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Kundra Urges Strengthened CIO Budget Authority before House Panel

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Photo: omb.gov

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra took his message of federal IT reform to a tough crowd last week: a house appropriations subcommittee.

Kundra’s testimony was preceded first by an unfavorable Government Accountability Office report released last week, which found that the IT Dashboard, an online tool to track IT investments, is full of inaccurate data.

Then, a GAO official told the panel 40 percent of the government’s IT projects, which number about 800, need better oversight, according to a Washington Technology report.

However, Kundra came prepared with answers.

One of the essential fixes for overbudget and behind-schedule projects is enhancing an agency CIO’s budgetary authority, a cause which Kundra has championed recently.

“To deploy IT successfully, agencies need the ability to make final decisions on technology solutions at the point of execution, not years in advance,” Kundra said in his written testimony, according to Federal News Radio. “Agencies need the flexibility to move funding between investments or projects within their portfolio to respond to changes in needs and available solutions.”

The current way of appropriating funding for IT projects, usually on a two-year cycle is archaic compared with how quickly new tech developments turn over, Kundra suggested.

“If you look at how IT in terms of how quickly development moves forward but when we appropriate money for IT in terms of the budget cycles it takes two-plus years, and given Moore’s law, IT is evolving so fast, agencies have to predict two years out what their projects are going to look like,” he said.

The role of the agency CIO has received renewed attention recently. Earlier this month, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to GAO asking for a review of agency-level CIOs under the 1996 IT bill, the Clinger-Cohen Act.

Kundra has long touted the successes of Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker, who, unlike many of his contemporaries, has firmer control over his agency’s purse strings.

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