The budget request released by President Barack Obama on Feb. 9 includes just shy of $90 billion for IT programs and operations, representing approximately 2.2 percent of the $4.15 trillion proposal.

"The budget makes significant investments to make technology work for us as we strive to meet the nation's biggest challenges," the document reads, citing funding for clean energy, medical research and research and development for sectors "from manufacturing to space exploration to agriculture."

Total spending on IT in the 2017 request tops at $89.9 billion, with $38.6 billion allocated for the Department of Defense and $51.3 billion for civilian agencies. The total IT request is 1.3 percent higher than 2016 levels — a 1.5 percent increase for DoD and 1.1 percent increase for civilian.

Budget documents note agency spending on IT has slowed in recent years, drop from 7.1 percent annually from 2001 to 2009 to a 1.8 percent average between 2009 and 2017. The administration credits "achievements in improving the efficiency of how funds are spent on IT" with bringing spending down without lessening the quality of IT operations.

Federal IT spending from 2001 to present.

Photo Credit: OMB

While the size of IT budget increases in Obama's request, the administration is pushing several initiatives to lower the cost of IT procurement, including "Buying as One" — leveraging the full buying power of the vast federal government — and "Software Reuse and Open Source" — ensuring agencies aren't buying the same software many times over.

The budget documents also rehash a number of programs and initiatives from last year, including a cross-agency priority (CAP) goal for "Smarter IT Delivery," creating more Digital Service teams to help with public-facing citizen services and managing government data as an asset, including pushing it out through open data repositories.

Along with outlays for IT projects, the budget also includes $19 billion for cybersecurity efforts. Within that package is a $3.1 billion revolving fund to replace aged federal networks that are hardest to secure.

And while the total spending is increasing year-over-year, the IT request is smaller as a percent of the total budget. Last year, Obama requested $86.4 billion for IT, which was about 2.7 percent of the total budget request.

"Ensuring the efficiency, effectiveness and security of federal IT has never been more central to how Americans are served by their government," the documents state. "The 2017 budget includes funding that will launch the nation on a path to hire the leading digital experts, institutionalize modern digital delivery practices and establish more effective partnerships both within government and with the private sector."

Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.

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