IT's role in the 2015 spending bill

EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of this story first appeared on FCW.com.

Congressional leaders may have dodge a bullet with the release of a $1.1 trillion budget deal with just one day to spare.

The agreement will fund most of the government through the end of fiscal 2015. The bill, dubbed the "cromnibus" because it mixes features of an omnibus appropriations and a continuing resolution, was filed Dec. 9.

The House and Senate are expected to vote this week but a short-term extension of the current spending authority will likely be necessary to accommodate possible legislative hiccups. Leaders in both parties appear committed to avoiding a repeat of the 2013 government shutdown. Should Congress fail to reach an accommodation, the government would have to suspend some operations after Dec. 11.

The main caveat in the bill is the Homeland Security Department. Its funding is held at fiscal 2014 levels through Feb. 27. Republicans in Congress are looking to reopen DHS funding once they have control of both chambers, to craft legislation to thwart President Obama's recent executive order on immigration that offered some measure of legal status to between 4 million and 5 million people residing in the U.S. illegally.

As usual, IT spending was not a sticking point among lawmakers, but there were some developments worth noting:


Rules on supply chain risk management for the acquisition of IT systems by the departments of Commerce and Justice would remain in place, in Sec. 515 of the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriation. The measure would require a review of "any risk of cyber-espionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of such system, including any risk associated with such system being produced, manufactured, or assembled by one or more entities identified by the United States Government as posing a cyber threat, including but not limited to, those that may be owned, directed, or subsidized by the People's Republic of China."


IT oversight at the Office of Management and Budget would be funded at $20 million, the same as requested in the administration budget. This includes funding for the new U.S. Digital Service, which launched recently, headed by Deputy Federal CIO Mikey Dickerson. The explanatory statement accompanying the bill includes a request for a Top 10 list of "highest priority IT investment projects that are under development across Federal agencies."


IT takes a hit as part of more than $345 million in cuts to the IRS included in the package. Operations support would dip from $3.74 billion for fiscal 2014 to $3.64 billion in fiscal 2015 and a business systems modernization appropriation drops from about $313 million in fiscal2014 to $290 million in fiscal2015. This comes despite public warnings from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that the agency's IT capacity is being stretched by the need to replace aging legacy systems and to comply with the requirements of the health care overhaul. The bill also would instruct the IRS to keep Congress and the Government Accountability Office up to date on costs, performance, and risks of major IT investments, and details on the CADE 2 and Modernized e-File projects.


Appropriators are looking to keep a handle on efforts by the Department of Defense to contract for a health record system, and joint efforts by Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve data exchange between existing health records systems. The bill would restrict obligations from the Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) funding to 25 percent of the total, until House and Senate appropriators approve a DOD expenditure plan that includes changes to the deployment timeline, status of efforts to achieve DOD-VA interoperability, changes to the overall cost estimate for the program, and guidance on the acquisition strategy. Additionally, report language would instruct the Program Executive Office for DHMSM to update Congress quarterly on the acquisition, and DOD and VA to deliver monthly updates to the federal CIO at OMB on progress made to modernize EHRs and achieve interoperability.


The bill would affirm a plan by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build a web-based platform to collect and disseminate public health data. "A significant need exists for an agile, cloud-based, and flexible IT platform to reduce the reporting burden on state public health departments, and create economic efficiencies," per the joint statement.


Congress is looking to stall Obama administration plans to cede authority over the Internet root zone file used to manage addresses by shifting oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to a global, non-governmental entity. The bill would bar the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce Department component, from using fiscal 2015 funds to manage the transition away from U.S. control. The U.S. contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers expires at the close of fiscal 2015, but NTIA head Larry Strickling has said that the contract can be extended if a transition plan is not in place.


The report language would nix a Senate bid to have the National Security Agency submit several reports on bulk collection and surveillance of telephone metadata. 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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