IT budget request rises to $86B, including $105M for digital services

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wfedstaff | April 18, 2015 1:02 am

(This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. to include additional information.)

The White House is requesting $105 million to scale digital services teams across the 25 largest federal agencies, and is proposing a new initiative to establish more Idea Labs on a pilot basis.

President Barack Obama released his fiscal 2016 budget request to Congress today asking for $4 trillion in overall spending. He also called for an end to sequestration – “fully reversing it for domestic priorities in 2016, matched by equal dollar increases for defense funding.”

The administration says the new funding for digital services teams would be used to “scale and institutionalize [the] approach” the Office of Management and Budget tested in 2014.

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President Obama also is asking for more money for OMB’s Digital Services office to increase its capacity “to aid in building the agency teams, increase oversight and accountability for IT spending, improve IT procurement, and improve agency cybersecurity and cyber readiness.” The White House is seeking $17 million for the USDS, up from $6 million in 2015.

In addition to the $105 million request, OMB told agencies in the IT passback guidance to spend a certain percentage of their own IT budget on creating these new offices. The administration wants these new offices in place by Oct. 1.

The $105 million for digital services is part of a dramatic increase in overall IT spending across government. The administration is proposing to increase federal IT spending to $86.4 billion, up from $84.1 billion in 2015 and $81.8 billion in 2014.

The Defense Department would receive $37.3 billion, up from $36.2 billion this year, while civilian agencies would get $49.1 billion, up from $47.9 billion in 2015.

The White House says the annual growth rate in IT spending is down to 1.5 percent annually from 7.1 percent under former President George W. Bush.

The administration credits several reasons for this growth rate, including the use of PortfolioStat to achieve better oversight, and the use of agile development.

Through the use of PortfolioStat sessions, the White House says agencies have saved or avoided spending $2.7 billion on IT projects since 2012. Agencies also have closed 1,136 data centers as of August 2014, and moved 8.5 percent of their IT budget to provisioned services such as cloud computing where they are more able to control costs.

The White House also says agency oversight of IT projects is yielding results with 74 percent of all IT investments on the IT Dashboard rated green, up from 69 percent in 2012.

The digital service effort is one way the administration wants the government to be more innovative. Obama also is proposing the creation of new Idea Labs to support federal employees with promising ideas, and improve agency functions.

Commerce, Education, Treasury, the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration would pilot this concept to create “a culture of innovation that yields results.”

The concept of idea labs is based on some of the work done through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Buyers Club, which is trying to give contracting officers and program managers support and confidence to take small or smart risks when managing or buying technology.

GSA, NASA and the Office of Personnel Management also have launched similar initiatives that are part digital services and part idea labs.

Federal Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith recently said agencies need to hire people who understand technology and how to use it to improve customer service.

To that end, the White House says it will propose initiatives to attract and retain the best talent for the federal workforce.

“USDS will work closely with agencies to stand up these teams by providing support for hiring, training and procurement,” the budget stated.

Along with the IT request, the White House is requesting $14 billion for federal cybersecurity efforts, including $5.5 billion for DoD. The Pentagon is requesting about $400 million more for cyber activities in 2016 than it did in 2015.

The budget offers few details about what that money will go to in terms of governmentwide efforts, but it does say the administration will begin deploying continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) capabilities in 2015 and 2016.

The White House also says the Homeland Security Department will continue cyberstat meetings to review progress against three cross-agency goals, including CDM, implementing two-factor authentication to log onto computer networks and systems, and secure Internet gateways.

As part of that $14 billion request, DHS would request $102 million for cybersecurity tools to deploy on federal systems.

“[The] funds provided under this heading shall be used to assist and support governmentwide and agency-specific efforts to provide adequate, risk-based, and cost-effective cybersecurity measures that address escalating and rapidly evolving threats to information security, including the acquisition and operation of a continuous monitoring and diagnostics program that includes equipment, software, and services provided by the Department of Homeland Security,” the budget stated.

Obama also is requesting $16 million for e-government initiatives supporting GSA’s Federal Citizen Services Fund to support open data initiatives. The Federal Citizen Services Fund merged with the traditional E-Gov Fund in 2015.

In all, GSA, which runs the fund, requested $58 million for the Federal Citizen Services Fund, including $8 million for digital services and $34 million for the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

OMB also is asking for $35.2 million for the IT Oversight and Reform fund (ITOR) to pay for IT oversight efforts, customer services programs and data analytics around IT portfolio management. The administration also will use the money for CDM implementation.

“Top technologists and entrepreneurs are being recruited to work within agencies on the highest priority projects. The best processes are being leveraged to increase oversight and accountability for IT spending. In addition, several efforts are being piloted to improve IT procurement and ramp up government contracting with innovative companies,” the White House stated in the budget.

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