office of Management and Budget would be required to recommend to Congress whether such projects should be retooled or scrapped altogether.

The bill was introduced by Homeland Security Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Scott Brown, R-Mass.

Carper and Brown are the chairman and ranking member of a Homeland Security subcommittee on federal financial management.

"At a time when our country is facing record deficits, it is simply unacceptable that federal agencies continue to waste billions of dollars by mismanaging information technology investments," Carper said in a statement.

The legislation also codifies current OMB regulations requiring agencies to record cost and performance information for all of their IT projects on the OMB's online IT dashboard on a monthly basis.

A 2009 GAO report identified 11 mismanaged IT investments that had cost taxpayers an unnecessary $3 billion through project delays and outmoded technology.