Driving IT Reform: An Update

Tackling the information technology gap  between the public and private sectors is one of most effective ways we can make government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people. IT has been at the center of the private sector’s productivity gains, but for too long Federal IT projects have run over budget, behind schedule, or failed to deliver what on their promise. That’s why fixing IT is a cornerstone of the President’s Accountable Government initiative.

This effort began in earnest  this summer when we undertook a three-part strategy to reform how the federal government purchases and uses IT – cutting waste and saving money.

First, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra launched detailed reviews of the highest priority IT projects across the Federal Government; these are critically important IT modernization projects that have not yet delivered. Since then, we’ve held dozens of TechStat review sessions, resulting in faster deliverables, terminations of projects that didn’t work, and most importantly turned around projects that were in trouble.

Second, since far too many financial system modernization projects were running behind schedule and over budget, we halted all new work on those projects pending review and approval by OMB. Across the government, over 30 financial systems projects, with budgets totaling $20 billion, were affected by this policy.  

Our review of 20 agencies’ projects is now complete, and I am proud to report that we have taken steps to save $1.6 billion on these projects.
Through our reviews, we determined that half the projects were basically on track. Of the half that were not, we took the following actions:

  • At two agencies – the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency  -- we pulled forward meaningful functionality, resulting in almost $230 million in budget reductions.

  • At two agencies – the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration –  we canceled their projects as a result of the review, resulting in over $500 million in budget reductions.

  • At three agencies – the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services, we are moving forward with plans to decrease the scope of and improve their financial system projects, resulting in reduced costs and a greater focus on critical business needs.  This revaluation of these projects resulted in over $680 million in budget reductions. 

  • An additional $200 million in budget reductions was identified in various agencies, with more to come.

While this is great progress toward getting these IT systems online and working for the American people, we also recognize that it’s better to get them right from the get-go. 

Third, we were tasked with developing a new strategy to fundamentally change how the federal government purchases and uses IT, which I discussed in a speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council today: 

  • Aligning the Budget and Acquisition Process with the Technology Cycle. Between increasing budget flexibility and speeding up acquisitions, we’re going to eliminate the structural disconnect between the government’s process and the technology cycle. To start, we’ll work with Congress to identify a dozen pilot projects where we can develop a framework for increased budget flexibility and greater oversight.

  • Strengthening Program Management. We’re creating a formal career track for professional program managers and we’ll only green light IT projects with effective program management teams hardwired into the agency’s organizational structure.

  • Streamlining Governance and Increase Accountability. We’re going to revamp the Investment Review Boards along the TechStat model – bringing senior executives to the table armed with the right information and expertise to provide meaningful oversight and drive interventions and decision making on specific projects.

  • Increasing Engagement with the IT Community. We’ll be launching a “myth busters” campaign to promote greater engagement with industry and remove barriers to communication that are hurting our productivity. We’ll also develop mechanisms for sharing best practices and solutions between agencies and IT community on a regular basis.

  • Adopt Light Technologies and Shared Solutions. We are reducing our data center footprint by 40 percent by 2015 and shifting the agency default approach to IT to a cloud-first policy as part of the 2012 budget process.  Consolidating more than 2,000 government data centers will save money, increase security and improve performance.

Changing how we invest the $80 billion we spend each year on IT and making sure what we buy is helping us deliver better results at a cheaper price is a big challenge. But the hard work of many people throughout the agencies shows that it can be done, and we will work with our colleagues across the government and partners in the tech and business communities to build on these successes in the months to come.

Your Federal Tax Receipt