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Obama Wants Nearly $80B for IT Projects

President Barack Obama on Monday requested $79.4 billion in spending on IT projects for fiscal 2011, a 1.2 percent increase from what he proposed in fiscal 2010 and a slight decrease from the $80.6 billion the 2010 budget actually allocated.

The Obama administration has proposed increasing the number of major IT projects. Last fiscal year, the administration proposed handling 781 major IT projects with $40.3 billion. In fiscal 2011, it's proposing 809 major IT projects at $40.4 billion, according to the budget proposal.

Despite modest increases in the budget request, Obama wants IT efforts related to open government and technology modernization to continue in 2011.

Obama's request acknowledges that in many cases, consumer technology is ahead of the federal government's technology. The request calls for the review of governmentwide information policies, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act and the federal cookies policy, which may need updating or clarifying to allow agencies to use new technologies.

As the government tries to become more transparent, the budget request calls for launching a new tracking tool with daily updates that would give the public the ability to see aggregate spending by agency and also by geographic area. Obama also wants a new search engine created that would allow the public to customize information by location, agency or timeframe.

"This innovative development will allow people to have a greater understanding of how their government works, and hold officials accountable for responsible spending decisions," according the request.

White House officials want to continue rolling out less intensive and less expensive cloud computing technologies, according to the request. Officials seek to reduce the number and cost of federal datacenters, work with agencies to reduce the time and effort required to acquire IT, improve the alignment of technology acquisitions with agency needs, and hold providers of IT goods and services accountable for their performance.

To help with governmentwide initiatives, the administration wants $35 million in the Electronic Government Fund, a million-dollar increase from last year's proposal.

Among the multi-agency programs, the request also calls for centralizing IT services for civilian agencies.

"Centralizing federal IT services will reduce duplicative and wasteful spending; reduce facility space usage; increase security; improve service delivery; and reduce energy consumption," the request states. "It is projected that this approach could prevent billions in increased costs across the federal government over the next few years."

The administration also laid out more of its objectives for the coming years, including some IT spending that departments would take on.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plans to release a new a new cybersecurity dashboard this spring; "unlocking the value of agency FISMA [Federal Information Security Management Act] reporting by presenting the information gathered to agencies' IT professionals and management in a timely, comprehensive, and secure manner," the administration said.

In addition, the administration's "Analytical Perspectives" document that accompanied the budget said an OMB task force which had developed new, outcome-focused metrics for information security performance for agencies and those metrics would be used for reporting compliance with FISMA. "More frequent reporting, near or at real-time, is imperative for developing situational awareness across the federal enterprise," the document stated.

Among the Defense Department's (DOD's) high priorities for the coming two years, officials plan to create the next generation of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Records by 2012. The administration intends to set up the interagency program for electronically sharing health and benefits data of service members and veterans, according to the budget proposal. DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) have been working jointly in fiscal 2010 on the project.

For fiscal 2011, the administration proposed $81.3 billion in discretionary funds for the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, an increase from $79.6 billion in fiscal 2010. That would boost departmental funding by $1.7 billion, or 2.1 percent. HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Information Technology would get $78 million, up from $43 million in fiscal 2010. That office also is in charge of coordinating policies for distribution of more than $2 billion under the economic stimulus law to spur hospitals and doctors to adopt electronic health records and to develop health information exchanges.

That $81.3 billion total includes $6 billion for biomedical research by the National Institutes for Health, focusing on the priority areas of genomics, translational research, science to support health care reform, global health and on revitalizing the biomedical research community. The budget also includes funding for 30 new cancer drug trials and for a catalog of cancer mutations for the 20 most common malignancies, the proposal states.

The budget would also provide $2.5 billion in budget authority for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an increase from $2.3 billion this year. Priority goals include food safety prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. In the budget, the administration supports the expansion of post-market safety surveillance of medical products along with the FDA's efforts to make safety data more available and comprehensible, according to the budget proposal.

The budget also would spend more than $400 million to develop next-generation medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Of the $7.65 billion that was appropriated in 2009 to fight swine flu, the government spent approximately $7.3 billion on vaccine development and distribution in 2009 and 2010 and the government is expected to spend $330 million in 2011, according to the document.

The VA's IT budget is $3.3 billion, representing no increase in fiscal 2011 in comparison to fiscal 2010. The fiscal 2009 budget for IT was $2.7 billion. Although the budget documents do not provide a reason for the flat budget, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker stopped more than 40 IT projects in 2009 for re-examination.

As the administration takes on these programs, officials have several management strategies to evaluate federal programs for their success. As officials have told Congress, they will use performance information improve programs' outcomes.

"Agency leaders have set a few high-priority goals and use constructive data-based reviews to keep their organizations on track to deliver on the objectives," the administration states in its budget proposal.

About the Authors

Ben Bain is a reporter for 1105 Media.

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for 1105 Media's Federal Computer Week.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for 1105 Media's Washington Technology.

Matthew Weigelt is acquisition editor for 1105 Media's Federal Computer Week.

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