Federal IT Reforms are Freeing Up Funds in an Otherwise Flat Budget Forecast

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Obama-era federal IT reforms are starting to have an effect, but there’s a long way to go, analysts say.

Obama-era technology modernization programs and legislation are beginning to have a substantial effect freeing up IT budget money, but there’s a long way left to go, industry executives said during a Professional Services Council market forecast Wednesday.

The government saved about $7 billion during the 2017 fiscal year through a combination of closing and consolidating federal data centers and an adapt-or-perish review system for troubled IT projects known as PortfolioStat, according to a presentation by Robert Haas, a PSC volunteer and federal budget watcher.

That’s good news, Haas said, because government’s IT budget is projected to be basically flat for the next five years after inflation. The non-inflation-adjusted projection is for the unclassified federal IT budget to grow from about $86 billion in fiscal 2018 to about $96 billion in fiscal 2023, according to Haas’s presentation, though those numbers are fuzzy for various reasons.

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The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which required more accountability for federal tech executives, has also improved tech spending efficiency in government, Haas said, but the government has a long way to go before it’s wringing all possible savings out of these reforms.

For example, only about 28 percent of the largest federal data centers have been closed or consolidated so far, despite the initiative stretching back to 2010.

The pace of IT reform is also hampered, he said, by vacancies across government, including among top government CIOs. Only about two-thirds of major agencies have permanent CIOs in place right now, he said.

The percentage of federal IT workers who are over 50 also far outnumbers those under 30. That gap will be hard to close: The government hired about 30 percent fewer new IT hires in government who are under 30 now than in 2012.

Also from Wednesday’s event:

  • A PSC review found cybersecurity topped federal CIOs’ list of concerns.
  • The survey also found those CIOs were beginning to focus on proactive cybersecurity rather than relying on anti-virus software and help from the Homeland Security Department.
  • About 30 percent of the Health and Human Services Department’s cyber workforce is currently vacant. Another 24 percent is eligible for retirement.