2008 IT Funding To Increase 2.6%

The federal government reveals its $65.5 billion budget, but many current projects need extra care.
While federal government IT spending is slated to increase next fiscal year, more than 40% of major IT projects have been assessed as needing improvement, having weaknesses, or being at risk.

Federal government spending on IT initiatives will increase 2.6% in fiscal 2008 to $65.5 billion from $63.8 billion in fiscal 2007, with an emphasis on high-priority areas such as health IT and security, said Office of Management and Budget officials during a press briefing on Wednesday.

For instance, the IT budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is championing the push toward building an interoperable health information network -- a high priority for President Bush -- is slated to see its IT budget increase to $5.3 billion, from $4.6 billion in fiscal 2007.

However, during the news briefing touted as an overview of the federal "IT budget and initiatives to improve program performance and transparency," OMB officials also revealed that of 840 major IT projects and programs in 26 agencies and departments budgeted for next year, 346 have been put on the government's "management watch list."

The management watch list includes mission-critical projects that need improvement in the areas of performance measures, earned-value management, and/or IT security.

In addition, 84 projects that were budgeted in fiscal 2007 are currently on the "high risk" list, meaning they could be in jeopardy of failing, are high-dollar, or are highly complex, says Karen Evans, OMB administrator of E-Government & Information Technology.

High risk projects "need extra care and feeding," she says.

The "management watch list" and the "high risk list" are "internal tools" used by OMB to help agency officials monitor agency IT planning, as well as improve project performance.

Complex projects that involve multiple agencies or are being led by a new project manager who isn't fully trained are factors OMB considers in evaluating the status of those initiatives, Evans says. The 346 projects and programs on the management watch list have a total fiscal year 2008 budget of $14.4 billion, and the 84 high risk projects are budgeted at $4.3 billion.

Last year, there were 263 projects on the management watch list. Some of the additions to the management watch list indicate projects are entering critical phases as well as the agencies themselves being more aware of the assessment process and performance guideline, Evans says.