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Feds Announce IT Management Overhaul

White House plans to cut federal data centers by 40%, increase CIOs' authority to promote agility, and improve program management.

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The federal government plans to slash the number of data centers it operates by 40% by 2015, and the Obama administration will push for legislative changes to consolidate more IT budget and management authority in the hands of agency CIOs, administration officials said in a speech Friday in northern Virginia.

The reforms, jump-started by the Office of Management and Budget, come as part of a larger set of "structural changes" and other plans to make federal IT more productive and effective. The policy changes will cap a three-pronged strategy to overhaul federal IT that began this summer with reviews of high-risk IT projects and financial systems modernization efforts.

"A productivity boom has transformed private sector performance over the past two decades, but the federal government has almost entirely missed out," federal chief performance officer Jeff Zients told an audience of contractors in his speech before the Northern Virginia Technology Council. He cited statistics showing that government productivity has been growing at only 1/3 the rate of private productivity for the last few decades. "Fixing IT is central to everything we're trying to do. We've got to spread practices that we know work."

The administration's plan, which comes after deliberation with both industry and government, is five-fold: better align budgeting and acquisitions with the technology cycle, strengthen project and program management, streamline IT governance, increase engagement with industry and adopt "light technology" (think cloud computing) and shared services.

The long lead time for federal IT appropriations and acquisition has long made it hard for federal agencies to quickly adopt new technology. "The iPhone was developed in less time than it takes to prepare a budget and get Congressional approval," Zients said, attributing the quote to Department of Defense deputy secretary Bill Lynn. "Agencies need the flexibility to respond to changes in needs and expectations."

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