EXCLUSIVE: OMB has one-year focus with IT budget guidance

Agencies have several new deadlines to meet, including one by Friday to tell the Office of Management Budget how much money they saved through data center consolidation.

OMB detailed these new mandates in the IT budget passback guidance, obtained by Federal News Radio.

By Dec. 16, OMB wants agencies to “identify the net cost savings from consolidation activities…” and to “break out savings by (a) cost avoidance and (b) direct savings,” so it can develop a governmentwide picture of the efficiencies gained through data center consolidation.

“OMB wants the net so they are assuming agencies have good baselines,” said a former government official, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about sensitive information. “They want to use this information for the 2013 budget request so they can show Congress their progress.”

The official said agencies who have kept up their costs first developed under the old IT Line of Business will be able to give OMB the net savings.

“It was hard to develop data center consolidation plans and get them up and running so if they didn’t keep their baselines it will be harder to show savings,” the former official said.

OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack said OMB declined to comment on speculation regarding the deliberative and pre-decisional budget process.

Shared services deadlines

Along with the data center deadline, OMB told agencies in the IT passback to choose two commodity IT services to be moved to a shared service provider by March 1 and complete the move Dec. 31.

OMB’s passback guidance comes despite the public release of a draft shared services strategy where Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel asked last week for public comment on the document.

“I think whole shared services strategy is the right thing to be doing,” said an agency CIO, who requested anonymity. “In fact, the passback is striking a match on something that has been thought out as a broader strategy for government.”

But other sources in and out of government said the dueling documents create confusion in agencies.

Additionally, a shared services strategy released to the agencies, but not made public, further muddles OMB’s real plan of action. Federal News Radio obtained a November draft document that details specific dates and milestones, and approaches to creating a shared service environment. OMB also is leading a shared services working group with the General Services Administration, the Defense Department and NASA, sources say.

“This language lacks clarity because there doesn’t appear to be an overall strategy,” said another former government official, who also requested anonymity in order to talk about the passback. “It does have language about cost savings and justification about why agencies selected what they selected. It gives agencies flexibility they should be comfortable with and that is good. It also quantifies accounting for expected savings. I would expect more guidance on how to determine savings.”

OMB also wants agencies to implement the “cloud-first” policy into their “capital planning and investment control (CPIC), acquisition, cybersecurity and budget formulation and execution policies and procedures. Going forward, the agency should plan to use cloud computing to modify its IT portfolio to create cost savings, maximize capacity utilization, increase innovation and improve IT flexibility. Future budget submissions should reflect these efforts, and include net costs savings the agency has realized, or expects to realize, from any cloud migrations in FY 2012, FY 2013, and FY 2014. Additional guidance will be provided separately.”

Little details on performance management LOB

The passback also includes a requirement for agencies to fund the new Performance Line of Business. The passback guidance offers no details on how the new line of business will work, who will lead it or what it will specifically address.

GSA issued a request for information in September for a new performance management blanket purchase agreement. GSA received comments from industry and is working on a request for proposals, sources say.

“Theoretically if you have performance management line of business all agencies contribute to come up with a consistent approach,” said Robert Shea, a principal at Grant Thornton and former OMB official who ran performance management for the Bush administration. “A single contract vehicle could ensure those vendors under BPA are offering agencies consistent services with this line of business approach.”

Shea said the early versions of the BPA didn’t achieve some of the things the government were trying to with performance management and it wasn’t consistent with what Congress called for in the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.

“It would be interesting to see if revised statement of work fills those gaps,” he said. “I’m consistently frustrated at the lack of a common language around performance management. There is no common understanding or focus on outcomes, or what an outcome is, or who you need to talk to about strategic planning or what best way to validate or verify measures. There is way to improve consistency.”

OMB keeps passback short

Current and former government officials said they were surprised by how small the IT passback was. In the past, the passback was more than five pages long addressing everything from cybersecurity to open government to specific initiatives such as the Trusted Internet Connections or Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.

“It’s a good thing for the passback to be short,” said the agency CIO. “With the situation being what it is with respect to future budgets, we can’t afford too many priorities. It is better to get a clear message across a high number of priorities versus so many items it’s hard to allocate resources. The shorter passback articulates the priorities OMB wants us to focus on and that is helpful.”

The second former government official said the passback doesn’t include anything about improving the role of the CIO and is timid in terms of how OMB is planning for a second term of the Obama administration.

During the fourth year of the Bush administration, former government officials the IT passback was “bold and assumed a second term.”


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