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How Sequestration Impacts Federal IT Spending

Automatic cuts hit cyber security, IT modernization, communications and many other programs.

A report from the Office of Management and Budget shows that federal agencies with the largest concentration of IT programs stand to lose the most as a result of the automatic spending cuts triggered by sequestration.

Office of Management and Budget deputy director Jeffrey Zients, in a report to Congress, said the $85 billion in government-wide cuts would translate into budget reductions from 2% in Medicare to 7.9% in non-exempt defense programs. Because the cuts must be squeezed into seven months, the percentages are actually higher.

Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels, in a March 1 blog post, said that the sequester will result in "an almost certain drop in purchases of IT goods and services by federal agencies," as well as IT spending cuts in state and local government. Bartels anticipates that spending on IT hardware will be the easiest to cut and that agencies will shift more of their remaining budget from on-premises software deployments to cloud services.

[ The pain of sequestration will hit hard at NASA. Read How Sequestration Could Hit NASA Projects. ]

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, in interview with InformationWeek Government prior to sequestration taking effect, warned that IT spending cuts could cause progress in federal IT implementation and reform to "stagnate" and negatively impact cybersecurity.

The 83-page OMB report provides a detailed accounting of the size and percentage of sequester cuts by agency and department. Homeland Security's Infrastructure Protection and Information Security program will be trimmed by about 8%, or $91 million. Another DHS program, US-VISIT, which uses IT to check the immigration status of travelers coming into the United States, stands to lose $14 million. Homeland Security's science and technology research and development programs must cut $34 million.

Elsewhere in DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood mapping and risk analysis program faces $5 million in cutbacks. Customs and Border Protection will lose $17 million that had been budgeted to automation modernization and $20 million for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology.

The report devotes several pages to sequestration's impact on the Department of Defense. DOD's research, development, test and evaluation programs stand to lose $1.6 billion.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which establishes baseline cybersecurity standards for implementation across government, will lose $29 million in spending on scientific and technical research.

The Justice Department's tactical law enforcement wireless communications program, which is working to improve interoperability among law enforcement communications devices, will be cut by $4 million, and DOJ's information-sharing technology program by $2 million. The department's research department will lose $5 million.

Elsewhere, the Internal Revenue Service's business systems modernization program will be trimmed by $17 million, the Environmental Protection Agency's science and technology activities by $40 million, the Department of Labor's IT modernization program by $1 million and the Transportation Department's cybersecurity initiatives by $1 million.

In addition, various IT-intensive operations at NASA face cuts, with space operations being chopped by $212 million and science operations by $256 million.

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User Rank: Apprentice
3/7/2013 | 8:25:45 PM
re: How Sequestration Impacts Federal IT Spending
Two comments; Sequestration only reduced the growth in budget, not the actual budget. The government is on track to spend more money this year than last. The additional expenditure resulting from the automatic escalation of 7% was reduced by 2.5%. Second comment, DHS spent 50 million dollars buying TSA uniforms - more than the supposed border patrol cuts referenced here. Since DHS only provides uniforms to "new" recruits, TSA would need to recruit 50,000 net new TSA agents to make the expenditures legitimate.
John Foley
John Foley,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 9:44:28 PM
re: How Sequestration Impacts Federal IT Spending
OMB has spent the past four years putting into place the mechanisms for improved IT governance, and the CIOs of virtually all federal agencies have invested much of their time and resources into becoming more agile and efficient. Sequestration, whether a short term exercise or long term reality, will put all of that to the test. We will learn whether federal IT operations are in fact more flexible and better managed than before. Of the things that could go wrong, cybersecurity readiness is the most worrisome.
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