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7/28/2010
02:41 PM
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White House To Review High-Risk IT Projects

As part of its effort to improve IT project management across federal agencies, OMB will require that designated projects devise improvement plans and get executive backing.

The Office of Management and Budget plans to review up to 30 "high risk" federal IT projects as the next step in an ongoing process to identify and remediate troubled, big-ticket technology deployments.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, in a June 28 conference call, said his office will work with agency CIOs to identify 25 to 30 IT projects across federal government that are deemed high risk and to conduct detailed reviews of those projects. Kundra estimated the total cost over the life of those projects, if allowed to proceed, to be $30 billion.

"In order to justify future funding for these projects, agencies will need to demonstrate that project risks can be reduced to acceptable levels through actions such as setting proper project scope, defining clear deliverables and mission-oriented outcomes, and putting in place a strong governance structure with explicit executive sponsorship," OMB said in a statement. "Projects which do not meet these criteria will not be continued."

OMB director Peter Orszag signaled his intention to bring increased oversight to "the highest-risk IT projects across the federal government" in a June 28 memo, in which he outlined a three-pronged effort to reform IT project management. As part of that process, OBM announced a temporary halt to approximately 30 financial system upgrades in federal agencies while those projects undergo review. OMB is also developing best-practice recommendations aimed at establishing higher standards for IT project management in government.

Kundra's office will spend the first half of August meeting with agency CIOs to identify high-risk projects in most need of attention. On Aug. 23, OMB will release a list of up to 30 projects to be reviewed. Those projects will be required to undergo one of OMB's TechStat accountability sessions and to demonstrate executive sponsorship and improvement plans in order to move ahead. There was no mention of putting a temporary freeze on high-risk projects while they undergo review, as happened during the financial system reviews.

The federal IT Dashboard, introduced in June 2009, already identifies 61 federal IT project with a rating of "significant concerns." Eleven of those red zone projects are valued at more than $100 million each, topped by Homeland Security's $539 million Secure Border Initiative.

The feds have demonstrated a willingness to reel in projects that don't pass muster. Within two weeks of OMB's financial system review, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would scale back a financial system overhaul valued at $400 million to $500 million.

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