Federal CIO details IT forecast

On the heels of the president’s 2013 budget proposal that revealed relatively flat federal IT spending, the Obama administration remains determined to push innovation in a fiscally responsible way, according to federal CIO Steven VanRoekel.

In a Feb. 13 conference call with reporters, VanRoekel said federal IT spending has remained stagnant since Obama took office. Before 2008, federal IT spending grew at a yearly rate of approximately 7 percent, or roughly 4.5 percent when adjusted for inflation. 

The current decline in federal IT spending is linked to a major drop at agencies such as Commerce, Energy and Defense. At DOD, the decrease is partly due to modernization and efficiency efforts, such as the $300 million in savings that data center consolidation has achieved, VanRoekel said. 

DOD will also begin to see significant reductions over the next decade, and agencies will prepare for these cuts by investing in more agile and innovative IT, he added. 

The Treasury, Human and Health Services and Veterans Affairs departments will see the most IT spending under the president's plan. The 2013 budget proposal for Treasury asks for a nearly 7 percent increase from 2012, to nearly $14 billion. Some of that investment will go toward modernizing business to improve citizens’ access to tax filings and related resources, Van Roekel said.

The HHS budget also reflects the need to provide citizens better access to health care programs as well as upgrades to IT systems. At VA, the budget increases reflect investments in IT to support the Blue Button initiative, a joint venture between VA and DOD to provide veterans easy access to their medical information.

In line with the administration’s sweeping commitment to cut waste, the budget also emphasizes maximizing return on the government's IT investment, VanRoekel said. Another high-priority area is improving cybersecurity for government networks and systems: The Homeland Security Department, for example, will invest more than $200 million to support continuous monitoring.

The administration also plans to expand its TechStat reviews to continue eliminating duplicative projects and identify those behind schedule or over budget. Since its launch in 2010, TechStat has saved more than $4 billion, VanRoekel said.

Another area of focus will be to expand efforts to bring in fresh IT talent into the government. “The fastest way to evolve the culture around government IT is to introduce new people into the mix,” VanRoekel said, adding this can be done via the Entrepreneurs in Residence program, which rotates private-sector talent into government for short-term skills exchange. Recruiting IT SWAT teams will also help government with troubled projects, VanRoekel said.

In the next six months, the administration also plans to start hiring graduates of the presidential Technology Fellows Program, which VanRoekel launched in October 2011. That effort aims to prepare IT and computer science professionals for federal IT careers through a paid two-year fellowship.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

Reader Comments

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 Editor

Thanks for the comments.

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 Steve Schmidt

Camille—great article—I agree with Steve VanRoekel that in order to eliminate waste, Federal IT must maximize the return on government's investment. But how? One solution is to turn more attention to the optimization of software license spend. According to IDC, the Federal government spent about $8 billion in 2011. By various estimates, anywhere from 5%-30% of software budgets are wasted due to the inability to manage and optimize software licenses. In the same organization or department, there are often cases of both software underspend (non-compliant use resulting in audit true-up liabilities) and software overspend (shelf-ware) due to under-use of existing software licenses. Given the complexity of software license agreements and their product use rights— the federal government has little to no visibility into how much software it owns and uses. Nor does it have clear visibility into what its use rights are. Having these facts at hand are essential to eliminating waste to ensure the federal government buys what it needs and uses what it has.

Leaders in the public sector like US Congressman Joseph Walsh are starting to shed a brighter light on this “low hanging” fruit that could help cut federal waste by billions of dollars. Back in October, Walsh announced his successful introduction of an amendment to eliminate wasteful software license spend in the house version of the Department of Homeland Security authorization bill. This type of legislation around enterprise license optimization will in due course enforce effective, long-term cost avoidance strategies, which will in turn positively correlate to the US Government’s ROI.

Automated software asset management and license optimization tools provide such capabilities, scaling as needed and working on a continuous basis. Such a solution can be implemented at any time, but is often linked to other infrastructure changes. The move to Windows 7 and/or a virtualized environment is an example, which often naturally leads to an application inventory and rationalization step.

We are seeing software license optimization save our private enterprise customers millions of dollars and there is no reason the government cannot enjoy similarly impressive savings. www.flexerasoftware.com

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