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Government Looks To Improve IT Project Management

Fed CIO Vivek Kundra pledges better and timelier details on the health of federal IT projects in as close to real time as possible.
The federal government is better known for spending $600 on toilet seats than being frugal, and IT projects are no exception. Cost overruns have plagued federal IT projects in the past, and the Government Accountability Office has written any number of reports detailing IT failures in government.

This week, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., introduced a bill that aims to make more public information available about federal IT spending, "require greater accountability for cost overruns," and improve investment management strategies.

The new legislation comes at a time when the Office of Management and Budget has placed a renewed focus on IT spending under newly minted federal CIO Vivek Kundra, whose office walls are notably adorned by graphs of the federal IT budget. Kundra has advocated transparency as a way to push more accountability for government IT projects.

"If we look at the tough economy we're in, the fact that we're in two wars, it's very important that we make sure every dollar that's spent produces real value," he said in a recent interview with InformationWeek. "We're divesting and killing projects that don't perform and we're investing in projects that do perform. We do not want to throw good money after bad money."

In testimony Thursday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Kundra elaborated on his strategy. He said the OMB was looking for ways to overhaul IT project management in government, starting by creating better project requirements in order to foster cost control before the projects even begin. Improved requirements should cut back on variable cost-plus contracts that often overrun initial project estimates, he added.

Kundra also said the OMB would begin providing better, timelier detail on the health of federal IT projects in as "close to real time as possible" in order to make agencies more accountable. That would include consolidating numerous reports and IT project lists and adding significant detail to related documents hosted on USAspending.gov.

Carper's bill, meanwhile, would, among other things, require quarterly reports on the progress of major IT projects, including reasons why the project has deviated from cost, schedule, or performance if by more than 10%. Projects deviating more than 20% from initial estimates would spur creation of a "Tiger Team" of IT managers who will work with the OMB to improve performance, and those deviating by more than 40% would raise red flags that could get the project shut down.


InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization.

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