Congress swings its hammer
IT, e-gov projects face <@SM>tough budget oversight<@VM>House follows committee's lead on DOD, cuts FCS
- By Mary Mosquera
- Jul 17, 2005
Lawmakers are applying additional restrictions and greater oversight on large IT and e-government projects in the fiscal 2006 agency spending bills making their way through Congress.
Legislators also continue to limit funding for the administration's push to compete federal jobs with the private sector at some agencies, including the Interior Department, the Agriculture Department's Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The House has completed nine of its 11 spending bills. The Senate has moved more slowly, with the Senate Appropriations Committee having approved seven spending bills. The House and Senate ultimately will have to reconcile their separate versions of bills.
Facing tight budgets ? projected appropriations for next year are nearly unchanged from last year -- the Senate Appropriations Committee is concerned about the ability of agencies to manage requirements for large IT projects.
"Agencies lose control of this process," a senior Republican staff member said. The staff member cited as problematic IRS modernization programs, despite the agency's progress over the last year in releasing the first version of its new taxpayer database, the Customer Account Data Engine. "We've seen it with huge cost overruns almost across the board," the staff member said.
As a result, lawmakers in several bills have directed agencies to seek their approval or report to them on progress of large IT projects, such as modernization at IRS and FBI's latest case-management system project.
Funding for competitive sourcing studies continues to be vexing.
"There is a philosophical battle here about what is uniquely governmental as opposed to what can be contracted out. That's a gray area," the staff member said.
It has to do with jobs in members' states, but it also has to do with efficiencies in government. "You don't want to pay, especially with tight budgets, more than you're paying now for government workers," the staff member said.
Contracting out work sometimes can create additional layers of bureaucracy that negate the cost benefit. That information is difficult to track.
"Oftentimes, it seems they haven't done adequate studies to make sure you're getting your cost benefit out of it. Then it just becomes philosophy as opposed to practicality. Practicality needs to win out at the end of the day," the staff member said.
Here is how major IT projects are faring in recent spending bills for 2006:Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and related agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$16.8 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$16.7 billionHouse H.R. 2744 recommends:
$16.8 billionSenate Appropriations recommends:
The House bill restricts use of funds for competitive sourcing relating to rural development or farm loan programs without congressional approval. The bill earmarks $124.6 million for shared systems and services for the department's continued Common Computing Environment, which will modernize the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Farm Service and Rural Development at the county office level.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive $33.3 million for its animal identification systems to help prevent mad cow and other disease breakouts.Science, State, Justice, Commerce and related agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$56.2 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$60.5 billionHouse H.R. 2862 recommends:
$57.5 billionSenate Appropriations (excluding State) recommends:
$52.4 billionJusticeFiscal 2005 enacted:
$20.6 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$20.3 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$21.4 billionCommerceFiscal 2005 enacted:
vFiscal 2006 request: $9.6 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$5.8 billionScienceFiscal 2005 enacted:
$21.7 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$22.1 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$22.1 billionStateFiscal 2005 enacted:
$10.7 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$9.8 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$9.5 billionRelated agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$3.3 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$2.2 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
The House bill provides $135 million for Justice Information Sharing Technology, $46.5 million below the president's request.
The systems include the Joint Automated Booking System, the Justice Consolidated Office Network, the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program, Public Key Infrastructure and Secure Communications, Case Management Common Solutions for litigating components, the Automated Biometric Identification System/Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the management and administrative costs of the office of Justice's chief information officer.
The Justice Department must submit a report on its plans for implementing the Federal Investigation Case Management System, a common IT case management architecture. The bill provides $17 million for strengthening IT program management in the office of the CIO.
The bill does not provide new funding in 2006 for FBI's new case management system after the failure of its Virtual Case Files program. Lawmakers expect the FBI to submit by Aug. 1 a request to redirect funds to the new system, and then provide regular updates on the status of the replacement system.
Also, the bill requires that the departments of Commerce, Justice, State and related agencies seek lawmakers' approval for starting, stopping, reorganizing and contracting out e-government projects such as the Small Business Administration's Business Gateway project, the one-stop shop for business owners. "The committee is not convinced that there is justification for this and other e-government investments," the bill stated.Military quality of life and Veterans Affairs and related agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$79.3 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$84.1 billionHouse H.R. 2528 recommends:
After the failure of the Core Financial and Logistics System last year and a critical report on the agency's next large IT project, HealtheVet, lawmakers cut $383 million from the administration's request for a $385.7 million increase in Veterans Affairs' IT spending, leaving VA $11 million from other sources in the IT budget for a feasibility and planning study.
The bill also could cut $40 million for the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture legacy hospital system, which HealtheVet is expected to modernize. Lawmakers also shaved $30 million from the CoreFLS project and $20 million from VA's computing infrastructure.Interior Department, environment and related agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$27 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$25.7 billionHouse H.R. 2361 recommends:
$26.2 billionSenate Appropriations recommends:
Lawmakers continue to limit competitive sourcing. The Interior Department can spend up to $3.45 million to initiate or continue competitive sourcing studies in 2006. The legislation also restricts the Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department, to $2.5 million for competitive sourcing studies. Any report on competitive sourcing studies must detail all the costs, including outside consultants, contractors and training.
Both House and Senate versions restrict funding for the departments' e-gov projects, such as Safecom and Disaster Management, and competitive sourcing, actions the White House objected to in two Statements of Administration Policy.
"The administration has adopted a reasoned approach for ensuring the fair and effective application of competition," the statement said. It also said competitive sourcing would improve agency program management. Disaster responders would lose a critical tool in responding to incidents, such as wildland fires, without the governmentwide project.
Lawmakers also said in the bill's report that significant funding has been dedicated to IT improvements, enterprise services and implementing portions of the President's Management Agenda without a well thought out approach to addressing requirements.
"Funds should not be taken from all agencies to provide centralized funding for the various lead agencies," the report said. Funding for governmentwide initiatives should be requested and managed by each lead agency.
Lawmakers also reduced by $2.1 million the request for management efficiencies, IT certification and accreditation and e-government initiatives. The bill also prohibits the use of funds for Safecom and Disaster.gov activities, two Quicksilver projects, instead using those funds to cover shortfalls of other programs.
The bill recommends $47.1 million for enterprise information activities at the U.S. Geological Survey. But it refused to transfer funds to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster management e-gov initiative.Energy and water developmentFiscal 2005 enacted:
$29.9 billionFiscal 2006 requested:
$29.7 billionHouse H.R. 2419 recommends:
$29.8 billionSenate Appropriations recommends:
$31.2 billionArmy Corps of EngineersFiscal 2005 enacted:
$5.0 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$4.3 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$4.8 billionBureau of ReclamationFiscal 2005 enacted:
$1.0 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$951 millionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$1.0 billionEnergyFiscal 2005 enacted:
$24.4 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$24.2 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
Lawmakers have applied a new performance-based system to the Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program to focus limited resources on completion of high-value projects and stopping work on lower-value projects.
The bill also reduces competitive sourcing and e-gov initiatives by $2.5 million from the budget request, because, the appropriators said, adequate funds exist and there is insufficient justification for more.
Lawmakers increased funding for the Energy Information Administration in the Energy Department by $500,000 above the $86.4 million for cybersecurity measures to safeguard its computer systems and data integrity.Labor, Health and Human Services, Education departments and related agenciesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$143.5 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$141.9 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$143 billionLaborFiscal 2005 enacted:
$12.1 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$11.6 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
$11.7 billionHealth and Human ServicesFiscal 2005 enacted:
$63.8 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$62.5 billionFiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
Fiscal 2005 enacted: $56.6 billion
Fiscal 2006 request: $56.2 billion
Fiscal 2006 House bill recommends: $56.7 billion
Fiscal 2005 enacted: $11.05 billion
Fiscal 2006 request: $11.6 billion
Fiscal 2006 House bill recommends:
The bill funds $75 million for HHS' nationwide health IT initiatives, $50 million of which is for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to bring together organizations to develop standards for IT certification procedures, to develop electronic information architecture and to test privacy standards to be able to share patients' health information.
Funding for counterterrorism and bioterrorism programs increased by $188 million to $2.4 billion for preparedness of federal, state and local public health officials to respond to both terrorist and public health emergencies.
The bill provides $24.2 million to be available for two years for CMS' efforts to improve Medicare management, specifically IT to modernize Medicare fee-for-service claims processing, modernization of the data en- vironment and reduction of the CMS security perimeter.
The bill eliminated any support for HHS' IT security and innovation fund for HHS enterprisewide investments, such as for common IT infra- structure services and security and infrastructure to enable common administrative systems.
Lawmakers said they have targeted almost $67 million for this over the past four years, in addition to the substantial contributions made by HHS agencies.
The bill provides $29.8 million for the Labor Department's departmentwide IT crosscut, the same as the previous year and the budget request. Lawmakers commend the department for streamlining its IT infrastructure into a single, uniform system and encourages the department effort.Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development departments, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia and independent agenciesFiscal 2005 comparable:
$63.2 billion ($18.4 billion mandatory)Fiscal 2006 request:
$60.7 billionFiscal 2006 House Appropriations recommends:
$66.9 billion ($19.0 billion mandatory)TransportationFiscal 2005 enacted:
$13.7 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$11.8 billionFiscal 2006 House Appropriations recommends:
$13.8 billionTreasuryFiscal 2005 enacted:
$11.2 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$11.7 billionFiscal 2006 House Appropriations recommends:
$11.6 billionHousing and Urban DevelopmentFiscal 2005 enacted:
$36.1 billionFiscal 2006 request:
$33.3 billionFiscal 2006 House Appropriations recommends:
The bill provides the General Services Administration $3 million for e-gov projects, slightly more than last year. It does not include a provision proposed last year that would allow the Office of Management and Budget to use $40 million of surplus funds in the general supply fund to finance OMB's list of e-gov initiatives across government.
"The committee refuses to relinquish oversight of the development and procurement of information technology projects of the various agencies under its jurisdiction," the bill's report said.
If the general supply fund runs a $40 million or greater surplus, GSA will likely re-evaluate the price of its services to agencies. If OMB seeks funding for an initiative under its direction, OMB likely will request those funds under its own appropriation.
The bill provides slightly less funding for IRS business modernization funding at $199 million and also blocks the IRS from closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers until lawmaker concerns about the proposal's impact on customer service are resolved.
Lawmakers said the administration's plan to close 68 Taxpayer Assistance Centers seems to be "an ill-conceived initiative driven by budget decisions rather than an exercise in good management and sound customer service."
Mary Mosquera is a staff writer with Government Computer News. She can be reached at mmosquera
The House has signed off on a $408 billion Defense Department budget that makes significant cuts to key transformational programs across the department.
The appropriations bill, approved by a 398-19 vote, proposed slashing nearly $450 million from the Army's Future Combat Systems program, designed to link 18 manned and unmanned weapons systems via a common computer network known as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. The Army had requested $3.4 billion.
The Senate has not concluded its markup of the appropriations bill.
House lawmakers, in a report attached to the spending proposal, said FCS suffered "significant development and contracting delays."
Legislators also voted to reduce funding for DOD space programs and cut $1 billion from the Navy's $1.6 billion request to continue development of the high-tech DD(X) surface combatant ships.
Still, HR 2863 would give troops equipment and new technologies, according to Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee.
The funding includes:
- $5 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter, a high-tech combat aircraft program
- $440 million for two Littoral Combat Ships. LCS, a smaller, faster and more agile version of the Navy's planned DD(X) warships, will offer high-speed transit, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and will share tactical information with manned and unmanned Navy aircraft, ships, submarines and units. It also will use advanced systems for weapons, sensors, data fusion, command, control, communications, computing and self-defense.