For too long, the Federal Government has failed to effectively harness the power and potential of information technology (IT) -- despite spending approximately $80 billion dollars on IT each year, and more than $600 billion over the past decade. As a result, it has lagged far behind the private sector in the reaping the gains in productivity and enhancements in service from IT. To get a better return on this investment for the American people, we have fundamentally altered the way we manage the federal government's IT projects -- using transparency to shed light on government operations and to hold government managers accountable for results.
On my first day on the job, at the beginning of the Obama Administration, I was handed a portfolio that included $27 Billion in IT projects that were years behind schedule, and over budget. I quickly found that the sheer size of the portfolio often led to a sense of faceless accountability and quickly set out to fix that. That’s why just months after President Obama took office, we launched the IT Dashboard (June, 2009) – which provides a clear window into Federal IT projects, bolstering transparency and accountability. The IT Dashboard shines a light on these projects, including if they are on schedule and within budget -- and posting the photo and name of the official responsible -- and agencies continue to increase transparency and improve data quality.
Using this important tool, we identified underperforming high priority IT projects and began an intensive review of these programs, eliminating ineffective projects, reconfiguring others, and targeting IT expenditures more carefully. These actions have on average:
- cut the time in half to deliver meaningful functionality and critical services (like faster adoption of new biometric technologies for law enforcement investigations and IT systems that effectively manage the delivery of food to 30 million Americans);
- reduced total budgeted costs by over $3 billion.
And as part of our broader IT reform plan to close the public- private technology gap, we are also strengthening program management and formalizing that career track to ensure that we have the right managers in place to oversee these projects, working with a dedicated team that will be held accountable for keeping the project on track.
Whether it be shining light on IT spending at the IT dashboard, posting details of where dollars are going (including by location and down to the subcontractor level) at USAspending.gov, or democratizing government data at data.gov, this Administration is committed to continuing to make government more open and accountable. As we celebrate Sunshine Week, it’s important to note that transparency is not only good government, it also bolsters accountability, and helps us deliver billions in savings and better results for the American people. More work lies ahead and we will continue to leverage the power of IT to make government more open and more effective so we can win the future.
Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra