Under Obama plan, federal IT spending would drop 1 percent

This story has been updated.

President Obama's proposed fiscal 2013 budget includes a dip of slightly more than 1 percent for federal information technology to about $78.9 billion.

That overall drop is due largely to a major decline in Defense Department IT spending, which is projected to fall by about $1.4 billion from fiscal 2012 to about $37.2 billion in fiscal 2013. IT investment spending at major civilian agencies is projected to rise by roughly $500 million to about $41.7 billion.

Federal IT spending has been relatively flat since the beginning of the Obama administration. Prior to 2008, it grew at an annual rate of about 7 percent, or roughly 4.5 percent adjusted for inflation, according to a presentation by federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel.

The Defense reductions are largely a result of IT modernization across the department, especially a data center consolidation initiative that's projected to save about $680 million annually by 2015, Van Roekel said in a conference call with reporters.

The largest increases in federal IT spending will be at the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Veteran's Affairs departments, according to VanRoekel.

The new Treasury and HHS spending will be aimed at improving citizen access to tax filing and health care documents, he said. New VA spending is primarily for the joint Defense and VA Blue Button program, which allows soldiers and veterans to securely download and share their medical records with doctors and others.

Monday's budget request represents only the administration's proposal and is likely to change significantly after Congress weighs in.

The president's request for the electronic-government fund is $16.7 million, somewhat higher than the 2012 appropriation. That fund, which pays for many of the administration's digital open government initiatives, such as the Federal IT Dashboard, has struggled for funding since its budget was cut by more than 75 percent as part of a deal to avert a government shutdown in April 2011.

The IT budget analysis document touts several accomplishments during the past year, including major transitions to cloud email systems at the Agriculture Department and General Services Administration, which officials expect to save $27 million and $15 million respectively over the next five years.

Technology officials have moved 40 services to the cloud so far, according to document, and have retired 50 legacy systems as a result. About 80 more services are slated to move to the cloud by June.

The document also touts roughly $4 billion in projected future savings from TechStat accountability reviews of fumbling or failing IT projects.

The CIO's office first started performing TechStat reviews in 2009, but only on an informal basis for much of the last year since most were being conducted at the agency level, VanRoekel said. The CIO's office has since returned to doing formal TechStats and he has committed to doing at least one per month, VanRoekel said.

During the next year, he also plans to formalize a set of "SWAT teams," comprised of IT experts from across government who can swoop in to turn around critical but failing projects. VanRoekel said he deployed an ad hoc SWAT team to assist with the USAJobs.gov website, which experienced multiple problems after its November 2011 relaunch.

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