U.S. budget authorities look to trim IT

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the agencies that comprise the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to curb redundant spending.

The IT budget for Homeland Security is expected to grow from US$360 million in fiscal 2002, which ends Sept. 30, to $780 million in 2003. The OMB has directed the department to temporarily cease all IT projects in excess of $500,000 and to identify any projects currently not on the OMB’s expenditure list.

Homeland Security CIO Steven Cooper said Monday that the OMB memo reflected a desire to better meld IT spending with emerging homeland security needs, not a desire to force federal CIOs into an IT cost-cutting spree.

Cooper said a group of federal CIOs and OMB officials have formed a committee to review IT proposals.

“Together we will review all IT investments and planning, but we are also prioritizing,” Cooper said, adding that the homeland security initiative has increased the need for federal departments to work together.

First on the agenda, according to Cooper, is creating an IT infrastructure for the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The review group is checking to see, for example, what contracts are in place that the TSA can piggyback on, what data centers have excess capacity, and if any agencies have excess workstations available.

Cooper said the recent scandal surrounding IT contracts in the state of California didn’t influence the federal government to add the extra layer of scrutiny, but he added that, with limited dollars, federal authorities need to leave nothing to chance with the money they have.

A statement from the OMB said the government could save between $100 million and $200 million over the next two years if federal IT agencies avoid duplication in federal telecommunications-related contracts.