Show respect to OMB -- or else

Steve LeSueur

In case we didn't already know, officials of the Office of Management and Budget last week made clear they are taking firm control of federal spending on information technology.

Although the president is requesting $59.3 billion for IT products and services in fiscal 2004, officials said they would not let agencies spend requested funds if the agencies, when asked, fail to provide revised justification for projects.

"Much of the $60 billion is misspent, and much of it is spent in an uncoordinated way," OMB Director Mitchell Daniels said.

Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government, said he will look for ways to eliminate duplicative spending among the agencies. Forman estimated that redundant spending on IT is "in the double-digit billions -- more than I imagined."

At the same time, the administration is introducing a new tool or process for measuring agency performance, called the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART. Programs that fail to get a satisfactory rating will be required to take steps to improve performance or risk funding cuts. The PART assessment comes in addition to the business cases that agencies also must submit to OMB to justify IT spending.

The Bush budget request will create many winners among the companies that provide IT products and services to government. The losers, as Jim Kane of Federal Sources said, will be "the companies that do not have respect for OMB's strong influence on this sector."

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