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GAO faults oversight of IT investments

Jan. 22, 2013 - 12:00PM   |  
Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel
Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel (Thomas Brown / Staff)

Many of the government’s information technology investments lack proper oversight and transparency and end up over budget or behind schedule, according to David Powner of the Government Accountability Office.

Initiatives such as data center consolidation risk forfeiting billions in expected savings because agencies lack complete data center inventories and plans to consolidate them, according to Powner’s scheduled testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday afternoon. The Office of Management and Budget expects data center consolidation will save $3 billion by 2015.

And while OMB has improved oversight, accountability and transparency of IT spending through efforts like the federal IT Dashboard — a website that’s supposed to update the public on the performance of major IT projects — data has often been unreliable or incomplete, according to Powner.

Agencies are expected to spend $74 billion on information technology this fiscal year, with most of that funding — $54 billion — budgeted for operating and maintaining existing investments.

The hearing will look at how the government can reform its IT investment strategy. Many have blamed wasteful IT spending not only on inadequate oversight but on the way IT is funded at the program level rather than departmentwide.

“Information technology is at the heart of every federal agency or program’s ability to function successfully,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement. “We’ve built an IT infrastructure that is bloated, inefficient, and actually makes it more difficult for the government to serve its citizens.”

Issa said experts estimate that up to $20 billion in IT funding is wasted annually.

Federal chief information officer Steven VanRoekel is also expected to testify at the hearing. In his written testimony, VanRoekel reiterated several initiatives that CIOs are carrying out, including the Digital Strategy, cloud computing and improving cybersecurity. Through a process called PortfolioStat, where agency officials review their spending in search of duplicative investments and opportunities to consolidate projects, VanRoekel said agencies could save $2.5 billion over three years if PortfolioStat findings are implemented.

“Rather than use the current fiscal situation as an excuse to reduce services, the administration views it as an opportunity to cut inefficiencies and invest in innovation that will drive better service, efficient spending and more vigilant security,” VanRoekel says.

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