Administration Targets High-Risk IT Projects

The Obama administration released yesterday a list of 26 mission-critical information technology (IT) projects that will receive immediate attention from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) because they "have experienced problems such as significant cost increases or schedule delays." This reassessment process of IT projects, which is part of the administration's reform-minded 2012 budget process and their larger Accountable Government Initiative, seeks to set the programs straight before they waste any more taxpayer funds.

I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

When the administration released its FY 2012 budget guidance in June, it specified that agencies would have to "complete a review of their IT investment portfolios prior to submitting their" budget requests. The review had to include the identification of "high-risk projects" and "plans for re-scoping such projects."

After receiving the reviews, administration officials sat down with "chief information officers, project managers and other officials in each department" to finalize the list. Officials identified the 26 projects, "which span 15 departments and would cost $30 billion for completion," because they exhibited "significant cost or schedule variations from the baseline, [failed] to meet mission objectives, [required] frequent revisions of the baseline, and [lacked] clear agency sponsorship."

The technology horror stories in government that spurred this effort are well known. Since coming into power, the Obama administration and its officials have frequently lamented the IT gap between the public and private sectors. When announcing the administration's intention to release the high-risk IT list, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra noted the impossibility of sending "an e-mail message systemwide to all employees" of the Interior Department "because the IT systems are segregated."

While the administration has only suspended one project on the list – the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Retirement Systems Modernization program, an effort 23 years in the making – Kundra noted that a project that fails the reassessment process of "accountability sessions, improvement plans, and specific deliverables," might be terminated.

Image by Flickr user Lori and The Bell Jar used under a Creative Commons license.

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