Federal IT Budgets Flat Through 2017

TechAmerica says civilian and defense agencies will face tough choices in how they spend their IT dollars and need to focus on cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives.

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor

October 19, 2011

3 Min Read

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Federal IT budgets will be flat for the foreseeable future, spurring federal agencies to make careful decisions about where to put their IT investments, according to an IT industry group.

The annual IT budget for civilian agencies and departments will hover around $43 billion between 2012 and 2017, according to TechAmerica, while IT spending by defense agencies and departments will drop from $38 billion to $35 billion during the same time period.

This budget scenario will require both civilian and defense agencies to think hard about where they want to put their IT money in the next several years, the industry group said. However, opportunities for federal contractors remain in key cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives the feds have already put in motion, as well as the adoption of new technologies like mobile applications. TechAmerica revealed its predictions for federal IT budgets in a news briefing this week.

Systems that support regulatory or public safety likely will get the funding nod over other investments, while officials will continue to scrutinize troubled programs and make cuts and changes where necessary, according to TechAmerica.

[ When budgets are tight, the government looks for ways to save money. Read GSA Aims To Cut $600 Million In Printing Costs. ]

In the meantime, agencies across the board will continue cost-cutting measures that have already begun in earnest, such as data-center consolidation and the move to cloud-based and shared services, according to TechAmerica.

On the civil side, the flattened budget forecast leaves in doubt timelines for migration to new technologies, with the fate of IT pilot programs in question.

Defense agencies face a similar scenario in terms of cutting costs and using methods like consolidation to deal with budget constraints, but also face their own challenges. Any new initiatives will have to demonstrate clear return on investment (ROI), and defense agencies will have to find their own funding rather than rely on appropriations for IT transformation projects, according to TechAmerica.

Despite the budget constraints, there are opportunities for federal contractors that fit into the investments agencies will be making over the next several years.

Helping agencies consolidate resources and move to cloud computing are two obvious areas of opportunity, according to TechAmerica. The feds recently expanded a broad data-center consolidation plan and agencies continue to adopt the cloud through the administration's "cloud first" policy.

The feds' move to leverage more mobile applications and devices also will continue, and agencies will need helping securing access to enterprise systems and extending enterprise apps to field employees via their mobile devices, according to TechAmerica.

Moreover, cybersecurity remains a challenge for the feds, especially for civilian agencies, according to the organization. Opportunities remain in helping the government minimize risks and vulnerabilities of some of the new technologies they are taking on, such as cloud computing, as well as other areas.

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