Budget for All: What a Way to Celebrate the Holidays

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Congress passed its whole-of-government funding package just before the end of the year.

This past March, I scoured the $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that funded the government through the 2022 fiscal year to unearth IT and cyber spending, as well as management and policy guidance. In an act that can only be considered masochistic madness, I read through the massive bill —all 2,741 pages of it —to tease out key highlights. Having healed over these several months—some might consider me the "Mick Foley" of federal IT—I've taken on the same task for the $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 22 and by the House on Dec. 23. Upon the bill's House passage, President Biden said he'd sign the bill into law as soon as it reached his desk. 

While much has been made by Republican critics of a 4,155 page bill being "dumped on them at the last minute", the bill is the result of a number of appropriations hearings held over these past months, where administration officials have testified about the programs and requested funding. Moreover, "only" 1,833 pages of the bill cover the regular discretionary spending of the federal government. The rest of the bill includes supplementals for Ukraine ($44.9 billion) and disaster relief ($27 billion); electoral count reform and presidential transition improvement; legislation like No Tik Tok on Government Devices, the Secure 2.0 Act of 2022, the Strong Veterans Act of 2022 and the Contract Act of 2022; Post Office designations, extenders and technical corrections of the just enacted National Defense Authorization Act; and miscellaneous provisions on aviation-related, oceans-related, financial services, water and consumer protection matters.

In a time when only two trains can be counted on to leave Capitol Hill each year—the NDAA and a bill to fund the government—it is little wonder that each one has become a vehicle to be loaded up with all kinds of other policy legislation. The omnibus includes nearly $773 billion for an array of healthcare, environment, labor, education and economic programs; this is $68 billion—or 9%—more than last year for domestic spending. It also includes about $858 billion to fund Department of Defense programs authorized in the NDAA, a 10% increase over FY 2022. We await an agency-by-agency breakout of what was appropriated for information technology. Historically, Congress has approved higher funding for IT than the president has requested. But some specific IT and cyber funding levels are noted in the legislation The categories are the separate appropriations designations noted in the act and represent the subcommittees in the House and Senate with jurisdiction over those departments/agencies.

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration and Related Agencies 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Information Officer is provided $92.3 million, with not less than $77.4 million of that to be spent for cybersecurity. Within the department, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is provided with $4.3 million for IT infrastructure.

Elsewhere, $65 million in grant funding is available for distance learning and telemedicine in rural areas and $364 million is available to bring broadband services to those parts of the country.

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

The Department of Commerce OCIO is provided $35 million for technology modernization and cybersecurity mitigation. In the Department of Justice, $138 million is provided for information sharing technology and $40 million for IT in the OCIO.

Energy And Water Development and Related Agencies

The act provides $200 million for energy sector cybersecurity, energy security and emergency response. The Energy Information Administration is funded with $135 million. 

Financial Services And General Government

The Department of the Treasury is provided $100 million for enhanced security for systems operated by the Department, and $6 million is made available for administrative expenses of the OCIO. For the agency’s automatic data processing equipment, software and services, as well as building renovations and repairs, the act provides $11.1 million. The Bureau of Fiscal Services is provided $8 million for information services modernization.

At the White House, the Executive Office of the President is provided $12.8 million for continued IT modernization and the Office of Management and Budget is provided $13.7 million for IT oversight and reform.

For the General Services Administration, $90 million is available for interagency programs that enhance e-government and services to citizens and $50 million is provided for the Technology Modernization Fund.

The Office of Personnel Management is provided $19.4 million for IT modernization and Trust Fund Federal Financial System migration, with $1.4 million of that amount to strengthen the acquisition workforce.

Department of Homeland Security 

CISA is provided $2.35 billion for its important cybersecurity work.

Department Of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

The Interior Department's Working Capital Fund is provided $112 million for its activities which include IT.

Department Of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Related Agencies

The act provides $82 million for operations and enhancements of IT for the workers' compensation programs at the Department of Labor and $34 million for IT support systems and modernization at the department.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is provided $66 million.

For the Social Security Administration, unobligated balances not needed at the end of FY 2023 are available for IT hardware and software.

Legislative Branch

The House of Representatives modernization initiatives—which involve a number of staff, operational and procedural changes, not mainly IT—are provided $10 million, and the Government Accountability Office is provided $790 million.  

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies

For IT systems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the act provides a total of $5.8 billion, of which $1.5 billion is for salaries and expenses, $4.1 billion is for operations and maintenance, and $142 million is for It systems development. Interestingly, when one excludes S&E, 97% of the department's IT spend goes to O&M with just 3% going to development, modernization and enhancement. The much-scrutinized Veterans Electronic Health Records initiative is provided $1.8 billion, with those funds available until September 30, 2025, but the act imposes a number of conditions and reporting requirements on the use of those monies. It also rescinds $150 million from unobligated balances—monies earlier appropriated that have not yet been spent—for the EHR Program. The act includes several general provisions to expand the use of e-commerce technologies and procedures.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies

The act provides $29.2 million for the Department of Transportation OCIO and $48 million for cybersecurity initiatives. For the Federal Aviation Administration, $65 million is provided for NextGen and operations planning.

In the Department of Housing and Urban Development, $70 million is provided for the OCIO.  

In my March article on the FY 2022 budget, I noted that Congress' actions reflected two important things. First, an understanding of the importance of IT as critical to mission success and citizen service. And second, a growing recognition of the need to strengthen the role and authorities of the chief information officer in departmental management. That act included language to enhance CIO authorities at USDA, Justice, State, HUD and agencies covered under Financial Services and General Government—Treasury, Judiciary, the EOP, the District of Columbia and several independent agencies, such as GSA, OPM and others.

This year, Congress included similar or identical language for USDA, Justice, State and in the Financial Services and General Government portions of the bill. These actions are important to note in that they show support from appropriators for enhanced IT management and oversight, as well as serving as multiple beachheads for what many reform advocates say is needed governmentwide. Let me note several other management provisions that may be of interest—some related to IT management, some of general management interest, some championing service to citizen and one final scrooge-like anomaly.

Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies

For the Farm Service Agency at USDA, the act highlights the importance of an IT roadmap and life cycle management policies and guidance, and it makes only half the monies for IT related to farm program delivery available for expenditure until the agency meets a set of reporting requirements. The Secretary of Agriculture can transfer unobligated balances to the department's working capital fund for improvement, delivery and implementation of financial and administrative IT services, including cloud adoption and migration. There are several pages limiting actions that would remove or relocate any systems, missions, personnel or functions from the National Finance Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

The Department of Justice can't acquire a high- or moderate-impact IT system unless the agency has reviewed the supply chain risk involved in components produced, manufactured or assembled in China, Iran, Russia or North Korea. The department must also notify and explain to the appropriations committee any time a program that costs $75 million or more experiences a cost rise of 10% or more. 

NASA was also given authority to create an IT working capital fund, as authorized under the Modernizing Government Technology Act.

Financial Services and General Government

The Internal Revenue Service is required to submit quarterly reports on IT modernization, including a summary of cost and schedule performance information for major IT systems. The act also calls for the IRS to make improvements in its 1-800 help line services.

The act includes language and guidance on GSA’s site selection process for a new FBI headquarters building and requires separate and detailed consultations with officials from Maryland and Virginia. This popped up, along with several other issues, as a contentious last-minute item during budget negotiation in the Senate. The federal building located at 90 7th Street in San Francisco, California, will be designated the Speaker Nancy Pelosi Federal Building.  And departments and agencies are authorized under the act to transfer funds to GSA to support governmentwide innovations and initiatives, including the President's Management Council and the several CXO Councils.

The Small Business Administration has authority, not to exceed 3% of S&E and business loan program account funds, to be transferred to its IT working capital fund. 

Department of Homeland Security

The under secretary for management at DHS is required to brief the Appropriations Committee on all Level 1 and Level 2 acquisition programs on the Master Acquisition Oversight List, and the briefing must include 2 or more pages of items listed in the act. None of the funds provided to DHS in this act may be used to submit a project proposal to the Technology Modernization Fund unless the head of the agency notifies the appropriations committee and meets a number of requirements. A similar restriction was included in last year's law as well.

Legislative Branch

The Capitol Police shall perform a threat assessment for former Speakers of the House and provide them with a protective detail for one year, which may be extended if warranted. Likely, the provision represents a reaction to the attack that wounded Speaker Pelosi's husband at their San Francisco, California residence.

Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

Though it is unclear whether these provisions were aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or former Secretary Mike Pompeo, but the act indicates that no funds can be used to establish or utilize an email account or server outside the .gov domain or one not fitted for compliance with the Presidential and Federal Records Act. As noted above, the act includes language that indicates that "none of the funds appropriated may be made available for a new major IT investment without the concurrence of the department's CIO.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies

The act granted the secretary of HUD authority to transfer from amounts made available under salaries and expenses—up to $500,000 from each office—to an IT fund; the transfers can't exceed $5 million in total.

And let's conclude on a Grinch-like, Humbug-to-improved-service note—the section on HUD includes the following restriction: "None of the funds may be used to carry out customer experience activities within the Office of the Assistant CFO for Budget."