In fact, more than a third of government IT decision makers in a national study conducted by the Clarus Research Group and Cisco Systems said that budget constraints are a greater threat to an organization's IT infrastructure than cyber attacks or other security issues, such as employees' use of personal devices on the network.
Respondents were more concerned about budgets because curtailed funding hampers their ability to make improvements in high-priority areas such as information security, according to Cisco officials, discussing the report in a teleconference Oct. 2.
"Budget constraints have impact on security, cloud and bandwidth," said Vic Northrop, VP of sales enablement for Cisco. "All of them have an impact on [managers'] ability to deliver services to their client base."
[ Here's how government IT pros can harness agile development concepts. Read 3 Agile Government Myths, Busted. ]
Despite prevailing budget uncertainties, more than half (59%) of the IT leaders in the survey said they plan to boost investments in cybersecurity over the next year. Also, 42% said better technology, employee training and enhanced enforcement of security policies would strengthen cybersecurity in government.
The survey was conducted over 10 days in September, after the sequestration cuts went into effect last March but before this week's partial government shutdown. The results of the study are based on interviews with 400 federal, state and local IT professionals. About half of the respondents were federal employees and about half were state and local workers.
Overall, the survey results reflect intensifying anxieties over budget issues among government IT leaders, according to Cisco officials.
"The most important finding is the fact that there is so much focus on the budget," said Larry Payne, president of Cisco's U.S. federal organization. "Obviously, this is not something new. We've been seeing our customers being very budget conscious. They continue to look for ways to reduce their costs and have been for the several years, but in the last year they took that to a whole new level."
"But it does show that that's something that we have to focus on as a company and help our customers figure out ways to do more with less," he added. "And we think technology can help them do that."
Responding to another question, IT leaders said reducing costs (28%) and improving security (22%) were their top goals, followed by boosting efficiency (18%), improving delivery of services (18%) and enhancing mobility (9%).
The survey also showed that IT professionals lack confidence in the ability of top political leaders to understand the role of technology in government. More than three quarters (79%) think that most elected officials do not have a good understanding of how technology can be used to protect, serve and educate American citizens.
In addition, 62% said that most local and state police departments are not fully using the latest law enforcement technologies to keep the public safe.
In other key findings, nearly half (47%) of respondents believe that the U.S. is falling behind other developed countries in the deployment of broadband, and 68% think that government should increase spending in new technology for education.